Recently, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”) has devoted significant regulatory oversight to one financial product that is rife with potential for abuse: the variable annuity (“VA”).
As a general rule, annuities are treated as insurance products. Accordingly, annuities are subject to regulation at the State level. Specifically, each State maintains a guarantee fund that will act as a backstop to annuity policies, up to a certain dollar amount, in the event that an insurance carrier experiences insolvency or similar inability to honor its financial obligations. Additionally, each State has its own insurance commissioner, an individual responsible for overseeing all annuity business within that State. Fixed annuities, fixed indexed annuities, single premium immediate annuities, and longevity annuities (a/k/a deferred income annuities) are all regulated at the State level.
VAs are also monitored at the State level. However, because VAs are considered a hybrid insurance / security product, they receive additional scrutiny and regulatory oversight at the federal level. As investment products, VAs are subject to monitoring by both the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”), as well as the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”).