French insurer Axa has become the latest European insurance company to be drawn into the ever-widening investigations being conducted by the SEC and other US authorities into improper practices in the insurance industry.
While a number of high-profile US companies have already suffered the effects of being embroiled in official investigations, it now seems that the scope of scrutiny has crossed the Atlantic.
The US authorities want to question Axa’s reinsurance division about its involvement in a 1998 transaction with US bond insurer MBIA Inc. Investigators are reviewing the way in which MBIA booked the transaction and whether it was inappropriately reported to avoid recording a balance sheet loss.
Investigators are looking into the possibility that the transaction was what is know as a ‘finite risk’ reinsurance agreement, in which a company attempts to hide a loan from its financial declarations by classing it as an insurance transaction.
MBIA has already admitted that it will have to restate over six years of financial results because it did not account correctly for a transaction involving Axa.
The French insurer confirmed on Wednesday that it had been subpoenaed by both the office of the New York Attorney General, Eliot Spitzer, and by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Axa said it would cooperate fully with the US investigators.
The two other European companies involved in the 1998 business association, Converium Holding and Munich Re, have said that they have not received requests from the US authorities regarding the MBIA matter.