NEW YORK (The Deal) -- Prudential Financial's (PRU) decision not to sue the government for designating it a "systemically important" firm is a sign that other large financial institutions that come under new sweeping oversight of federal regulators won't file lawsuits either.
Last month, Prudential received the designation by the Financial Stability Oversight Council, the group of regulators charged in the wake of the 2008 crisis with identifying emerging threats to the economy. The council said that the big interconnected insurance firm would have a hard time selling assets in a period of financial stress and as a result could "inflict significant damage on the broader economy" should its financial condition become desperate.
One lawyer familiar with the process noted that Prudential may be less concerned about the designation because it might give creditors and counterparties some comfort in believing that the government considers the firm too big to fail and will bail it out in a financial crisis.
He added that a 31-page study released earlier this month by the recently created Office of Financial Research, a unit of the Treasury Department, indicates that many large asset management firms could be next. The study, which was prepared for the council, identifies ways that asset management activities could create vulnerabilities to the economy.Large hedge funds, private equity firms and mutual funds all fall under this category. For example, the study raised concerns about these firms' use of leverage and whether regulators can adequately supervise firms that have operating subsidiaries in multiple countries. "Redemption risk," the concern that investors will all seek to cash out their investments at the same time, is discussed, as well as problems associated with how these firms are overly interconnected and complex. The report noted that 10 firms each have more than $1 trillion in global assets under management, including nine U.S.-based firms. Also it added that at the end of 2012, the top five mutual fund complexes managed 49% of U.S. mutual fund assets. That's why regulatory observers note that the largest firms in the asset management category, including BlackRock, Pimco (PIMIX), a unit of Allianz, and billionaire investor Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) (BRK.B), could be next.
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