MetLife 10-K 2010
Documents found in this filing:
UNITED STATES SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
Commission file number 001-15787
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. Yes þ No o
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Act. Yes o No þ
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant: (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days. Yes þ No o
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically and posted on its corporate Web site, if any, every Interactive Data File required to be submitted and posted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§ 232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit and post such files). Yes þ No o
Indicate by check mark if disclosure of delinquent filers pursuant to Item 405 of Regulation S-K (§ 229.405 of this chapter) is not contained herein, and will not be contained, to the best of registrants knowledge, in definitive proxy or information statements incorporated by reference in Part III of this Form 10-K or any amendment to this Form 10-K. o
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, or a smaller reporting company. See the definitions of large accelerated filer, accelerated filer and smaller reporting company in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act. (Check one):
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act). Yes o No þ
The aggregate market value of the voting and non-voting common equity held by non-affiliates of the registrant at June 30, 2009 was approximately $25 billion. At February 22, 2010, 819,117,546 shares of the registrants common stock were outstanding.
DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE
The information required to be furnished pursuant to part of Item 10 and Item 11 through Item 14 of Part III of this Form 10-K is set forth in, and is hereby incorporated by reference herein from, the registrants definitive proxy statement for the Annual Meeting of Shareholders to be held on April 27, 2010, to be filed by the registrant with the Securities and Exchange Commission pursuant to Regulation 14A not later than 120 days after the year ended December 31, 2009.
Table Of Contents
As used in this Form 10-K, MetLife, the Company, we, our and us refer to MetLife, Inc., a Delaware corporation incorporated in 1999 (the Holding Company), and its subsidiaries, including Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (MLIC).
Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements
This Annual Report on Form 10-K, including the Managements Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations, may contain or incorporate by reference information that includes or is based upon forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Forward-looking statements give expectations or forecasts of future events. These statements can be identified by the fact that they do not relate strictly to historical or current facts. They use words such as anticipate, estimate, expect, project, intend, plan, believe and other words and terms of similar meaning in connection with a discussion of future operating or financial performance. In particular, these include statements relating to future actions, prospective services or products, future performance or results of current and anticipated services or products, sales efforts, expenses, the outcome of contingencies such as legal proceedings, trends in operations and financial results. See Managements Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations.
Any or all forward-looking statements may turn out to be wrong. They can be affected by inaccurate assumptions or by known or unknown risks and uncertainties. Many such factors will be important in determining MetLifes actual future results. These statements are based on current expectations and the current economic environment. They involve a number of risks and uncertainties that are difficult to predict. These statements are not guarantees of future performance. Actual results could differ materially from those expressed or implied in the forward-looking statements. Risks, uncertainties, and other factors that might cause such differences include the risks, uncertainties and other factors identified in MetLife, Inc.s filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (the SEC). These factors include: (i) difficult and adverse conditions in the global and domestic capital and credit markets; (ii) continued volatility and further deterioration of the capital and credit markets, which may affect the Companys ability to seek financing or access its credit facilities; (iii) uncertainty about the effectiveness of the U.S. governments plan to stabilize the financial system by injecting capital into financial institutions, purchasing large amounts of illiquid, mortgage-backed and other securities from financial institutions, or otherwise; (iv) exposure to financial and capital market risk; (v) changes in general economic conditions, including the performance of financial markets and interest rates, which may affect the Companys ability to raise capital, generate fee income and market-related revenue and finance statutory reserve requirements and may require the Company to pledge collateral or make payments related to declines in value of specified assets; (vi) potential liquidity and other risks resulting from MetLifes participation in a securities lending program and other transactions; (vii) investment losses and defaults, and changes to investment valuations; (viii) impairments of goodwill and realized losses or market value impairments to illiquid assets; (ix) defaults on the Companys mortgage loans; (x) the impairment of other financial institutions; (xi) MetLifes ability to identify and consummate on successful terms any future acquisitions, and to successfully integrate acquired businesses with minimal disruption; (xii) economic, political, currency and other risks relating to the Companys international operations; (xiii) MetLife, Inc.s primary reliance, as a holding company, on dividends from its subsidiaries to meet debt payment obligations and the applicable regulatory restrictions on the ability of the subsidiaries to pay such dividends; (xiv) downgrades in MetLife, Inc.s and its affiliates claims paying ability, financial strength or credit ratings; (xv) ineffectiveness of risk management policies and procedures, including with respect to guaranteed benefits (which may be affected by fair value adjustments arising from changes in our own credit spread) on certain of the Companys variable annuity products; (xvi) availability and effectiveness of reinsurance or indemnification arrangements; (xvii) discrepancies between actual claims experience and assumptions used in setting prices for the Companys products and establishing the liabilities for the Companys obligations for future policy benefits and claims; (xviii) catastrophe losses; (xix) heightened competition, including with respect to pricing, entry of new competitors, consolidation of distributors, the development of new products by new and existing competitors and for personnel; (xx) unanticipated changes in industry trends; (xxi) changes in accounting standards, practices and/or policies; (xxii) changes in assumptions related to deferred policy acquisition costs (DAC), value of business acquired (VOBA) or goodwill; (xxiii) increased expenses relating to pension and postretirement benefit plans; (xxiv) deterioration in the experience of the closed block established in connection with the reorganization of MLIC; (xxv) adverse results or other consequences from litigation, arbitration or regulatory investigations;
(xxvi) discrepancies between actual experience and assumptions used in establishing liabilities related to other contingencies or obligations; (xxvii) regulatory, legislative or tax changes that may affect the cost of, or demand for, the Companys products or services; (xxviii) the effects of business disruption or economic contraction due to terrorism, other hostilities, or natural catastrophes; (xxix) the effectiveness of the Companys programs and practices in avoiding giving its associates incentives to take excessive risks; and (xxx) other risks and uncertainties described from time to time in MetLife, Inc.s filings with the SEC.
MetLife, Inc. does not undertake any obligation to publicly correct or update any forward-looking statement if MetLife, Inc. later becomes aware that such statement is not likely to be achieved. Please consult any further disclosures MetLife, Inc. makes on related subjects in reports to the SEC.
Note Regarding Reliance on Statements in Our Contracts
In reviewing the agreements included as exhibits to this Annual Report on Form 10-K, please remember that they are included to provide you with information regarding their terms and are not intended to provide any other factual or disclosure information about MetLife, Inc., its subsidiaries or the other parties to the agreements. The agreements contain representations and warranties by each of the parties to the applicable agreement. These representations and warranties have been made solely for the benefit of the other parties to the applicable agreement and:
Accordingly, these representations and warranties may not describe the actual state of affairs as of the date they were made or at any other time. Additional information about MetLife, Inc. and its subsidiaries may be found elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K and MetLife, Inc.s other public filings, which are available without charge through the SEC website at www.sec.gov.
As used in this Form 10-K, MetLife, the Company, we, our and us refer to MetLife, Inc., a Delaware corporation incorporated in 1999 (the Holding Company), and its subsidiaries, including Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (MLIC).
With a more than 140-year history, we have grown to become a leading, global provider of insurance, employee benefits and financial services with more than 70 million customers and operations throughout the United States and the regions of Latin America, Asia Pacific and Europe, Middle East and India (EMEI). Over the past several years, we have grown our core businesses, as well as successfully executed on our growth strategy. This has included completing a number of transactions that have resulted in the acquisition and in some cases divestiture of certain businesses while also further strengthening our balance sheet to position MetLife for continued growth.
In December 2009, we began reporting results under our new U.S. Business organization. U.S. Business consists of Insurance Products, Retirement Products, Corporate Benefit Funding (CBF) and Auto & Home. The former Institutional Business & Individual Business segments have been reclassified into the following three segments:
The financial reporting format for the Auto & Home segment, which is also part of U.S. Business and consists of our property & casualty insurance products, remains unchanged from prior periods.
Through our U.S. Business organization, we provide a variety of insurance and financial services products including life, dental, disability and long-term care insurance, guaranteed interest and stable value products, various annuity products, and auto & home insurance through both proprietary and independent retail distribution channels, as well as at the workplace. This business serves over 60,000 group customers, including over 90 of the top one hundred FORTUNE 500® companies, and provides protection and retirement solutions to millions of individuals.
Our International segment operates in 16 countries within the Latin America, Asia Pacific and EMEI regions. MetLife is the largest life insurer in Mexico and also holds leading market positions in Chile and Japan. We are also investing in organic growth efforts in a number of countries, including India, China and South Korea. International is the fastest-growing of MetLifes businesses, and we have clearly identified it to be one of the biggest future growth areas.
Within the U.S., we also provide a wide array of savings and mortgage banking products. Through its own organic growth efforts and the completion of two mortgage company acquisitions in 2008, MetLife Bank, National Association (MetLife Bank), ranked among the top four reverse mortgage originators and the top 11 mortgage originators for the year ended December 31, 2009, according to Reverse Mortgage Insight and Inside Mortgage Finance, an industry trade group publication. Results of our banking operation are reported in Banking, Corporate & Other.
Revenues derived from any customer did not exceed 10% of consolidated revenues in any of the last three years. Financial information, including revenues, expenses, income and loss, and total assets by segment, is provided in Note 22 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements.
With a $328 billion general account portfolio invested primarily in investment grade corporate bonds, structured finance securities, commercial & agricultural mortgage loans, U.S. Treasury, agency and government guaranteed securities, as well as real estate and corporate equity, we are one of the largest institutional investors in the United States. Over the past several years, we have taken a number of actions to further diversify and strengthen our general account portfolio.
Our well-recognized brand names, leading market positions, competitive and innovative product offerings and financial strength and expertise should help drive future growth and enhance shareholder value, building on a long history of fairness, honesty and integrity.
Over the course of the next several years, we will pursue the following specific objectives to achieve our goals:
Our Insurance Products segment offers a broad range of protection products and services aimed at serving the financial needs of our customers throughout their lives. These products are sold to individuals and corporations, as well as other institutions and their respective employees. We have built a leading position in the U.S. group insurance market through long-standing relationships with many of the largest corporate employers in the United States, and are one of the largest issuers of individual life insurance products in the United States. We are organized into three businesses: Group Life, Individual Life and Non-Medical Health.
Our Group Life insurance products and services include variable life, universal life, and term life products. We offer group insurance products as employer-paid benefits or as voluntary benefits where all or a portion of the premiums are paid by the employee. These group products and services also include employee paid supplemental life and are offered as standard products or may be tailored to meet specific customer needs.
Our Individual Life insurance products and services include variable life, universal life, term life and whole life products. Additionally, through our broker-dealer affiliates, we offer a full range of mutual funds and other securities products. The elimination of transactions from activity between the segments within U.S. Business occurs within Individual Life. The major products in this area are:
Variable Life. Variable life products provide insurance coverage through a contract that gives the policyholder flexibility in investment choices and, depending on the product, in premium payments and coverage amounts, with certain guarantees. Most importantly, with variable life products, premiums and account balances can be directed by the policyholder into a variety of separate accounts or directed to the Companys general account. In the separate accounts, the policyholder bears the entire risk of the investment results. We collect specified fees for the management of these various investment accounts and any net return is credited directly to the policyholders account. In some instances, third-party money management firms manage investment accounts that support variable insurance products. With some products, by maintaining a certain premium level, policyholders may have the advantage of various guarantees that may protect the death benefit from adverse investment experience.
Universal Life. Universal life products provide insurance coverage on the same basis as variable life, except that premiums, and the resulting accumulated balances, are allocated only to the Companys general account. Universal life products may allow the insured to increase or decrease the amount of death benefit coverage over the term of the contract and the owner to adjust the frequency and amount of premium payments. We credit premiums to an account maintained for the policyholder. Premiums are credited net of specified expenses. Interest is credited to the policyholders account at interest rates we determine, subject to specified minimums. Specific charges are made against the policyholders account for the cost of insurance protection and for expenses. With some products, by maintaining a certain premium level, policyholders may have the advantage of various guarantees that may protect the death benefit from adverse investment experience.
Term Life. Term life products provide a guaranteed benefit upon the death of the insured for a specified time period in return for the periodic payment of premiums. Specified coverage periods range from one year to 30 years, but in no event are they longer than the period over which premiums are paid. Death benefits may be level over the period or decreasing. Decreasing coverage is used principally to provide for loan repayment in the event of death. Premiums may be guaranteed at a level amount for the coverage period or may be non-level and non-guaranteed. Term insurance products are sometimes referred to as pure protection products, in that there are typically no savings or investment elements. Term contracts expire without value at the end of the coverage period when the insured party is still living.
Whole Life. Whole life products provide a guaranteed benefit upon the death of the insured in return for the periodic payment of a fixed premium over a predetermined period. Premium payments may be required for the entire life of the contract period, to a specified age or period, and may be level or change in accordance with a predetermined schedule. Whole life insurance includes policies that provide a participation feature in the form of dividends. Policyholders may receive dividends in cash or apply them to increase death benefits, increase cash values available upon surrender or reduce the premiums required to maintain the contract in-force. Because the use of dividends is specified by the policyholder, this group of products provides significant flexibility to individuals to tailor the product to suit their specific needs and circumstances, while at the same time providing guaranteed benefits.
Our Non-Medical Health insurance products and services include dental insurance, group short- and long-term disability, individual disability income, long-term care (LTC), critical illness and accidental death & dismemberment coverages. Other products and services include employer-sponsored auto and homeowners insurance provided through the Auto & Home segment and prepaid legal plans. We also sell administrative services-only (ASO) arrangements to some employers. The major products in this area are:
Dental. Dental products provide insurance and ASO plans that assist employees, retirees and their families in maintaining oral health while reducing out-of-pocket expenses and providing superior customer service. Dental plans include the Preferred Dentist Program and the Dental Health Maintenance Organization.
Disability. Disability products provide a benefit in the event of the disability of the insured. In most instances, this benefit is in the form of monthly income paid until the insured reaches age 65. In addition to income replacement, the product may be used to provide for the payment of business overhead expenses for disabled business owners or mortgage payment protection. This is offered on both a group and individual basis.
Long-term Care. LTC products provide a fixed benefit amount on a daily or monthly basis for individuals who need assistance with activities of daily living or have a cognitive impairment. These products are offered on both a group and individual basis.
Our Retirement products segment includes a variety of variable and fixed annuities that are primarily sold to individuals and employees of corporations and other institutions. The major products in this area are:
Variable Annuities. Variable annuities provide for both asset accumulation and asset distribution needs. Variable annuities allow the contractholder to make deposits into various investment accounts, as determined by the contractholder. The investment accounts are separate accounts and risks associated with such investments are borne entirely by the contractholder, except where guaranteed minimum benefits are
involved. In certain variable annuity products, contractholders may also choose to allocate all or a portion of their account to the Companys general account and are credited with interest at rates we determine, subject to certain minimums. In addition, contractholders may also elect certain minimum death benefit and minimum living benefit guarantees for which additional fees are charged.
Fixed Annuities. Fixed annuities provide for both asset accumulation and asset distribution needs. Fixed annuities do not allow the same investment flexibility provided by variable annuities, but provide guarantees related to the preservation of principal and interest credited. Deposits made into deferred annuity contracts are allocated to the Companys general account and are credited with interest at rates we determine, subject to certain minimums. Credited interest rates are guaranteed not to change for certain limited periods of time, ranging from one to ten years. Fixed income annuities provide a guaranteed monthly income for a specified period of years and/or for the life of the annuitant.
Corporate Benefit Funding
Our Corporate Benefit Funding segment includes an array of annuity and investment products, including, guaranteed interest products and other stable value products, income annuities, and separate account contracts for the investment management of defined benefit and defined contribution plan assets. This segment also includes certain products to fund postretirement benefits and company, bank or trust owned life insurance used to finance non-qualified benefit programs for executives. The major products in this area are:
Stable Value Products. We offer general account guaranteed interest contracts, separate account guaranteed interest contracts, and similar products used to support the stable value option of defined contribution plans. We also offer private floating rate funding agreements that are used for money market funds, securities lending cash collateral portfolios and short-term investment funds.
Pensions Closeouts. We offer general account and separate account annuity products, generally in connection with the termination of defined benefit pension plans, both domestically and in the United Kingdom. We also offer partial risk transfer solutions that allow for partial transfers of pension liabilities. Annuity products include single premium buyouts and terminal funding contracts.
Torts and Settlements. We offer innovative strategies for complex litigation settlements, primarily structured settlement annuities.
Capital Markets Investment Products. Products offered include funding agreements (including our Global GIC Programs), Federal Home Loan Bank advances and funding agreement backed commercial paper.
Other Corporate Benefit Funding Products and Services. We offer specialized life insurance products designed specifically to provide solutions for non-qualified benefit and retiree benefit funding purposes.
Auto & Home
Our Auto & Home segment includes personal lines property and casualty insurance offered directly to employees at their employers worksite, as well as to individuals through a variety of retail distribution channels, including independent agents, property and casualty specialists, direct response marketing and the agency distribution group. Auto & Home primarily sells auto insurance, which represented 68% of Auto & Homes total net earned premiums in 2009. Homeowners and other insurance represented 32% of Auto & Homes total net earned premiums in 2009. The major products in this area are:
Auto Coverages. Auto insurance policies provide coverage for private passenger automobiles, utility automobiles and vans, motorcycles, motor homes, antique or classic automobiles and trailers. Auto & Home offers traditional coverage such as liability, uninsured motorist, no fault or personal injury protection and collision and comprehensive.
Homeowners and Other Coverages. Homeowners insurance policies provide protection for homeowners, renters, condominium owners and residential landlords against losses arising out of damage to dwellings and contents from a wide variety of perils, as well as coverage for liability arising from ownership
or occupancy. Other insurance includes personal excess liability (protection against losses in excess of amounts covered by other liability insurance policies), and coverage for recreational vehicles and boat owners.
Traditional insurance policies for dwellings represent the majority of Auto & Homes homeowners policies providing protection for loss on a replacement cost basis. These policies provide additional coverage for reasonable, normal living expenses incurred by policyholders that have been displaced from their homes.
Our U.S. Business markets our products and services through various distribution groups. Our life insurance and retirement products targeted to individuals are sold via sales forces, comprised of MetLife employees, in addition to third-party organizations. Our group life and non-medical health insurance and corporate benefit funding products are sold via sales forces primarily comprised of MetLife employees. Personal lines property and casualty insurance products are directly marketed to employees at their employers worksite. Auto & Home products are also marketed and sold to individuals by independent agents and property and casualty specialists through a direct response channel and the agency distribution group. MetLife sales employees work with all distribution groups to better reach and service customers, brokers, consultants and other intermediaries.
Individual Sales Distribution
Our individual distribution targets the large middle-income market, as well as affluent individuals, owners of small businesses and executives of small- to medium-sized companies. We have also been successful in selling our products in various multi-cultural markets.
Insurance Products are sold through our individual sales distribution organization and also through various third-party organizations utilizing two models. In the coverage model, wholesalers sell to high net worth individuals and small- to medium-sized businesses through independent general agencies, financial advisors, consultants, brokerage general agencies and other independent marketing organizations under contractual arrangements. Wholesalers sell through financial intermediaries, including regional broker-dealers, brokerage firms, financial planners and banks.
Retirement Products are sold through our individual sales distribution organization and also through various third-party organizations such as regional broker-dealers, New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) brokerage firms, financial planners and banks.
Individual sales distribution representatives market Auto & Home products to individuals through a variety of means.
The individual sales distribution organization is comprised of three channels: the MetLife distribution channel, a career agency system, the New England financial distribution channel, a general agency system, and MetLife Resources, a career agency system.
The MetLife distribution channel had 5,762 MetLife agents under contract in 82 agencies at December 31, 2009. The career agency sales force focuses on the large middle-income and affluent markets, including multi-cultural markets. We support our efforts in multi-cultural markets through targeted advertising, specially trained agents and sales literature written in various languages.
The New England financial distribution channel included 36 general agencies providing support to 2,232 general agents and a network of independent brokers throughout the United States at December 31, 2009. The New England financial distribution channel targets high net worth individuals, owners of small businesses and executives of small- to medium-sized companies.
MetLife Resources, a focused distribution channel of MetLife, markets retirement, annuity and other financial products on a national basis through 621 MetLife agents and independent brokers at December 31, 2009. MetLife Resources targets the nonprofit, educational and healthcare markets.
We market and sell Auto & Home products through independent agents, property and casualty specialists, a direct response channel and the agency distribution group. In recent years, we have increased the number of independent agents appointed to sell these products.
In 2009, Auto & Homes business was concentrated in the following states, as measured by amount and percentage of total direct earned premiums:
Group Sales Distribution
Insurance Products distributes its group life and non-medical health insurance products and services through a sales force that is segmented by the size of the target customer. Marketing representatives sell either directly to corporate and other group customers or through an intermediary, such as a broker or consultant. Voluntary products are sold through the same sales channels, as well as by specialists for these products. Employers have been emphasizing such voluntary products and, as a result, we have increased our focus on communicating and marketing to such employees in order to further foster sales of those products. At December 31, 2009, the group life and non-medical health insurance sales channels had 385 marketing representatives.
Retirement Products markets its retirement, savings, investment and payout annuity products and services to sponsors and advisors of benefit plans of all sizes. These products and services are offered to private and public pension plans, collective bargaining units, nonprofit organizations, recipients of structured settlements and the current and retired members of these and other institutions.
Corporate Benefit Funding products and services are distributed through dedicated sales teams and relationship managers located in 12 offices around the country. In addition, the retirement & benefits funding organization works with individual distribution and group life and non-medical health insurance distribution areas to better reach and service customers, brokers, consultants and other intermediaries.
Auto & Home is a leading provider of personal lines property and casualty insurance products offered to employees at their employers worksite. At December 31, 2009, 2,223 employers offered MetLife Auto & Home products to their employees.
Group marketing representatives market personal lines property and casualty insurance products to employers through a variety of means, including broker referrals and cross-selling to group customers. Once permitted by the employer, MetLife commences marketing efforts to employees. Employees who are interested in the auto and homeowners products can call a toll-free number to request a quote to purchase coverage and to request payroll deduction over the telephone. Auto & Home has also developed a proprietary software that permits an employee in most states to obtain a quote for auto insurance through Auto & Homes Internet website.
We have entered into several joint ventures and other arrangements with third parties to expand the marketing and distribution opportunities of group products and services. We also seek to sell our group products and services through sponsoring organizations and affinity groups. For example, we are the provider of LTC products for the National Long-Term Care Coalition, a group of some of the nations largest employers. In addition, we also provide life and dental coverage to federal employees.
International provides life insurance, accident and health insurance, credit insurance, annuities, endowment and retirement & savings products to both individuals and groups. We focus on emerging markets primarily within the Latin America, Asia Pacific and EMEI regions. We operate in international markets through subsidiaries and joint ventures. See Risk Factors Fluctuations in Foreign Currency Exchange Rates and Foreign Securities Markets Could Negatively Affect Our Profitability, and Risk Factors Our International Operations Face Political, Legal, Operational and Other Risks that Could Negatively Affect Those Operations or Our Profitability, and Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk.
Latin America Region
We operate in the Latin America region in Mexico, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay. The operations in Mexico and Chile represented 83% of the total premiums and fees in this region for the year ended December 31, 2009. The Mexican operation is the largest life insurance company in both the individual and group businesses in Mexico according to Asociación Mexicana de Instituciones de Seguro, a Mexican industry trade group which provides ranking for insurance companies. The Chilean operation is the second largest annuity company in Chile, based on market share according to Superintendencia Valores y Seguros, the Chilean insurance regulator. The Chilean operation also offers individual life insurance and group insurance products. We also actively market individual life insurance, group insurance products and credit life coverage in Argentina, but the nationalization of the pension system substantially reduced our presence in Argentina. The business environment in Argentina has been, and may continue to be, affected by governmental and legal actions which impact our results of operations.
Asia Pacific Region
We operate in the Asia Pacific region in South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Australia, Japan, and China. The activities in the region are primarily focused on individual business. The operations in South Korea and Hong Kong represented 63% of the total premiums and fees in this region for the year ended December 31, 2009. The South Korean operation has significant sales of variable universal life and annuity products. The Hong Kong operation has significant sales of variable universal life and endowment products. The Japanese joint venture operation offers fixed and guaranteed variable annuities and variable life products. We have a quota share reinsurance agreement with the joint venture in Japan, whereby we assume 100% of the living and death guarantee benefits associated with the variable annuity business written after April 2005 by the joint venture. The operating results of the joint venture operations in Japan and China are reflected in net investment income and are not consolidated in the financial results.
Europe, Middle East and India Region
We operate in Europe in the United Kingdom, Belgium, Poland and Ireland. The results of our operations in the Middle East and our consolidated joint venture in India are also included in our EMEI region. The operations in the United Kingdom and India represented 72% of the total premiums and fees in this region for the year ended December 31, 2009. The United Kingdom operation underwrites risk in its home market and fourteen other countries across Europe and the Middle East offering credit insurance coverage. The Indian operation has significant sales of unit-linked and traditional life insurance products.
Banking, Corporate & Other
Banking, Corporate & Other contains the excess capital not allocated to the business segments, which is invested to optimize investment spread and to fund company initiatives, various start-up entities, and run-off entities. Banking, Corporate & Other also includes interest expense related to the majority of our outstanding debt and expenses associated with certain legal proceedings. The elimination of transactions from activity between U.S. Business, International, and Banking, Corporate & Other occurs within Banking, Corporate & Other.
Banking, Corporate & Other also includes the financial results of MetLife Bank, which offers a variety of residential mortgage and deposit products. The residential mortgage banking activities include the origination and servicing of mortgage loans. Mortgage loans are held-for-investment or sold primarily into Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA), Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (FHLMC) or Government National Mortgage Association (GNMA) securities. MetLife Bank also leverages MetLifes investment platform to source commercial and agriculture loans as investments on its balance sheet. MetLife Bank is a member of the Federal Reserve System and the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York (FHLB) and is subject to regulation, examination and supervision by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and secondarily by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the Federal Reserve.
Products offered by MetLife Bank include forward and reverse residential mortgage loans and consumer deposits. Residential mortgage loans are originated through MetLife Banks national sales force, mortgage brokers and mortgage correspondents. In addition, MetLife Bank principally seeks deposits from direct customers via the Internet and mail, as well as customers of its affiliates having access to affiliates distribution channels and field force, including through voluntary benefits platforms.
The origination of forward and reverse mortgage single family loans include both variable and fixed rate products. MetLife Bank does not originate sub-prime or alternative residential mortgage loans (Alt-A) mortgage loans and the funding for the mortgage banking activities is provided by deposits and borrowings.
Deposit products include traditional savings accounts, money market savings accounts, certificates of deposit (CDs) and individual retirement accounts. MetLife Bank participates in the Certificate of Deposit Account Registry Service program through which certain customer CDs are exchanged for CDs of similar amounts from participating banks. The deposit products provide a relatively stable source of funding and liquidity and are used to fund securities and loans.
We establish, and carry as liabilities, actuarially determined amounts that are calculated to meet our policy obligations when a policy matures or is surrendered, an insured dies or becomes disabled or upon the occurrence of other covered events, or to provide for future annuity payments. We compute the amounts for actuarial liabilities reported in our consolidated financial statements in conformity with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America (GAAP). For more details on Policyholder Liabilities see Managements Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations Summary of Critical Accounting Estimates Liability for Future Policy Benefits and Managements Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations Policyholder Liabilities.
Pursuant to state insurance laws, the Holding Companys insurance subsidiaries establish statutory reserves, reported as liabilities, to meet their obligations on their respective policies. These statutory reserves are established in amounts sufficient to meet policy and contract obligations, when taken together with expected future premiums and interest at assumed rates. Statutory reserves generally differ from actuarial liabilities for future policy benefits determined using GAAP.
The New York Insurance Law and regulations require certain MetLife entities to submit to the New York Superintendent of Insurance or other state insurance departments, with each annual report, an opinion and memorandum of a qualified actuary that the statutory reserves and related actuarial amounts recorded in support of specified policies and contracts, and the assets supporting such statutory reserves and related actuarial amounts, make adequate provision for their statutory liabilities with respect to these obligations. See Regulation Insurance Regulation Policy and Contract Reserve Sufficiency Analysis.
Underwriting and Pricing
Underwriting generally involves an evaluation of applications for Insurance Products, Retirement Products, Corporate Benefit Funding, and Auto & Home by a professional staff of underwriters and actuaries, who determine the type and the amount of risk that we are willing to accept. In addition to the products described above, the International segment, also offers credit insurance and in a limited number of countries, major medical products. We
employ detailed underwriting policies, guidelines and procedures designed to assist the underwriter to properly assess and quantify risks before issuing policies to qualified applicants or groups.
Insurance underwriting considers not only an applicants medical history, but also other factors such as financial profile, foreign travel, vocations and alcohol, drug and tobacco use. Group underwriting generally evaluates the risk characteristics of each prospective insured group, although with certain voluntary products, employees may be underwritten on an individual basis. We generally perform our own underwriting; however, certain policies are reviewed by intermediaries under guidelines established by us. Generally, we are not obligated to accept any risk or group of risks from, or to issue a policy or group of policies to, any employer or intermediary. Requests for coverage are reviewed on their merits and generally a policy is not issued unless the particular risk or group has been examined and approved by our underwriters.
Our remote underwriting offices, intermediaries, as well as our corporate underwriting office are periodically reviewed via continuous on-going internal underwriting audits to maintain high-standards of underwriting and consistency across the Company. Such offices are also subject to periodic external audits by reinsurers with whom we do business.
We have established senior level oversight of the underwriting process that facilitates quality sales and serves the needs of our customers, while supporting our financial strength and business objectives. Our goal is to achieve the underwriting, mortality and morbidity levels reflected in the assumptions in our product pricing. This is accomplished by determining and establishing underwriting policies, guidelines, philosophies and strategies that are competitive and suitable for the customer, the agent and us.
Auto & Homes underwriting function has six principal aspects: evaluating potential worksite marketing employer accounts and independent agencies; establishing guidelines for the binding of risks; reviewing coverage bound by agents; underwriting potential insureds, on a case by case basis, presented by agents outside the scope of their binding authority; pursuing information necessary in certain cases to enable Auto & Home to issue a policy within our guidelines; and ensuring that renewal policies continue to be written at rates commensurate with risk.
Subject to very few exceptions, agents in each of the U.S. Business distribution channels have binding authority for risks which fall within its published underwriting guidelines. Risks falling outside the underwriting guidelines may be submitted for approval to the underwriting department; alternatively, agents in such a situation may call the underwriting department to obtain authorization to bind the risk themselves. In most states, the Company generally has the right within a specified period (usually the first 60 days) to cancel any policy.
Pricing has traditionally reflected our corporate underwriting standards. Product pricing is based on the expected payout of benefits calculated through the use of assumptions for mortality, morbidity, expenses, persistency and investment returns, as well as certain macroeconomic factors, such as inflation. Investment-oriented products are priced based on various factors, which may include investment return, expenses, persistency and optionality. For certain investment oriented products in the U.S. and certain business sold internationally, pricing may include prospective and retrospective experience rating features. Prospective experience rating involves the evaluation of past experience for the purpose of determining future premium rates and all prior year gains and losses are borne by the Company. Retrospective experience rating also involves the evaluation of past experience for the purpose of determining the actual cost of providing insurance for the customer, however, the contract includes certain features that allow the Company to recoup certain losses or distribute certain gains back to the policyholder based on actual prior years experience.
Rates for group life and non-medical health products are based on anticipated results for the book of business being underwritten. Renewals are generally reevaluated annually or biannually and are repriced to reflect actual experience on such products. Products offered by CBF are priced frequently and are very responsive to bond yields, and such prices include additional margin in periods of market uncertainty. This business is predominantly illiquid, because policyholders have no contractual rights to cash values and no options to change the form of the products benefits.
Rates for individual life insurance products are highly regulated and must be approved by the state regulators where the product is sold. Generally such products are renewed annually and may include pricing terms that are guaranteed for a certain period of time. Fixed and variable annuity products are also highly regulated and approved by the individual state regulators. Such products generally include penalties for early withdrawals and policyholder benefit elections to tailor the form of the products benefits to the needs of the opting policyholder. The Company periodically reevaluates the costs associated with such options and will periodically adjust pricing levels on its guarantees. Further, the Company from time to time may also reevaluate the type and level of guarantee features currently being offered.
Rates for Auto & Homes major lines of insurance are based on its proprietary database, rather than relying on rating bureaus. Auto & Home determines prices in part from a number of variables specific to each risk. The pricing of personal lines insurance products takes into account, among other things, the expected frequency and severity of losses, the costs of providing coverage (including the costs of acquiring policyholders and administering policy benefits and other administrative and overhead costs), competitive factors and profit considerations. The major pricing variables for personal lines insurance include characteristics of the insured property, such as age, make and model or construction type, as well as characteristics of the insureds, such as driving record and loss experience, and the insureds personal financial management. Auto & Homes ability to set and change rates is subject to regulatory oversight.
As a condition of our license to do business in each state, Auto & Home, like all other automobile insurers, is required to write or share the cost of private passenger automobile insurance for higher risk individuals who would otherwise be unable to obtain such insurance. This involuntary market, also called the shared market, is governed by the applicable laws and regulations of each state, and policies written in this market are generally written at rates higher than standard rates.
We continually review our underwriting and pricing guidelines so that our policies remain competitive and supportive of our marketing strategies and profitability goals. The current economic environment, with its volatility and uncertainty is not expected to materially impact the pricing of our products.
We enter into various agreements with reinsurers that cover individual risks, group risks or defined blocks of business, primarily on a coinsurance, yearly renewable term, excess or catastrophe excess basis. These reinsurance agreements spread risk and minimize the effect of losses. The extent of each risk retained by us depends on our evaluation of the specific risk, subject, in certain circumstances, to maximum retention limits based on the characteristics of coverages. We also cede first dollar mortality risk under certain contracts. In addition to reinsuring mortality risk, we reinsure other risks, as well as specific coverages. We routinely reinsure certain classes of risks in order to limit our exposure to particular travel, avocation and lifestyle hazards. We obtain reinsurance for capital requirement purposes and also when the economic impact of the reinsurance agreement makes it appropriate to do so.
Under the terms of the reinsurance agreements, the reinsurer agrees to reimburse us for the ceded amount in the event a claim is paid. However, we remain liable to our policyholders with respect to ceded reinsurance should any reinsurer be unable to meet its obligations under these agreements. Since we bear the risk of nonpayment by one or more of our reinsurers, we primarily cede reinsurance to well-capitalized, highly rated reinsurers. We analyze recent trends in arbitration and litigation outcomes in disputes, if any, with our reinsurers. We monitor ratings and evaluate the financial strength of our reinsurers by analyzing their financial statements. In addition, the reinsurance recoverable balance due from each reinsurer is evaluated as part of the overall monitoring process. Recoverability of reinsurance recoverable balances are evaluated based on these analyses. We generally secure large reinsurance recoverable balances with various forms of collateral, including secured trusts, funds withheld accounts and irrevocable letters of credit.
We reinsure our business through a diversified group of reinsurers. In the event that reinsurers do not meet their obligations under the terms of the reinsurance agreements, reinsurance balances recoverable could become uncollectible. Cessions under reinsurance arrangements do not discharge our obligations as the primary insurer.
Our Insurance Products segment participates in reinsurance activities in order to limit losses, minimize exposure to significant risks, and provide additional capacity for future growth. For our individual life insurance products, we have historically reinsured the mortality risk primarily on an excess of retention basis or a quota share basis. Until 2005, we reinsured up to 90% of the mortality risk for all new individual life insurance policies that we wrote through our various subsidiaries. During 2005, we changed our retention practices for certain individual life insurance policies. Under the new retention guidelines, we reinsure up to 90% of the mortality risk in excess of $1 million. Retention limits remain unchanged for other new individual life insurance policies. Policies reinsured in years prior to 2005 remain reinsured under the original reinsurance agreements. On a case by case basis, we may retain up to $20 million per life and reinsure 100% of amounts in excess of our retention limits. We evaluate our reinsurance programs routinely and may increase or decrease our retention at any time. Placement of reinsurance is done primarily on an automatic basis and also on a facultative basis for risks with specific characteristics.
For other policies within the Insurance Products segment, we generally retain most of the risk and only cede particular risks on certain client arrangements.
Our Retirement Products segment reinsures a portion of the living and death benefit guarantees issued in connection with our variable annuities. Under these reinsurance agreements, we pay a reinsurance premium generally based on fees associated with the guarantees collected from policyholders, and receive reimbursement for benefits paid or accrued in excess of account values, subject to certain limitations. We enter into similar agreements for new or in-force business depending on market conditions.
Our Corporate Benefit Funding segment has periodically engaged in reinsurance activities, as considered appropriate.
Our Auto & Home segment purchases reinsurance to manage its exposure to large losses (primarily catastrophe losses) and to protect statutory surplus. We cede to reinsurers a portion of losses and premiums based upon the exposure of the policies subject to reinsurance. To manage exposure to large property and casualty losses, we utilize property catastrophe, casualty and property per risk excess of loss agreements.
Our International segment has periodically engaged in reinsurance activities, as considered appropriate.
Banking, Corporate & Other
We also reinsure through 100% quota share reinsurance agreements certain run-off long-term care and workers compensation business written by MetLife Insurance Company of Connecticut (MICC), a subsidiary of the Company.
We have exposure to catastrophes, which could contribute to significant fluctuations in our results of operations. We use excess of retention and quota share reinsurance arrangements to provide greater diversification of risk and minimize exposure to larger risks.
For information regarding ceded reinsurance recoverable balances, included in premiums and other receivables in the consolidated balance sheets, see Note 9 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements.
Metropolitan Life Insurance Company is licensed to transact insurance business in, and is subject to regulation and supervision by, all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, Canada, the U.S. Virgin Islands and
Northern Mariana Islands. Each of MetLifes insurance subsidiaries is licensed and regulated in each U.S. and international jurisdiction where they conduct insurance business. The extent of such regulation varies, but most jurisdictions have laws and regulations governing the financial aspects of insurers, including standards of solvency, statutory reserves, reinsurance and capital adequacy, and the business conduct of insurers. In addition, statutes and regulations usually require the licensing of insurers and their agents, the approval of policy forms and certain other related materials and, for certain lines of insurance, the approval of rates. Such statutes and regulations also prescribe the permitted types and concentration of investments. New York Insurance Law limits the amount of compensation that insurers doing business in New York may pay to their agents, as well as the amount of total expenses, including sales commissions and marketing expenses, that such insurers may incur in connection with the sale of life insurance policies and annuity contracts throughout the United States.
Each insurance subsidiary is required to file reports, generally including detailed annual financial statements, with insurance regulatory authorities in each of the jurisdictions in which it does business, and its operations and accounts are subject to periodic examination by such authorities. These subsidiaries must also file, and in many jurisdictions and in some lines of insurance obtain regulatory approval for, rules, rates and forms relating to the insurance written in the jurisdictions in which they operate.
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) has established a program of accrediting state insurance departments. NAIC accreditation contemplates that accredited states will conduct periodic examinations of insurers domiciled in such states. NAIC-accredited states will not accept reports of examination of insurers from unaccredited states, except under limited circumstances. As a direct result, insurers domiciled in unaccredited states may be subject to financial examination by accredited states in which they are licensed, in addition to any examinations conducted by their domiciliary states. In 2009, the New York State Department of Insurance (the Department), MLICs principal insurance regulator, received accreditation from the NAIC. Previously, the Department was not accredited by the NAIC, but the absence of this accreditation did not have a significant impact upon our ability to conduct our insurance businesses.
State and federal insurance and securities regulatory authorities and other state law enforcement agencies and attorneys general from time to time make inquiries regarding compliance by the Holding Company and its insurance subsidiaries with insurance, securities and other laws and regulations regarding the conduct of our insurance and securities businesses. We cooperate with such inquiries and take corrective action when warranted. See Note 16 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements.
Holding Company Regulation. The Holding Company and its insurance subsidiaries are subject to regulation under the insurance holding company laws of various jurisdictions. The insurance holding company laws and regulations vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but generally require a controlled insurance company (insurers that are subsidiaries of insurance holding companies) to register with state regulatory authorities and to file with those authorities certain reports, including information concerning its capital structure, ownership, financial condition, certain intercompany transactions and general business operations.
State insurance statutes also typically place restrictions and limitations on the amount of dividends or other distributions payable by insurance company subsidiaries to their parent companies, as well as on transactions between an insurer and its affiliates. See Managements Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations Liquidity and Capital Resources The Holding Company Liquidity and Capital Sources Dividends from Subsidiaries. The New York Insurance Law and the regulations thereunder also restrict the aggregate amount of investments MLIC may make in non-life insurance subsidiaries, and provide for detailed periodic reporting on subsidiaries.
Guaranty Associations and Similar Arrangements. Most of the jurisdictions in which the Companys insurance subsidiaries are admitted to transact business require life and property and casualty insurers doing business within the jurisdiction to participate in guaranty associations, which are organized to pay certain contractual insurance benefits owed pursuant to insurance policies issued by impaired, insolvent or failed insurers. These associations levy assessments, up to prescribed limits, on all member insurers in a particular state on the basis of the proportionate share of the premiums written by member insurers in the lines of business in which the impaired, insolvent or failed insurer is engaged. Some states permit member insurers to recover assessments paid through full or partial premium tax offsets.
In the past five years, the aggregate assessments levied against MetLife have not been material. We have established liabilities for guaranty fund assessments that we consider adequate for assessments with respect to insurers that are currently subject to insolvency proceedings. See Note 16 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information on the insolvency assessments.
Statutory Insurance Examination. As part of their regulatory oversight process, state insurance departments conduct periodic detailed examinations of the books, records, accounts, and business practices of insurers domiciled in their states. State insurance departments also have the authority to conduct examinations of non-domiciliary insurers that are licensed in their states. During the three-year period ended December 31, 2009, MetLife has not received any material adverse findings resulting from state insurance department examinations of its insurance subsidiaries conducted during this three-year period.
Regulatory authorities in a small number of states and Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) have had investigations or inquiries relating to sales of individual life insurance policies or annuities or other products by MLIC, MetLife Securities, Inc., New England Mutual Life Insurance Company, New England Life Insurance Company, New England Securities Corporation, General American Life Insurance Company, Walnut Street Securities, Inc., MICC and Tower Square Securities, Inc. Over the past several years, these and a number of investigations by other regulatory authorities were resolved for monetary payments and certain other relief. We may continue to resolve investigations in a similar manner. See Note 16 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements.
Policy and Contract Reserve Sufficiency Analysis. Annually, MetLifes U.S. insurance subsidiaries are required to conduct an analysis of the sufficiency of all statutory reserves. In each case, a qualified actuary must submit an opinion which states that the statutory reserves, when considered in light of the assets held with respect to such reserves, make good and sufficient provision for the associated contractual obligations and related expenses of the insurer. If such an opinion cannot be provided, the insurer must set up additional reserves by moving funds from surplus. Since inception of this requirement, the Companys insurance subsidiaries which are required by their states of domicile to provide these opinions have provided such opinions without qualifications.
Surplus and Capital. The Companys U.S. insurance subsidiaries are subject to the supervision of the regulators in each jurisdiction in which they are licensed to transact business. Regulators have discretionary authority, in connection with the continued licensing of these insurance subsidiaries, to limit or prohibit sales to policyholders if, in their judgment, the regulators determine that such insurer has not maintained the minimum surplus or capital or that the further transaction of business will be hazardous to policyholders. See Risk-Based Capital.
Risk-Based Capital (RBC). Each of the Companys U.S. insurance subsidiaries is subject to RBC requirements and reports its RBC based on a formula calculated by applying factors to various asset, premium and statutory reserve items, as well as taking into account the risk characteristics of the insurer. The major categories of risk involved are asset risk, insurance risk, interest rate risk, market risk and business risk. The formula is used as an early warning regulatory tool to identify possible inadequately capitalized insurers for purposes of initiating regulatory action, and not as a means to rank insurers generally. State insurance laws provide insurance regulators the authority to require various actions by, or take various actions against, insurers whose RBC ratio does not meet or exceed certain RBC levels. As of the date of the most recent annual statutory financial statements filed with insurance regulators, the RBC of each of these subsidiaries was in excess of each of those RBC levels. See Managements Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations Liquidity and Capital Resources The Company Capital.
The NAIC provides standardized insurance industry accounting and reporting guidance through its Accounting Practices and Procedures Manual (the Manual). However, statutory accounting principles continue to be established by individual state laws, regulations and permitted practices. The Department has adopted the Manual with certain modifications for the preparation of statutory financial statements of insurance companies domiciled in New York. Changes to the Manual or modifications by the various state insurance departments may impact the statutory capital and surplus of the Companys insurance subsidiaries.
Regulation of Investments. Each of the Companys U.S. insurance subsidiaries are subject to state laws and regulations that require diversification of its investment portfolios and limit the amount of investments in certain asset categories, such as below investment grade fixed income securities, equity real estate, other equity investments, and derivatives. Failure to comply with these laws and regulations would cause investments exceeding regulatory limitations to be treated as non-admitted assets for purposes of measuring surplus, and, in some instances, would require divestiture of such non-qualifying investments. We believe that the investments made by each of the Companys insurance subsidiaries complied, in all material respects, with such regulations at December 31, 2009.
Federal Initiatives. Although the federal government generally does not directly regulate the insurance business, federal initiatives often have an impact on our business in a variety of ways. From time to time, federal measures are proposed which may significantly affect the insurance business. In addition, various forms of direct and indirect federal regulation of insurance have been proposed from time to time, including proposals for the establishment of an optional federal charter for insurance companies. As part of a proposed comprehensive reform of financial services regulation, Congress is considering the creation of an office within the federal government to collect information about the insurance industry, recommend prudential standards, and represent the United States in dealings with foreign insurance regulators. See Risk Factors Our Insurance and Banking Businesses Are Heavily Regulated, and Changes in Regulation May Reduce Our Profitability and Limit Our Growth.
Legislative Developments. As part of their proposed financial services regulatory reform legislation, the Obama Administration and Congress have made various proposals that would change the capital and liquidity requirements, credit exposure concentrations and similar prudential matters for bank holding companies, banks and other financial firms. For example:
Congress is also considering establishing a new governmental agency that would supervise and regulate institutions that provide certain financial products and services to consumers. Although the consumer financial services to which this legislation would apply might exclude certain insurance business, the new agency would have authority to regulate consumer services provided by MetLife Bank. The proposed legislation may also eliminate or significantly restrict federal pre-emption of state consumer protection laws applicable to banking services, which would increase the regulatory and compliance burden on MetLife Bank and could adversely affect its business and results of operations. We cannot predict whether these or other proposals will be adopted, or what impact, if any, such proposals or, if enacted, such laws, could have on our business, financial condition or results of operations or on our dealings with other financial institutions. See Risk Factors Our Insurance and Banking Businesses Are Heavily Regulated, and Changes in Regulation May Reduce Our Profitability and Limit Our Growth.
We cannot predict what other proposals may be made, what legislation may be introduced or enacted or the impact of any such legislation on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Governmental Responses to Extraordinary Market Conditions
U.S. Federal Governmental Responses. Throughout 2008 and continuing in 2009, Congress, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the U.S. Treasury and other agencies of the Federal government took a number of increasingly aggressive actions (in addition to continuing a series of interest rate reductions that began in the second half of 2007) intended to provide liquidity to financial institutions and markets, to avert a loss of investor confidence in particular troubled institutions and to prevent or contain the spread of the financial crisis. These measures included:
In addition to these actions, pursuant to the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (EESA), enacted in October 2008, the U.S. Treasury injected capital into selected financial institutions and their holding companies. EESA also authorizes the U.S. Treasury to purchase mortgage-backed and other securities from financial institutions as part of the overall $700 billion available for the purpose of stabilizing the financial markets. The Federal government, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, FDIC and other governmental and regulatory bodies also took other actions to address the financial crisis. For example, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York made funds available to commercial and financial companies under a number of programs, including the Commercial Paper Funding Facility (the CPFF), and the FDIC established the Temporary Liquidity Guarantee Program (the FDIC Program). In March 2009, MetLife, Inc. issued $397 million of senior notes guaranteed by the FDIC under the FDIC Program. The FDIC Program and the CPFF expired in late 2009 and early 2010, respectively. During the period of its existence, the Company made limited use of the CPFF, and no amounts were outstanding under the CPFF at December 31, 2009. In October 2009, the FDIC established a limited six-month emergency guarantee facility upon expiration of the FDIC Program. Participating entities can apply to the FDIC for permission to issue FDIC-guaranteed debt during the period beginning October 31, 2009 through April 30, 2010.
In February 2009, the Treasury Department outlined a financial stability plan with additional measures to provide capital relief to institutions holding troubled assets, including a capital assistance program for banks that have undergone a stress test (the Capital Assistance Program) and a public-private investment fund to purchase troubled assets from financial institutions. MetLife was eligible to participate in the U.S. Treasurys Capital Purchase Program, a voluntary capital infusion program established under EESA, but elected not to participate in that program. MetLife took part in the stress test and was advised by the Federal Reserve in May 2009 that, based on the stress tests economic scenarios and methodology, MetLife had adequate capital to sustain a further deterioration in the economy. The choices made by the U.S. Treasury in its distribution of amounts available under the EESA, the Capital Assistance Program and other programs could have the effect of supporting some aspects of the financial services industry more than others or providing advantages to some of our competitors. See Risk Factors Competitive Factors May Adversely Affect Our Market Share and Profitability.
In addition to the various measures to foster liquidity and recapitalize the banking sector, the Federal government also passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in February 2009 that provided for nearly $790 billion in additional federal spending, tax cuts and federal aid intended to spur economic activity.
MetLife, Inc. and some or all of its affiliates may be eligible to sell assets to the U.S. Treasury under one or more of the programs established under EESA, and some of their assets may be among those the U.S. Treasury or the public-private investment partnership proposed by the U.S. Treasury offers to purchase, either directly or through auction. MetLife, Inc. and its affiliates may also be able to purchase assets under some of these programs,
including the public-private investment program and the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility, which provides funding for the purchase of specified types of asset-backed securities.
MetLife Bank has the capacity to borrow from the Federal Reserve Bank of New Yorks Discount Window and from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York under the Term Auction Facility. At December 31, 2009, there were no outstanding borrowings under the Term Auction Facility.
State Insurance Regulatory Responses. In January 2009, the NAIC considered, but declined, a number of reserve and capital relief proposals made by the American Council of Life Insurers (the ACLI), acting on behalf of its member companies. However, notwithstanding that NAIC action, insurance companies had the right to approach the insurance regulator in their respective state of domicile and request relief. Several MetLife insurance entities requested and were granted relief, resulting in a beneficial impact on reserves and capital. During the latter part of 2009, the NAIC adopted a number of reserve and capital relief proposals made by the ACLI, acting on behalf of its member companies. These changes superseded the actions described above and have generally resulted in lower statutory reserve and capital requirements, effective December 31, 2009, for life insurance companies. We cannot quantify or project the impact on the competitive landscape of the reserve and capital relief granted or any subsequent regulatory relief that may be granted.
In late 2009, following rating agency downgrades of virtually all residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) from certain vintages, the NAIC engaged PIMCO, a well-known investment management firm, to analyze approximately 20,000 residential mortgage-backed securities held by insurers and evaluate the likely loss that holders of those securities would suffer in the event of a default. PIMCOs analysis showed that the severity of expected losses on those securities evaluated that are held by our insurance companies was significantly less than would be implied by the rating agencies ratings of such securities. The NAIC incorporated the results of PIMCOs analysis into the risk-based capital charges assigned to the evaluated securities, with a beneficial impact on the risk-based capital to our insurance subsidiaries.
In late 2009, the NAIC approved an adjustment, for year-end 2009 only, to the mortgage experience adjustment factor (the MEAF), which is utilized in calculating the RBC charges that are assigned to commercial and agricultural mortgages held by our domestic insurers. The MEAF calculation includes the ratio of an insurers commercial and agricultural mortgage default experience to the industry average commercial and agricultural mortgage default experience and, prior to the adjustment, had a cap of 350% and a floor of 50% of an industry-wide base factor. As a result of the adjustment, the minimum adjustment factor was raised from 50% to 75% and the maximum adjustment factor was lowered from 350% to 125%, based on an insurers actual experience. As a result of our experience and the increase in the floor, the corresponding RBC charges of certain of our domestic insurers, including MLIC, increased. It is our understanding that the Capital Adequacy Task Force of the NAIC will monitor market conditions and progress on proposals that may result in modifying or extending the proposal beyond 2009. There can be no assurance that the short-term adjustment will continue beyond 2009.
In late 2009, the NAIC issued Statement of Statutory Accounting Principles (SSAP) 10R (SSAP 10R). SSAP 10R increased the amount of deferred tax assets that may be admitted on a statutory basis. The admission criteria for realizing the value of deferred tax assets was increased from a one year to a three year period. Further, the aggregate cap on deferred tax assets that may be admitted was increased from 10% to 15% of surplus. These changes increased the capital and surplus of our insurance subsidiaries, thereby positively impacting RBC at December 31, 2009. To temper this positive RBC impact, and as a temporary measure at December 31, 2009 only, a 5% pre-tax RBC charge must be applied to the additional admitted deferred tax assets generated by SSAP 10R.
Foreign Governmental Responses. In an effort to strengthen the financial condition of key financial institutions or avert their collapse, and to forestall or reduce the effects of reduced lending activity, a number of foreign governments have also taken actions similar to some of those taken by the U.S. Federal government, including injecting capital into domestic financial institutions in exchange for ownership stakes. We cannot predict whether these actions will achieve their intended purpose or how they will impact competition in the financial services industry.
Broker-Dealer and Securities Regulation
Some of the Companys subsidiaries and their activities in offering and selling variable insurance products are subject to extensive regulation under the federal securities laws administered by the SEC. These subsidiaries issue variable annuity contracts and variable life insurance policies through separate accounts that are registered with the SEC as investment companies under the Investment Company Act of 1940, as amended (the Investment Company Act). Each registered separate account is generally divided into sub-accounts, each of which invests in an underlying mutual fund which is itself a registered investment company under the Investment Company Act. In addition, the variable annuity contracts and variable life insurance policies issued by the separate accounts are registered with the SEC under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the Securities Act). Other subsidiaries are registered with the SEC as broker-dealers under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the Exchange Act), and are members of, and subject to, regulation by the FINRA. Further, some of the Companys subsidiaries are registered as investment advisers with the SEC under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, as amended (the Investment Advisers Act), and are also registered as investment advisers in various states, as applicable. Certain variable contract separate accounts sponsored by the Companys subsidiaries are exempt from registration, but may be subject to other provisions of the federal securities laws.
Federal and state securities regulatory authorities and FINRA from time to time make inquiries and conduct examinations regarding compliance by the Holding Company and its subsidiaries with securities and other laws and regulations. We cooperate with such inquiries and examinations and take corrective action when warranted.
Federal and state securities laws and regulations are primarily intended to protect investors in the securities markets and generally grant regulatory agencies broad rulemaking and enforcement powers, including the power to limit or restrict the conduct of business for failure to comply with such laws and regulations. We may also be subject to similar laws and regulations in the foreign countries in which we provide investment advisory services, offer products similar to those described above, or conduct other activities.
As an owner and operator of real property, we are subject to extensive federal, state and local environmental laws and regulations. Inherent in such ownership and operation is also the risk that there may be potential environmental liabilities and costs in connection with any required remediation of such properties. In addition, we hold equity interests in companies that could potentially be subject to environmental liabilities. We routinely have environmental assessments performed with respect to real estate being acquired for investment and real property to be acquired through foreclosure. We cannot provide assurance that unexpected environmental liabilities will not arise. However, based on information currently available to us, we believe that any costs associated with compliance with environmental laws and regulations or any remediation of such properties will not have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations or financial condition.
Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) Considerations
We provide products and services to certain employee benefit plans that are subject to ERISA, or the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (the Code). As such, our activities are subject to the restrictions imposed by ERISA and the Code, including the requirement under ERISA that fiduciaries must perform their duties solely in the interests of ERISA plan participants and beneficiaries and the requirement under ERISA and the Code that fiduciaries may not cause a covered plan to engage in prohibited transactions with persons who have certain relationships with respect to such plans. The applicable provisions of ERISA and the Code are subject to enforcement by the Department of Labor, the Internal Revenue Service and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC).
In John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company v. Harris Trust and Savings Bank (1993), the U.S. Supreme Court held that certain assets in excess of amounts necessary to satisfy guaranteed obligations under a participating group annuity general account contract are plan assets. Therefore, these assets are subject to certain fiduciary obligations under ERISA, which requires fiduciaries to perform their duties solely in the interest of ERISA plan participants and beneficiaries. On January 5, 2000, the Secretary of Labor issued final regulations indicating, in cases where an insurer has issued a policy backed by the insurers general account to or for an employee benefit
plan, the extent to which assets of the insurer constitute plan assets for purposes of ERISA and the Code. The regulations apply only with respect to a policy issued by an insurer on or before December 31, 1998 (Transition Policy). No person will generally be liable under ERISA or the Code for conduct occurring prior to July 5, 2001, where the basis of a claim is that insurance company general account assets constitute plan assets. An insurer issuing a new policy that is backed by its general account and is issued to or for an employee benefit plan after December 31, 1998 will generally be subject to fiduciary obligations under ERISA, unless the policy is a guaranteed benefit policy.
The regulations indicate the requirements that must be met so that assets supporting a Transition Policy will not be considered plan assets for purposes of ERISA and the Code. These requirements include detailed disclosures to be made to the employee benefits plan and the requirement that the insurer must permit the policyholder to terminate the policy on 90 day notice and receive without penalty, at the policyholders option, either (i) the unallocated accumulated fund balance (which may be subject to market value adjustment) or (ii) a book value payment of such amount in annual installments with interest. We have taken and continue to take steps designed to ensure compliance with these regulations.
As a federally chartered national association, MetLife Bank is subject to a wide variety of banking laws, regulations and guidelines. Federal banking laws regulate most aspects of the business of MetLife Bank, but certain state laws may apply as well. MetLife Bank is principally regulated by the OCC, the Federal Reserve and the FDIC. Federal banking laws and regulations address various aspects of MetLife Banks business and operations with respect to, among other things, chartering to carry on business as a bank; maintaining minimum capital ratios; capital management in relation to the banks assets; safety and soundness standards; loan loss and other statutory reserves; liquidity; financial reporting and disclosure standards; counterparty credit concentration; restrictions on related party and affiliate transactions; lending limits; payment of interest; unfair or deceptive acts or practices; privacy; and bank holding company and bank change of control. The FDIC has the right to assess FDIC-insured banks for funds to help pay the obligations of insolvent banks to depositors. Federal and state banking regulators regularly re-examine existing laws and regulations applicable to banks and their products. Changes in these laws and regulations, or in interpretations thereof, are often made for the benefit of the consumer at the expense of the bank.
Financial Holding Company Regulation
Regulatory Agencies. In connection with its acquisition of a federally-chartered commercial bank, MetLife, Inc. became a bank holding company and financial holding company on February 28, 2001. As such, the Holding Company is subject to regulation under the Bank Holding Company Act of 1956, as amended (the BHC Act), and to inspection, examination, and supervision by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. In addition, MetLife Bank is subject to regulation and examination primarily by the OCC and secondarily by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the FDIC.
Financial Holding Company Activities. As a financial holding company, MetLife, Inc.s activities and investments are restricted by the BHC Act, as amended by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 (the GLB Act), to those that are financial in nature or incidental or complementary to such financial activities. Activities that are financial in nature include securities underwriting, dealing and market making, sponsoring mutual funds and investment companies, insurance underwriting and agency, merchant banking and activities that the Federal Reserve Board has determined to be closely related to banking. In addition, under the insurance company investment portfolio provision of the GLB Act, financial holding companies are authorized to make investments in other financial and non-financial companies, through their insurance subsidiaries, that are in the ordinary course of business and in accordance with state insurance law, provided the financial holding company does not routinely manage or operate such companies except as may be necessary to obtain a reasonable return on investment.
Other Restrictions and Limitations on Bank Holding Companies and Financial Holding Companies Capital. MetLife, Inc. and MetLife Bank are subject to risk-based and leverage capital guidelines issued by the federal banking
regulatory agencies for banks and financial holding companies. The federal banking regulatory agencies are required by law to take specific prompt corrective actions with respect to institutions that do not meet minimum capital standards. At December 31, 2009, MetLife, Inc. and MetLife Bank were in compliance with the aforementioned guidelines.
Other Restrictions and Limitations on Bank Holding Companies and Financial Holding Companies Change of Control. Because MetLife, Inc. is a financial holding company and bank holding company under the federal banking laws, no person may acquire control of MetLife, Inc. without the prior approval of the Federal Reserve Board. A change of control is conclusively presumed upon acquisition of 25% or more of any class of voting securities and rebuttably presumed upon acquisition of 10% or more of any class of voting securities. Further, as a result of MetLife, Inc.s ownership of MetLife Bank, approval from the OCC would be required in connection with a change of control (generally presumed upon the acquisition of 10% or more of any class of voting securities) of MetLife, Inc.
We believe that competition faced by our business segments is based on a number of factors, including service, product features, scale, price, financial strength, claims-paying ratings, credit ratings, ebusiness capabilities and name recognition. We compete with a large number of other insurance companies, as well as non-insurance financial services companies, such as banks, broker-dealers and asset managers, for individual consumers, employer and other group customers as well as agents and other distributors of insurance and investment products. Some of these companies offer a broader array of products, have more competitive pricing or, with respect to other insurance companies, have higher claims paying ability ratings. Many of our insurance products are underwritten annually and, accordingly, there is a risk that group purchasers may be able to obtain more favorable terms from competitors rather than renewing coverage with us.
We believe that the turbulence in financial markets that began in the latter half of 2008, its impact on the capital position of many competitors, and subsequent actions by regulators and rating agencies have altered the competitive environment. In particular, we believe that these factors have highlighted financial strength as the most significant differentiator from the perspective of some customers and certain distributors. We believe the Company is well positioned to compete in this environment. In particular, the Company distributes many of its individual products through other financial institutions such as banks and broker-dealers. These distribution partners are currently placing greater emphasis on the financial strength of the company whose products they sell. In addition, the financial market turbulence has highlighted the extent of the risk associated with certain variable annuity products and has led many companies in our industry to re-examine the pricing and features of the products they offer. The effects of current market conditions may also lead to consolidation in the life insurance industry. Although we cannot predict the ultimate impact of these conditions, we believe that the strongest companies will enjoy a competitive advantage as a result of the current circumstances.
We must attract and retain productive sales representatives to sell our insurance, annuities and investment products. Strong competition exists among insurance companies for sales representatives with demonstrated ability. We compete with other insurance companies for sales representatives primarily on the basis of our financial
position, support services and compensation and product features. See U.S. Business Sales Distribution. We continue to undertake several initiatives to grow our career agency force, while continuing to enhance the efficiency and production of our existing sales force. We cannot provide assurance that these initiatives will succeed in attracting and retaining new agents. Sales of individual insurance, annuities and investment products and our results of operations and financial position could be materially adversely affected if we are unsuccessful in attracting and retaining agents.
Numerous aspects of our business are subject to regulation. Legislative and other changes affecting the regulatory environment can affect our competitive position within the life insurance industry and within the broader financial services industry. See Regulation, Risk Factors Our Insurance and Banking Businesses Are Heavily Regulated, and Changes in Regulation May Reduce Our Profitability and Limit Our Growth and Risk Factors Changes in U.S. Federal and State Securities Laws and Regulations May Affect Our Operations and Our Profitability.
Insurer financial strength ratings represent the opinions of rating agencies, including A.M. Best Company (A.M. Best), Fitch Ratings (Fitch), Moodys Investors Service (Moodys) and Standard & Poors Ratings Services (S&P), regarding the ability of an insurance company to meet its financial obligations to policyholders and contractholders. Credit ratings represent the opinions of rating agencies regarding an issuers ability to repay its indebtedness.
Rating Stability Indicators
Rating agencies use an outlook statement of positive, stable, negative or developing to indicate a medium- or long-term trend in credit fundamentals which, if continued, may lead to a rating change. A rating may have a stable outlook to indicate that the rating is not expected to change; however, a stable rating does not preclude a rating agency from changing a rating at any time, without notice. Certain rating agencies assign rating modifiers such as CreditWatch or Under Review to indicate their opinion regarding the potential direction of a rating. These ratings modifiers are generally assigned in connection with certain events such as potential mergers and acquisitions, or material changes in a companys results, in order for the rating agencies to perform its analysis to fully determine the rating implications of the event. See Risk Factors A Downgrade or a Potential Downgrade in Our Financial Strength or Credit Ratings Could Result in a Loss of Business and Materially Adversely Affect Our Financial Condition and Results of Operations.
Throughout 2009, A.M. Best, Fitch, Moodys, and S&P maintained its outlook for the U.S. life insurance sector as negative. We believe the rating agencies have heightened the level of scrutiny that they apply to such institutions, increased the frequency and scope of their credit reviews, and have requested additional information from the companies that they rate. In December 2009 and February 2010, Moodys and Fitch, respectively, downgraded by one notch the insurer financial strength and credit ratings assigned to MetLife, Inc. and its subsidiaries and each raised the rating outlook from negative to stable. In February 2010, S&P and A.M. Best each placed the ratings of MetLife, Inc. and its subsidiaries on CreditWatch with negative implications and
Under Review with negative implications, respectively, based on our disclosure of a potential acquisition. Our insurer financial strength ratings and credit ratings at the date of this filing are listed in the tables below:
Insurer Financial Strength Ratings
The foregoing insurer financial strength ratings reflect each rating agencys opinion of MLIC and the Holding Companys other insurance subsidiaries financial characteristics with respect to their ability to pay obligations under insurance policies and contracts in accordance with their terms, and are not evaluations directed toward the protection of investors in the Holding Companys securities. Credit ratings are opinions of each agency with respect to specific securities and contractual financial obligations and the issuers ability and willingness to meet those obligations when due. Neither insurer financial strength nor credit ratings are statements of fact nor are they recommendations to purchase, hold or sell any security, contract or policy. Each rating should be evaluated independently of any other rating.
A ratings downgrade (or the potential for such a downgrade) of MLIC or any of the Holding Companys other insurance subsidiaries could potentially, among other things, increase the number of policies surrendered and withdrawals by policyholders of cash values from their policies, adversely affect relationships with broker-dealers, banks, agents, wholesalers and other distributors of our products and services, negatively impact new sales, and adversely affect our ability to compete and thereby have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition. See also Managements Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations Liquidity and Capital Resources for a more complete description of the impact of a ratings downgrade.
At December 31, 2009, we had approximately 54,000 employees. We believe that our relations with our employees are satisfactory.
Executive Officers of the Registrant
Set forth below is information regarding the executive officers of MetLife, Inc. and MLIC:
C. Robert Henrikson, age 62, has been Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of MetLife, Inc. and MLIC since April 25, 2006. Previously, he was President and Chief Executive Officer of MetLife, Inc. and MLIC from March 1, 2006, President and Chief Operating Officer of MetLife, Inc. from June 2004, and President of
the U.S. Insurance and Financial Services businesses of MetLife, Inc. and MLIC from July 2002 to June 2004. He served as President of Institutional Business of MetLife, Inc. from September 1999 to July 2002 and President of Institutional Business of MLIC from May 1999 through June 2002. He was Senior Executive Vice President, Institutional Business, of MLIC from December 1997 to May 1999, Executive Vice President, Institutional Business, from January 1996 to December 1997, and Senior Vice President, Pensions, from January 1991 to January 1995. He is a director of MetLife, Inc. and MLIC.
Gwenn L. Carr, age 64, has been Executive Vice President and Chief of Staff to the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of MetLife, Inc. and MLIC since August 2009. Previously, she was Senior Vice President and Chief of Staff to the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of MetLife, Inc. and MLIC from June 2009, Senior Vice President, Secretary and Chief of Staff to the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of MetLife, Inc, and MLIC from 2007, Senior Vice President and Secretary of MetLife, Inc. and MLIC from October 2004, and Vice President and Secretary of MetLife, Inc. and MLIC from August 1999. Ms. Carr was Vice President and Secretary of ITT Corporation from 1990 to 1999.
Steven A. Kandarian, age 57, has been Executive Vice President and Chief Investment Officer of MetLife, Inc. and MLIC since April 2005. Previously, he was the executive director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation from 2001 to 2004. Before joining the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, Mr. Kandarian was founder and managing partner of Orion Capital Partners, LP, where he managed a private equity fund specializing in venture capital and corporate acquisitions for eight years. He is a director of MetLife Bank.
James L. Lipscomb, age 63, has been Executive Vice President and General Counsel of MetLife, Inc. and MLIC since July 2003. He was Senior Vice President and Deputy General Counsel from July 2001 to July 2003. Mr. Lipscomb was President and Chief Executive Officer of Conning Corporation, a former subsidiary of MLIC, from March 2000 to July 2001, prior to which he served in various senior management positions with MLIC for more than five years.
Maria R. Morris, age 47, has been Executive Vice President, Technology and Operations, of MetLife, Inc. and MLIC since January 2008. Previously, she was Executive Vice President of MLIC from December 2005 to January 2008, Senior Vice President of MLIC from July 2003 to December 2005, and Vice President of MLIC from March 1997 to July 2003. Ms. Morris is a director of MetLife Insurance Company of Connecticut.
William J. Mullaney, age 50, has been President, U.S. Business of MetLife, Inc. and MLIC since August 2009. Previously, he was President, Institutional Business, of MetLife, Inc. and MLIC from January 2007 to July 2009, President of Metropolitan Property and Casualty Insurance Company from January 2005 to January 2007, Senior Vice President of Metropolitan Property and Casualty Insurance Company from July 2002 to December 2004, Senior Vice President, Institutional Business, of MLIC from August 2001 to July 2002, and a Vice President of MLIC for more than five years. He is a director of MetLife Bank.
William J. Toppeta, age 61, has been President, International, of MetLife, Inc. and MLIC since June 2001. He was President of Client Services and Chief Administrative Officer of MetLife, Inc. from September 1999 to June 2001 and President of Client Services and Chief Administrative Officer of MLIC from May 1999 to June 2001. He was Senior Executive Vice President, Head of Client Services, of MLIC from March 1999 to May 1999, Senior Executive Vice President, Individual, from February 1998 to March 1999, Executive Vice President, Individual Business, from July 1996 to February 1998, Senior Vice President from October 1995 to July 1996 and President and Chief Executive Officer of its Canadian Operations from July 1993 to October 1995.
William J. Wheeler, age 48, has been Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of MetLife, Inc. and MLIC since December 2003, prior to which he was a Senior Vice President of MLIC from 1997 to December 2003. Previously, he was a Senior Vice President of Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette for more than five years. Mr. Wheeler is a director of MetLife Bank.
We have a worldwide trademark portfolio that we consider important in the marketing of our products and services, including, among others, the trademark MetLife. We also have the exclusive license to use the Peanuts® characters in the area of financial services and healthcare benefit services in the United States and internationally
under an advertising and premium agreement with United Feature Syndicate until December 31, 2014. Furthermore, we also have a non-exclusive license to use certain Citigroup-owned trademarks in connection with the marketing, distribution or sale of life insurance and annuity products under a licensing agreement with Citigroup until June 30, 2015. We believe that our rights in our trademarks and under our Peanuts® characters license and our Citigroup license are well protected.
MetLife files periodic reports, proxy statements and other information with the SEC. Such reports, proxy statements and other information may be obtained by visiting the Public Reference Room of the SEC at its Headquarters Office, 100 F Street, N.E., Washington D.C. 20549 or by calling the SEC at 1-202-551-8090 or 1-800-SEC-0330 (Office of Investor Education and Advocacy). In addition, the SEC maintains an internet website (www.sec.gov) that contains reports, proxy statements, and other information regarding issuers that file electronically with the SEC, including MetLife, Inc.
MetLife makes available, free of charge, on its website (www.metlife.com) through the Investor Relations page, its annual reports on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K, and amendments to all those reports, as soon as reasonably practicable after filing (furnishing) such reports to the SEC. Other information found on the website is not part of this or any other report filed with or furnished to the SEC.
Difficult Conditions in the Global Capital Markets and the Economy Generally May Materially Adversely Affect Our Business and Results of Operations and These Conditions May Not Improve in the Near Future
Our business and results of operations are materially affected by conditions in the global capital markets and the economy generally, both in the United States and elsewhere around the world. The stress experienced by global capital markets that began in the second half of 2007 continued and substantially increased during 2008 and into 2009. Concerns over the availability and cost of credit, the U.S. mortgage market, geopolitical issues, energy costs, inflation and a declining real estate market in the United States contributed to increased volatility and diminished expectations for the economy and the markets in the near term. These factors, combined with declining business and consumer confidence and increased unemployment, precipitated a recession. Most economists believe this recession ended in the third quarter of 2009, when positive growth returned, and now expect positive growth will continue in 2010. However, the expected recovery is weaker than normal, and the unemployment rate is expected to remain high for some time. In addition, the fixed-income markets have experienced a period of extreme volatility which negatively impacted market liquidity conditions. Initially, the concerns on the part of market participants were focused on the sub-prime segment of the mortgage-backed securities market. However, these concerns expanded to include a broad range of mortgage- and asset-backed and other fixed income securities, including those rated investment grade, the U.S. and international credit and interbank money markets generally, and a wide range of financial institutions and markets, asset classes and sectors. Securities that are less liquid are more difficult to value and have less opportunity for disposal. Domestic and international equity markets have also experienced heightened volatility and turmoil, with issuers (such as our company) that have exposure to the real estate, mortgage and credit markets particularly affected. These events and continued market upheavals may have an adverse effect on us, in part because we have a large investment portfolio and are also dependent upon customer behavior. Our revenues are likely to decline in such circumstances and our profit margins could erode. In addition, in the event of extreme prolonged market events, such as the global credit crisis, we could incur significant capital or operating losses. Even in the absence of a market downturn, we are exposed to substantial risk of loss due to market volatility.
We are a significant writer of variable annuity products. The account values of these products decrease as a result of downturns in capital markets. Decreases in account values reduce the fees generated by our variable annuity products, cause the amortization of deferred acquisition costs to accelerate and could increase the level of liabilities we must carry to support those variable annuities issued with any associated guarantees.
Factors such as consumer spending, business investment, government spending, the volatility and strength of the capital markets, and inflation all affect the business and economic environment and, ultimately, the amount and
profitability of our business. In an economic downturn characterized by higher unemployment, lower family income, lower corporate earnings, lower business investment and lower consumer spending, the demand for our financial and insurance products could be adversely affected. In addition, we may experience an elevated incidence of claims and lapses or surrenders of policies. Our policyholders may choose to defer paying insurance premiums or stop paying insurance premiums altogether. Adverse changes in the economy could affect earnings negatively and could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition. The recent market turmoil has also raised the possibility of legislative, regulatory and governmental actions. We cannot predict whether or when such actions may occur, or what impact, if any, such actions could have on our business, results of operations and financial condition. See Actions of the U.S. Government, Federal Reserve Bank of New York and Other Governmental and Regulatory Bodies for the Purpose of Stabilizing and Revitalizing the Financial Markets and Protecting Investors and Consumers May Not Achieve the Intended Effect or Could Adversely Affect MetLifes Competitive Position, Our Insurance and Banking Businesses Are Heavily Regulated, and Changes in Regulation May Reduce Our Profitability and Limit Our Growth and Competitive Factors May Adversely Affect Our Market Share and Profitability.
Adverse Capital and Credit Market Conditions May Significantly Affect Our Ability to Meet Liquidity Needs, Access to Capital and Cost of Capital
The capital and credit markets are sometimes subject to periods of extreme volatility and disruption. Such volatility and disruption could cause liquidity and credit capacity for certain issuers to be limited.
We need liquidity to pay our operating expenses, interest on our debt and dividends on our capital stock, maintain our securities lending activities and replace certain maturing liabilities. Without sufficient liquidity, we will be forced to curtail our operations, and our business will suffer. The principal sources of our liquidity are insurance premiums, annuity considerations, deposit funds, and cash flow from our investment portfolio and assets, consisting mainly of cash or assets that are readily convertible into cash. Sources of liquidity in normal markets also include short-term instruments such as repurchase agreements and commercial paper. Sources of capital in normal markets include long-term instruments, medium- and long-term debt, junior subordinated debt securities, capital securities and equity securities.
In the event market or other conditions have an adverse impact on our capital and liquidity beyond expectations and our current resources do not satisfy our needs, we may have to seek additional financing. The availability of additional financing will depend on a variety of factors such as market conditions, regulatory considerations, the general availability of credit, the volume of trading activities, the overall availability of credit to the financial services industry, our credit ratings and credit capacity, as well as the possibility that customers or lenders could develop a negative perception of our long- or short-term financial prospects if we incur large investment losses or if the level of our business activity decreased due to a market downturn. Similarly, our access to funds may be impaired if regulatory authorities or rating agencies take negative actions against us. Our internal sources of liquidity may prove to be insufficient, and in such case, we may not be able to successfully obtain additional financing on favorable terms, or at all.
Our liquidity requirements may change if, among other things, we are required to return significant amounts of cash collateral on short notice under securities lending agreements.
Disruptions, uncertainty or volatility in the capital and credit markets may also limit our access to capital required to operate our business, most significantly our insurance operations. Such market conditions may limit our ability to replace, in a timely manner, maturing liabilities; satisfy statutory capital requirements; and access the capital necessary to grow our business. As such, we may be forced to delay raising capital, issue different types of securities than we would otherwise, less effectively deploy such capital, issue shorter tenor securities than we prefer, or bear an unattractive cost of capital which could decrease our profitability and significantly reduce our financial flexibility. Our results of operations, financial condition, cash flows and statutory capital position could be materially adversely affected by disruptions in the financial markets.
Actions of the U.S. Government, Federal Reserve Bank of New York and Other Governmental and Regulatory Bodies for the Purpose of Stabilizing and Revitalizing the Financial Markets and Protecting Investors and Consumers May Not Achieve the Intended Effect or Could Adversely Affect MetLifes Competitive Position
In response to the financial crises affecting the banking system and financial markets and going concern threats to investment banks and other financial institutions, on October 3, 2008, President Bush signed the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (EESA) into law. Pursuant to EESA, the U.S. Treasury has the authority to, among other things, purchase up to $700 billion of mortgage-backed and other securities (including newly issued preferred shares and subordinated debt) from financial institutions for the purpose of stabilizing the financial markets. The U.S. federal government, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the FDIC and other governmental and regulatory bodies have taken or are considering taking other actions to address the financial crisis. For example, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York made funds available to commercial and financial companies under a number of programs, including the Commercial Paper Funding Facility, which expired in early 2010. The U.S. Treasury has established programs based in part on EESA and in part on the separate authority of the Federal Reserve Board and the FDIC, to foster purchases from and by banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions of certain kinds of assets for which valuations have been low and markets weak. Some of the programs established by governmental and regulatory bodies have recently been discontinued or will be in the near term. We cannot predict what impact, if any, this could have on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Although such actions appear to have provided some stability to the financial markets, our business, financial condition and results of operations and the trading price of our common stock could be materially and adversely affected to the extent that credit availability and prices for financial assets revert to their low levels of late 2008 and early 2009 or do not continue to improve. Furthermore, Congress has considered, and may consider in the future, legislative proposals that could impact the estimated fair value of mortgage loans, such as legislation that would permit bankruptcy courts to rewrite the terms of a mortgage contract, including reducing the principal balance of mortgage loans owed by bankrupt borrowers. If such legislation is enacted, it could cause loss of principal on certain of our non-agency prime RMBS holdings and could cause a ratings downgrade in such holdings which, in turn, would cause an increase in unrealized losses on such securities and increase the risk-based capital that we must hold to support such securities. See We Are Exposed to Significant Financial and Capital Markets Risk Which May Adversely Affect Our Results of Operations, Financial Condition and Liquidity, and Our Net Investment Income Can Vary from Period to Period. In addition, the U.S. federal government (including the FDIC) and private lenders have begun programs to reduce the monthly payment obligations of mortgagors and/or reduce the principal payable on residential mortgage loans. As a result, we may need to maintain or increase our engagement in similar activities in order to comply with program requirements and to remain competitive. We cannot predict whether the funds made available by the U.S. federal government and its agencies will be enough to continue stabilizing or to further revive the financial markets or, if additional amounts are necessary, whether Congress will be willing to make the necessary appropriations, what the publics sentiment would be towards any such appropriations, or what additional requirements or conditions might be imposed on the use of any such additional funds.
President Obama has proposed a Financial Crisis Responsibility Fee which would be imposed on financial firms with more than $50 billion in consolidated assets. The fee is intended to recover the cost of the Troubled Assets Relief Program established under EESA, which the Obama Administration currently estimates will be $117 billion. The fee would be imposed annually on covered financial firms for at least ten years and possibly longer. As a bank holding company with more than $50 billion of consolidated assets, MetLife appears to be subject to the proposed fee. Full details of the proposed fee, the companies subject to it, and the manner in which it would be assessed have not yet been released, so we cannot estimate its financial impact on us. However, it is possible that the proposed fee could have a material adverse impact on our results of operations.
The choices made by the U.S. Treasury, the Federal Reserve Board and the FDIC in their distribution of amounts available under EESA and any of the proposed new asset purchase programs could have the effect of supporting some aspects of the financial services industry more than others. Some of our competitors have received, or may in the future receive, funding under one or more of the federal governments capital infusion programs. This
could adversely affect our competitive position. See Competitive Factors May Adversely Affect Our Market Share and Profitability.
See also Proposals to Regulate Compensation, if Implemented, Could Hinder or Prevent Us From Attracting and Retaining Management and Other Employees with the Talent and Experience to Manage and Conduct Our Business Effectively and Our Insurance and Banking Businesses Are Heavily Regulated, and Changes in Regulation May Reduce Our Profitability and Limit Our Growth.
Our Insurance and Banking Businesses Are Heavily Regulated, and Changes in Regulation May Reduce Our Profitability and Limit Our Growth
Our insurance operations are subject to a wide variety of insurance and other laws and regulations. See Business Regulation Insurance Regulation. State insurance laws regulate most aspects of our U.S. insurance businesses, and our insurance subsidiaries are regulated by the insurance departments of the states in which they are domiciled and the states in which they are licensed. Our non-U.S. insurance operations are principally regulated by insurance regulatory authorities in the jurisdictions in which they are domiciled and operate.
State laws in the United States grant insurance regulatory authorities broad administrative powers with respect to, among other things:
State insurance guaranty associations have the right to assess insurance companies doing business in their state for funds to help pay the obligations of insolvent insurance companies to policyholders and claimants. Because the amount and timing of an assessment is beyond our control, the liabilities that we have currently established for these potential liabilities may not be adequate. See Business Regulation Insurance Regulation Guaranty Associations and Similar Arrangements.
State insurance regulators and the NAIC regularly re-examine existing laws and regulations applicable to insurance companies and their products. Changes in these laws and regulations, or in interpretations thereof, are often made for the benefit of the consumer at the expense of the insurer and, thus, could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
The NAIC and several states legislatures have considered the need for regulations and/or laws to address agent or broker practices that have been the focus of investigations of broker compensation in the State of New York and in
other jurisdictions. The NAIC adopted a Compensation Disclosure Amendment to its Producers Licensing Model Act which, if adopted by the states, would require disclosure by agents or brokers to customers that insurers will compensate such agents or brokers for the placement of insurance and documented acknowledgement of this arrangement in cases where the customer also compensates the agent or broker. Several states have enacted laws similar to the NAIC amendment. Others have enacted laws or proposed disclosure regulations which, under differing circumstances, require disclosure of specific compensation earned by a producer on the sale of an insurance or annuity product. We cannot predict how many states may promulgate the NAIC amendment or alternative regulations or the extent to which these regulations may have a material adverse impact on our business.
Currently, the U.S. federal government does not directly regulate the business of insurance. However, federal legislation and administrative policies in several areas can significantly and adversely affect insurance companies. These areas include financial services regulation, securities regulation, pension regulation, health care regulation, privacy, tort reform legislation and taxation. In addition, various forms of direct and indirect federal regulation of insurance have been proposed from time to time, including proposals for the establishment of an optional federal charter for insurance companies. As part of a proposed comprehensive reform of financial services regulation, Congress is considering the creation of an office within the federal government to collect information about the insurance industry, recommend prudential standards, and represent the United States in dealings with foreign insurance regulators.
Other aspects of financial services regulatory reform proposals that have been considered could affect our business. For example:
The creation of an additional supervisor with authority over MetLife, Inc. and its subsidiaries, the likelihood of additional regulations, and the other changes discussed above could require changes to MetLifes operations. Whether such changes would affect our competitiveness in comparison to other institutions is uncertain, since it is possible that at least some of our competitors will be similarly affected. Competitive effects are possible, however, if MetLife, Inc. were required to pay any new or increased taxes, or if it were determined to be systemically significant and were subjected to higher capital and liquidity requirements and generally stricter prudential supervisory standards as a result. It is unclear at present whether systemically significant institutions will be helped or hurt competitively if such additional requirements are imposed. We cannot predict whether these or other proposals will be adopted, or what impact, if any, such proposals or, if enacted, such laws, could have on our business, financial condition or results of operations or on our dealings with other financial institutions.
As a federally chartered national association, MetLife Bank is subject to a wide variety of banking laws, regulations and guidelines. Federal banking laws regulate most aspects of the business of MetLife Bank, but certain state laws may apply as well. MetLife Bank is principally regulated by the OCC, the Federal Reserve and the FDIC.
Federal banking laws and regulations address various aspects of MetLife Banks business and operations with respect to, among other things:
Furthermore, Congress is considering establishing a new governmental agency that would supervise and regulate institutions that provide certain financial products and services to consumers. Although the consumer financial services to which this legislation would apply might exclude certain insurance business, the new agency would have authority to regulate consumer services provided by MetLife Bank. Federal pre-emption of state consumer protection laws applicable to banking services may be eliminated or significantly restricted in any financial services regulatory reform legislation that Congress may pass, which would increase the regulatory and compliance burden on MetLife Bank and could adversely affect its business and results of operations.
The FDIC has the right to assess FDIC-insured banks for funds to help pay the obligations of insolvent banks to depositors. Because the amount and timing of an assessment is beyond our control, the liabilities that we have currently established for these potential liabilities may not be adequate.
Federal and state banking regulators regularly re-examine existing laws and regulations applicable to banks and their products. Changes in these laws and regulations, or in interpretations thereof, are often made for the benefit of the consumer at the expense of the bank and, thus, could have a material adverse effect on the financial condition and results of operations of MetLife Bank.
Our international operations are subject to regulation in the jurisdictions in which they operate, which in many ways is similar to that of the state regulation outlined above. Many of our customers and independent sales intermediaries also operate in regulated environments. Changes in the regulations that affect their operations also may affect our business relationships with them and their ability to purchase or distribute our products. Accordingly, these changes could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations. See Our International Operations Face Political, Legal, Operational and Other Risks that Could Negatively Affect Those Operations or Our Profitability.
Compliance with applicable laws and regulations is time consuming and personnel-intensive, and changes in these laws and regulations may materially increase our direct and indirect compliance and other expenses of doing business, thus having a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
From time to time, regulators raise issues during examinations or audits of MetLife, Inc.s subsidiaries that could, if determined adversely, have a material impact on us. We cannot predict whether or when regulatory actions may be taken that could adversely affect our operations. In addition, the interpretations of regulations by regulators may change and statutes may be enacted with retroactive impact, particularly in areas such as accounting or statutory reserve requirements.
We are also subject to other regulations, including banking regulations, and may in the future become subject to additional regulations. See Business Regulation.
We Are Exposed to Significant Financial and Capital Markets Risk Which May Adversely Affect Our Results of Operations, Financial Condition and Liquidity, and Our Net Investment Income Can Vary from Period to Period
We are exposed to significant financial and capital markets risk, including changes in interest rates, credit spreads, equity prices, real estate markets, foreign currency exchange rates, market volatility, the performance of the economy in general, the performance of the specific obligors included in our portfolio and other factors outside our control.
Our exposure to interest rate risk relates primarily to the market price and cash flow variability associated with changes in interest rates. A rise in interest rates will increase the net unrealized loss position of our fixed income investment portfolio and, if long-term interest rates rise dramatically within a six to twelve month time period, certain of our life insurance businesses may be exposed to disintermediation risk. Disintermediation risk refers to the risk that our policyholders may surrender their contracts in a rising interest rate environment, requiring us to liquidate fixed income investments in an unrealized loss position. Due to the long-term nature of the liabilities associated with certain of our life insurance businesses, guaranteed benefits on variable annuities, and structured settlements, sustained declines in long-term interest rates may subject us to reinvestment risks and increased hedging costs. In other situations, declines in interest rates may result in increasing the duration of certain life insurance liabilities, creating asset-liability duration mismatches. Our investment portfolio also contains interest rate sensitive instruments, such as fixed income securities, which may be adversely affected by changes in interest rates from governmental monetary policies, domestic and international economic and political conditions and other factors beyond our control. A rise in interest rates would increase the net unrealized loss position of our fixed income investment portfolio, offset by our ability to earn higher rates of return on funds reinvested. Conversely, a decline in interest rates would decrease the net unrealized loss position of our fixed income investment portfolio, offset by lower rates of return on funds reinvested. Our mitigation efforts with respect to interest rate risk are primarily focused towards maintaining an investment portfolio with diversified maturities that has a weighted average duration that is approximately equal to the duration of our estimated liability cash flow profile. However, our estimate of the liability cash flow profile may be inaccurate and we may be forced to liquidate fixed income investments prior to maturity at a loss in order to cover the liability. Although we take measures to manage the economic risks of investing in a changing interest rate environment, we may not be able to mitigate the interest rate risk of our fixed income investments relative to our liabilities. See also Changes in Market Interest Rates May Significantly Affect Our Profitability.
Our exposure to credit spreads primarily relates to market price and cash flow variability associated with changes in credit spreads. A widening of credit spreads will increase the net unrealized loss position of the fixed-income investment portfolio, will increase losses associated with credit based non-qualifying derivatives where we assume credit exposure, and, if issuer credit spreads increase significantly or for an extended period of time, would likely result in higher other-than-temporary impairments (OTTI). Credit spread tightening will reduce net investment income associated with new purchases of fixed maturity securities. In addition, market volatility can make it difficult to value certain of our securities if trading becomes less frequent. As such, valuations may include assumptions or estimates that may have significant period to period changes which could have a material adverse effect on our consolidated results of operations or financial condition. Credit spreads on both corporate and structured securities widened significantly during 2008, resulting in continuing depressed pricing. As a result of improved conditions, credit spreads narrowed in 2009. If there is a resumption of significant volatility in the markets, it could cause changes in credit spreads and defaults and a lack of pricing transparency which, individually or in tandem, could have a material adverse effect on our consolidated results of operations, financial condition,
liquidity or cash flows through realized investment losses, impairments, and changes in unrealized loss positions. See also Guarantees Within Certain of Our Variable Annuity Guarantee Benefits that Protect Policyholders Against Significant Downturns in Equity Markets May Increase the Volatility of Our Results Related to the Inclusion of an Own Credit Adjustment in the Estimated Fair Value of the Liability for These Guaranteed Benefits.
Our primary exposure to equity risk relates to the potential for lower earnings associated with certain of our insurance businesses where fee income is earned based upon the estimated fair value of the assets under management. Equity market downturns and volatility may discourage purchases of separate account products, such as variable annuities and variable life insurance that have underlying mutual funds with returns linked to the performance of the equity markets, and may cause some of our existing customers to withdraw cash values or reduce investments in those products. In addition, downturns and volatility in equity markets can have a material adverse effect on the revenues and returns from our savings and investment products and services. Because these products and services depend on fees related primarily to the value of assets under management, a decline in the equity markets could reduce our revenues by reducing the value of the investments we manage. The retail annuity business in particular is highly sensitive to equity markets, and a sustained weakness in the equity markets could decrease revenues and earnings in variable annuity products. Furthermore, certain of our annuity products offer guaranteed benefits which increase our potential benefit exposure should equity markets decline. The Company uses derivatives to mitigate the impact of such increased potential benefit exposures. We are also exposed to interest rate and equity risk based upon the discount rate and expected long-term rate of return assumptions associated with our pension and other postretirement benefit obligations. Sustained declines in long-term interest rates or equity returns likely would have a negative effect on the funded status of these plans.
We also provide certain guarantees within some of our products that protect policyholders against significant downturns in the equity markets. For example, we offer variable annuity products with guaranteed features, such as death benefits, withdrawal benefits, and minimum accumulation and income benefits. In volatile or declining equity market conditions, we may need to increase liabilities for future policy benefits and policyholder account balances, negatively affecting our net income. The Company uses derivatives to mitigate the impact of volatile or declining equity market conditions. A decline in equity markets also may reduce the estimated fair value of the investments supporting our pension and post retirement benefit plan obligations, changing the funded status of such plans, and adversely affect our results of operations. Lastly, we invest a portion of our investments in equity securities, leveraged buy-out funds, hedge funds and other private equity funds and the estimated fair value of such investments may be impacted by downturns or volatility in equity markets.
Our primary exposure to real estate risk relates to commercial and agricultural real estate. Our exposure to commercial and agricultural real estate risk stems from various factors. These factors include, but are not limited to, market conditions including the demand and supply of space, creditworthiness of tenants and partners, capital markets volatility and the inherent interest rate movement. Recently, a significantly weakened economic environment has led to declining commercial real estate tenant demand, increasing vacancy rates and declining property incomes. In addition, capital market conditions and accessibility to financing has prompted an increase in the risk premiums assessed in the sector. These trends have resulted in decreases in the value of our equity commercial real estate holdings, and deterioration in the value of the collateral securing our commercial mortgages. In addition, our real estate joint venture development program is subject to risks including, but not limited to, reduced property sales and decreased availability of financing which could adversely impact the joint venture developments and/or operations. The state of the economy and speed of recovery in fundamental and capital market conditions in the commercial and agricultural real estate sectors will continue to influence the performance of our investments in these sectors. These factors and others beyond our control could have a material adverse effect on our consolidated results of operations, financial condition, liquidity or cash flows through net investment income, realized investment losses and impairments.
Our primary foreign currency exchange risks are described under Fluctuations in Foreign Currency Exchange Rates and Foreign Securities Markets Could Negatively Affect Our Profitability. Significant declines in equity prices, changes in U.S. interest rates, changes in credit spreads, and changes in foreign currency exchange rates could have a material adverse effect on our consolidated results of operations, financial condition or liquidity. Changes in these factors, which are significant risks to us, can affect our net investment income in any period, and such changes can be substantial.
A portion of our investments are made in leveraged buy-out funds, hedge funds and other private equity funds reported within other limited partnership interests, many of which make private equity investments. The amount and timing of net investment income from such investment funds tends to be uneven as a result of the performance of the underlying investments, including private equity investments. The timing of distributions from the funds, which depends on particular events relating to the underlying investments, as well as the funds schedules for making distributions and their needs for cash, can be difficult to predict. As a result, the amount of net investment income that we record from these investments can vary substantially from quarter to quarter. Recent equity, real estate and credit market volatility have further reduced net investment income and related yields for these types of investments and we may continue to experience reduced net investment income due to continued volatility in the equity, real estate and credit markets in 2010.
In 2009, the disruption in the global financial markets moderated, although not all markets are functioning normally and many remain reliant upon government investments and liquidity. Continuing challenges include continued weakness in the U.S. real estate market and increased mortgage loan delinquencies, investor anxiety over the U.S. economy, rating agency downgrades of various structured products and financial issuers, unresolved issues with structured investment vehicles and monoline financial guarantee insurers, deleveraging of financial institutions and hedge funds and a serious dislocation in the inter-bank market. If there is a resumption of significant volatility in the markets, it could cause changes in interest rates, declines in equity prices, and the strengthening or weakening of foreign currencies against the U.S. Dollar which, individually or in tandem, could have a material adverse effect on our consolidated results of operations, financial condition, liquidity or cash flows through realized investment losses, impairments, and changes in unrealized loss positions.
Changes in Market Interest Rates May Significantly Affect Our Profitability
Some of our products, principally traditional whole life insurance, fixed annuities and guaranteed interest contracts, expose us to the risk that changes in interest rates will reduce our spread, or the difference between the amounts that we are required to pay under the contracts in our general account and the rate of return we are able to earn on general account investments intended to support obligations under the contracts. Our spread is a key component of our net income.
As interest rates decrease or remain at low levels, we may be forced to reinvest proceeds from investments that have matured or have been prepaid or sold at lower yields, reducing our investment margin. Moreover, borrowers may prepay or redeem the fixed income securities, commercial or agricultural mortgage loans and mortgage-backed securities in our investment portfolio with greater frequency in order to borrow at lower market rates, which exacerbates this risk. Lowering interest crediting rates can help offset decreases in investment margins on some products. However, our ability to lower these rates could be limited by competition or contractually guaranteed minimum rates and may not match the timing or magnitude of changes in asset yields. As a result, our spread could decrease or potentially become negative. Our expectation for future spreads is an important component in the amortization of DAC and VOBA, and significantly lower spreads may cause us to accelerate amortization, thereby reducing net income in the affected reporting period. In addition, during periods of declining interest rates, life insurance and annuity products may be relatively more attractive investments to consumers, resulting in increased premium payments on products with flexible premium features, repayment of policy loans and increased persistency, or a higher percentage of insurance policies remaining in force from year to year, during a period when our new investments carry lower returns. A decline in market interest rates could also reduce our return on investments that do not support particular policy obligations. Accordingly, declining interest rates may materially adversely affect our results of operations, financial position and cash flows and significantly reduce our profitability.
The sufficiency of our life insurance statutory reserves in Taiwan is highly sensitive to interest rates and other related assumptions. This is due to the sustained low interest rate environment in Taiwan coupled with long-term interest rate guarantees of approximately 6% embedded in the life and health contracts sold prior to 2003 and the lack of availability of long-duration investments in the Taiwanese capital markets to match such long-duration liabilities. The key assumptions include current Taiwan government bond yield rates increasing from current levels of 1.8% to 3.0% over the next ten years, a modest increase in lapse rates, mortality and morbidity levels remaining consistent with recent experience, and U.S. Dollar-denominated investments making up 35% of total assets backing
life insurance statutory reserves. Current statutory reserve adequacy analysis shows that provisions are adequate; however, adverse changes in key assumptions for interest rates, lapse experience and mortality and morbidity levels could lead to a need to strengthen reserves.
Increases in market interest rates could also negatively affect our profitability. In periods of rapidly increasing interest rates, we may not be able to replace, in a timely manner, the investments in MetLifes general account with higher yielding investments needed to fund the higher crediting rates necessary to keep interest sensitive products competitive. We, therefore, may have to accept a lower spread and, thus, lower profitability or face a decline in sales and greater loss of existing contracts and related assets. In addition, policy loans, surrenders and withdrawals may tend to increase as policyholders seek investments with higher perceived returns as interest rates rise. This process may result in cash outflows requiring that we sell investments at a time when the prices of those investments are adversely affected by the increase in market interest rates, which may result in realized investment losses. Unanticipated withdrawals and terminations may cause us to accelerate the amortization of DAC and VOBA, which would increase our current expenses and reduce net income. An increase in market interest rates could also have a material adverse effect on the value of our investment portfolio, for example, by decreasing the estimated fair values of the fixed income securities that comprise a substantial portion of our investment portfolio. Lastly, an increase in interest rates could result in decreased fee income associated with a decline in the value of variable annuity account balances invested in fixed income funds.
Some of Our Investments Are Relatively Illiquid and Are in Asset Classes that Have Been Experiencing Significant Market Valuation Fluctuations
We hold certain investments that may lack liquidity, such as privately-placed fixed maturity securities; mortgage loans; policy loans and leveraged leases; equity real estate, including real estate joint ventures and funds; and other limited partnership interests. These asset classes represented 33.2% of the carrying value of our total cash and investments at December 31, 2009. Even some of our very high quality investments have been more illiquid as a result of the current market conditions.
If we require significant amounts of cash on short notice in excess of normal cash requirements or are required to post or return cash collateral in connection with our investment portfolio, derivatives transactions or securities lending program, we may have difficulty selling these investments in a timely manner, be forced to sell them for less than we otherwise would have been able to realize, or both.
The reported value of our relatively illiquid types of investments, our investments in the asset classes described above and, at times, our high quality, generally liquid asset classes, do not necessarily reflect the lowest current market price for the asset. If we were forced to sell certain of our investments in the current market, there can be no assurance that we will be able to sell them for the prices at which we have recorded them and we could be forced to sell them at significantly lower prices.
Our Participation in a Securities Lending Program Subjects Us to Potential Liquidity and Other Risks
We participate in a securities lending program whereby blocks of securities, which are included in fixed maturity securities and short-term investments, are loaned to third parties, primarily brokerage firms and commercial banks. We generally obtain collateral in an amount equal to 102% of the estimated fair value of the loaned securities, which is obtained at the inception of a loan and maintained at a level greater than or equal to 100% for the duration of the loan. In limited instances, during the extraordinary market events beginning in the fourth quarter of 2008 and through part of 2009, we accepted collateral less than 102% at the inception of certain loans, but never less than 100%, of the estimated fair value of such loaned securities. At December 31, 2009, we had no loans outstanding where we had accepted at the inception of the loan collateral less than 102%, of the estimated fair value of such loaned securities. These loans involved U.S. Government Treasury Bills which we considered to have limited variation in their estimated fair value during the term of the loan. See Managements Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations Investments Securities Lending.
Returns of loaned securities by the third parties would require us to return the cash collateral associated with such loaned securities. In addition, in some cases, the maturity of the securities held as invested collateral (i.e., securities that we have purchased with cash received from the third parties) may exceed the term of the related
securities on loan and the estimated fair value may fall below the amount of cash received as collateral and invested. If we are required to return significant amounts of cash collateral on short notice and we are forced to sell securities to meet the return obligation, we may have difficulty selling such collateral that is invested in securities in a timely manner, be forced to sell securities in a volatile or illiquid market for less than we otherwise would have been able to realize under normal market conditions, or both. In addition, under stressful capital market and economic conditions, such as those conditions we experienced during 2008 and 2009, liquidity broadly deteriorates, which may further restrict our ability to sell securities.
If we decrease the amount of our securities lending activities over time, the amount of investment income generated by these activities will also likely decline.
Our Requirements to Pledge Collateral or Make Payments Related to Declines in Estimated Fair Value of Specified Assets May Adversely Affect Our Liquidity and Expose Us to Counterparty Credit Risk
Some of our transactions with financial and other institutions specify the circumstances under which the parties are required to pledge collateral related to any decline in the estimated fair value of the specified assets. In addition, under the terms of some of our transactions, we may be required to make payments to our counterparties related to any decline in the estimated fair value of the specified assets. The amount of collateral we may be required to pledge and the payments we may be required to make under these agreements may increase under certain circumstances, which could adversely affect our liquidity. See Managements Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations Liquidity and Capital Resources The Company Liquidity and Capital Sources Collateral Financing Arrangements and Note 12 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements.
Gross Unrealized Losses on Fixed Maturity and Equity Securities May be Realized or Result in Future Impairments, Resulting in a Reduction in Our Net Income
Fixed maturity and equity securities classified as available-for-sale, except trading securities, are reported at their estimated fair value. Unrealized gains or losses on available-for-sale securities are recognized as a component of other comprehensive income (loss) and are, therefore, excluded from net income. Our gross unrealized losses on fixed maturity and equity securities at December 31, 2009 were $10.8 billion. The portion of the $10.8 billion of gross unrealized losses for fixed maturity and equity securities where the estimated fair value has declined and remained below amortized cost or cost by 20% or more for six months or greater was $5.1 billion at December 31, 2009. The accumulated change in estimated fair value of these available-for-sale securities is recognized in net income when the gain or loss is realized upon the sale of the security or in the event that the decline in estimated fair value is determined to be other-than-temporary and an impairment charge to earnings is taken. Realized losses or impairments may have a material adverse effect on our net income in a particular quarterly or annual period.
The Determination of the Amount of Allowances and Impairments Taken on Our Investments is Highly Subjective and Could Materially Impact Our Results of Operations or Financial Position
The determination of the amount of allowances and impairments varies by investment type and is based upon our periodic evaluation and assessment of known and inherent risks associated with the respective asset class. Such evaluations and assessments are revised as conditions change and new information becomes available. We update our evaluations regularly and reflect changes in allowances and impairments in net investment losses as such evaluations are revised. There can be no assurance that we have accurately assessed the level of impairments taken and allowances provided as reflected in our consolidated financial statements. Furthermore, additional impairments may need to be taken or allowances provided for in the future. Historical trends may not be indicative of future impairments or allowances.
For example, the cost of our fixed maturity and equity securities is adjusted for impairments deemed to be other-than-temporary that are charged to earnings in the period in which the determination is made. The assessment of whether impairments have occurred is based on our case-by-case evaluation of the underlying reasons for the decline in estimated fair value. The review of our fixed maturity and equity securities for impairments includes an analysis of the total gross unrealized losses by three categories of securities: (i) securities where the estimated fair
value has declined and remained below cost or amortized cost by less than 20%; (ii) securities where the estimated fair value has declined and remained below cost or amortized cost by 20% or more for less than six months; and (iii) securities where the estimated fair value has declined and remained below cost or amortized cost by 20% or more for six months or greater.
Additionally, we consider a wide range of factors about the security issuer and use our best judgment in evaluating the cause of the decline in the estimated fair value of the security and in assessing the prospects for near-term recovery. Inherent in our evaluation of the security are assumptions and estimates about the operations of the issuer and its future earnings potential. Considerations in the impairment evaluation process include, but are not limited to: (i) the length of time and the extent to which the estimated fair value has been below cost or amortized cost; (ii) the potential for impairments of securities when the issuer is experiencing significant financial difficulties; (iii) the potential for impairments in an entire industry sector or sub-sector; (iv) the potential for impairments in certain economically depressed geographic locations; (v) the potential for impairments of securities where the issuer, series of issuers or industry has suffered a catastrophic type of loss or has exhausted natural resources; (vi) with respect to fixed maturity securities, whether we have the intent to sell or will more likely than not be required to sell a particular security before recovery of the decline in estimated fair value below cost or amortized cost; (vii) with respect to equity securities, whether we have the ability and intent to hold a particular security for a period of time sufficient to allow for the recovery of its estimated fair value to an amount at least equal to its cost; (viii) unfavorable changes in forecasted cash flows on mortgage-backed and asset-backed securities; and (ix) other subjective factors, including concentrations and information obtained from regulators and rating agencies.
Defaults on Our Mortgage Loans and Volatility in Performance May Adversely Affect Our Profitability
Our mortgage loans face default risk and are principally collateralized by commercial, agricultural and residential properties, as well as automobiles. The carrying value of mortgage loans is stated at original cost net of repayments, amortization of premiums, accretion of discounts and valuation allowances, except for residential mortgage loans held-for-sale accounted for under the fair value option which are carried at estimated fair value, as determined on a recurring basis, and certain commercial and residential mortgage loans carried at the lower of cost or estimated fair value, as determined on a nonrecurring basis. We establish valuation allowances for estimated impairments at the balance sheet date. Such valuation allowances are based on the excess carrying value of the loan over the present value of expected future cash flows discounted at the loans original effective interest rate, the estimated fair value of the loans collateral if the loan is in the process of foreclosure or otherwise collateral dependent, or the loans observable market price if the loan is held-for-sale. We also establish valuation allowances for loan losses when a loss contingency exists for pools of loans with similar characteristics, such as mortgage loans based on similar property types or loans having similar loan-to-value or similar debt service coverage factors. At December 31, 2009, loans that were either delinquent or in the process of foreclosure totaled less than 0.5% of our mortgage loan investments. The performance of our mortgage loan investments, however, may fluctuate in the future. In addition, substantially all of our mortgage loans held-for-investment have balloon payment maturities. An increase in the default rate of our mortgage loan investments could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition through realized investment losses or increases in our valuation allowances. See Managements Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations Investments Mortgage Loans.
Further, any geographic or sector concentration of our mortgage loans may have adverse effects on our investment portfolios and consequently on our consolidated results of operations or financial condition. While we seek to mitigate this risk by having a broadly diversified portfolio, events or developments that have a negative effect on any particular geographic region or sector may have a greater adverse effect on the investment portfolios to the extent that the portfolios are concentrated. Moreover, our ability to sell assets relating to such particular groups of related assets may be limited if other market participants are seeking to sell at the same time. In addition, legislative proposals that would allow or require modifications to the terms of mortgage loans could be enacted. We cannot predict whether these proposals will be adopted, or what impact, if any, such proposals or, if enacted, such laws, could have on our business or investments.
The Impairment of Other Financial Institutions Could Adversely Affect Us
We have exposure to many different industries and counterparties, and routinely execute transactions with counterparties in the financial services industry, including brokers and dealers, commercial banks, investment banks, hedge funds and other investment funds and other institutions. Many of these transactions expose us to credit risk in the event of default of our counterparty. In addition, with respect to secured transactions, our credit risk may be exacerbated when the collateral held by us cannot be realized or is liquidated at prices not sufficient to recover the full amount of the loan or derivative exposure due to us. We also have exposure to these financial institutions in the form of unsecured debt instruments, non-redeemable and redeemable preferred securities, derivative transactions and equity investments. Further, potential action by governments and regulatory bodies in response to the financial crisis affecting the global banking system and financial markets, such as investment, nationalization, conservatorship, receivership and other intervention, whether under existing legal authority or any new authority that may be created, could negatively impact these instruments, securities, transactions and investments. There can be no assurance that any such losses or impairments to the carrying value of these investments would not materially and adversely affect our business and results of operations.
We Face Unforeseen Liabilities or Asset Impairments or Rating Actions Arising from Possible Acquisitions and Dispositions of Businesses or Difficulties Integrating Such Businesses
We have engaged in dispositions and acquisitions of businesses in the past, and expect to continue to do so in the future. There could be unforeseen liabilities or asset impairments, including goodwill impairments, that arise in connection with the businesses that we may sell or the businesses that we may acquire in the future. In addition, there may be liabilities or asset impairments that we fail, or are unable, to discover in the course of performing due diligence investigations on each business that we have acquired or may acquire. Furthermore, the use of our own funds as consideration in any acquisition would consume capital resources that would no longer be available for other corporate purposes. Moreover, as a result of uncertainty and risks associated with potential acquisitions and dispositions of businesses, rating agencies may take certain actions with respect to the ratings assigned to MetLife, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries. See Business Company Ratings Rating Actions.
Our ability to achieve certain benefits we anticipate from any acquisitions of businesses will depend in large part upon our ability to successfully integrate such businesses in an efficient and effective manner. We may not be able to integrate such businesses smoothly or successfully, and the process may take longer than expected. The integration of operations may require the dedication of significant management resources, which may distract managements attention from day-to-day business. If we are unable to successfully integrate the operations of such acquired businesses, we may be unable to realize the benefits we expect to achieve as a result of such acquisitions and our business and results of operations may be less than expected.
Fluctuations in Foreign Currency Exchange Rates and Foreign Securities Markets Could Negatively Affect Our Profitability
We are exposed to risks associated with fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rates against the U.S. Dollar resulting from our holdings of non-U.S. Dollar denominated investments, investments in foreign subsidiaries and net income from foreign operations and issuance of non-U.S. Dollar denominated instruments, including guaranteed interest contracts and funding agreements. These risks relate to potential decreases in estimated fair value and income resulting from a strengthening or weakening in foreign exchange rates versus the U.S. Dollar. In general, the weakening of foreign currencies versus the U.S. Dollar will adversely affect the estimated fair value of our non-U.S. Dollar denominated investments and our investments in foreign subsidiaries. Although we use foreign currency swaps and forward contracts to mitigate foreign currency exchange rate risk, we cannot provide assurance that these methods will be effective or that our counterparties will perform their obligations. See Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk.
From time to time, various emerging market countries have experienced severe economic and financial disruptions, including significant devaluations of their currencies. Our exposure to foreign exchange rate risk is exacerbated by our investments in certain emerging markets.
We have matched substantially all of our foreign currency liabilities in our foreign subsidiaries with investments denominated in their respective foreign currency, which limits the effect of currency exchange rate fluctuation on local operating results; however, fluctuations in such rates affect the translation of these results into our U.S. Dollar basis consolidated financial statements. Although we take certain actions to address this risk, foreign currency exchange rate fluctuation could materially adversely affect our reported results due to unhedged positions or the failure of hedges to effectively offset the impact of the foreign currency exchange rate fluctuation. See Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk.
Our International Operations Face Political, Legal, Operational and Other Risks that Could Negatively Affect Those Operations or Our Profitability
Our international operations face political, legal, operational and other risks that we do not face in our domestic operations. We face the risk of discriminatory regulation, nationalization or expropriation of assets, price controls and exchange controls or other restrictions that prevent us from transferring funds from these operations out of the countries in which they operate or converting local currencies we hold into U.S. Dollars or other currencies. Some of our foreign insurance operations are, and are likely to continue to be, in emerging markets where these risks are heightened. See Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk. In addition, we rely on local sales forces in these countries and may encounter labor problems resulting from workers associations and trade unions in some countries. In Japan, China and India we operate with local business partners with the resulting risk of managing partner relationships to the business objectives. If our business model is not successful in a particular country, we may lose all or most of our investment in building and training the sales force in that country.
We are currently planning to expand our international operations in certain markets where we operate and in selected new markets. This may require considerable management time, as well as start-up expenses for market development before any significant revenues and earnings are generated. Operations in new foreign markets may achieve low margins or may be unprofitable, and expansion in existing markets may be affected by local economic and market conditions. Therefore, as we expand internationally, we may not achieve expected operating margins and our results of operations may be negatively impacted.
In recent years, the operating environment in Argentina has been very challenging. In Argentina, we were formerly principally engaged in the pension business. In December 2008, the Argentine government nationalized private pensions and seized the pension funds investments, eliminating the private pensions business in Argentina. As a result, we have experienced and will continue to experience reductions in the operations revenues and cash flows. The Argentine government now controls all assets which previously were managed by our Argentine pension operations. Further governmental or legal actions related to our operations in Argentina could negatively impact our operations in Argentina and result in future losses.
See also Changes in Market Interest Rates May Significantly Affect Our Profitability regarding the impact of low interest rates on our Taiwanese operations.
As a Holding Company, MetLife, Inc. Depends on the Ability of Its Subsidiaries to Transfer Funds to It to Meet Its Obligations and Pay Dividends
MetLife, Inc. is a holding company for its insurance and financial subsidiaries and does not have any significant operations of its own. Dividends from its subsidiaries and permitted payments to it under its tax sharing arrangements with its subsidiaries are its principal sources of cash to meet its obligations and to pay preferred and common dividends. If the cash MetLife, Inc. receives from its subsidiaries is insufficient for it to fund its debt service and other holding company obligations, MetLife, Inc. may be required to raise cash through the incurrence of debt, the issuance of additional equity or the sale of assets.
The payment of dividends and other distributions to MetLife, Inc. by its insurance subsidiaries is regulated by insurance laws and regulations. In general, dividends in excess of prescribed limits require insurance regulatory approval. In addition, insurance regulators may prohibit the payment of dividends or other payments by its insurance subsidiaries to MetLife, Inc. if they determine that the payment could be adverse to our policyholders or contractholders. See Business Regulation Insurance Regulation and Note 18 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements and Managements Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and
Results of Operations Liquidity and Capital Resources The Holding Company Liquidity and Capital Sources Dividends from Subsidiaries.
Any payment of interest, dividends, distributions, loans or advances by our foreign subsidiaries to MetLife, Inc. could be subject to taxation or other restrictions on dividends or repatriation of earnings under applicable law, monetary transfer restrictions and foreign currency exchange regulations in the jurisdiction in which such foreign subsidiaries operate. See Our International Operations Face Political, Legal, Operational and Other Risks That Could Negatively Affect Those Operations or Our Profitability.
A Downgrade or a Potential Downgrade in Our Financial Strength or Credit Ratings Could Result in a Loss of Business and Materially Adversely Affect Our Financial Condition and Results of Operations
Financial strength ratings, which various Nationally Recognized Statistical Rating Organizations (each, an NRSRO) publish as indicators of an insurance companys ability to meet contractholder and policyholder obligations, are important to maintaining public confidence in our products, our ability to market our products and our competitive position. See Business Company Ratings Insurer Financial Strength Ratings.
Downgrades in our financial strength ratings could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations in many ways, including:
In addition to the financial strength ratings of our insurance subsidiaries, various NRSROs also publish credit ratings for MetLife, Inc. and several of its subsidiaries. Credit ratings are indicators of a debt issuers ability to meet the terms of debt obligations in a timely manner and are important factors in our overall funding profile and ability to access certain types of liquidity. See Business Company Ratings Credit Ratings. Downgrades in our credit ratings could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations in many ways, including adversely limiting our access to capital markets, potentially increasing the cost of debt, and requiring us to post collateral. For example, with respect to derivative transactions with credit ratings downgrade triggers, a two-notch downgrade would have impacted our derivative collateral requirements by $146 million at December 31, 2009. Also, $480 million of liabilities associated with funding agreements and other capital market products were subject to credit ratings downgrade triggers that permit early termination subject to a notice period of 90 days.
In view of the difficulties experienced during 2008 and 2009 by many financial institutions, including our competitors in the insurance industry, we believe it is possible that the NRSROs will continue to heighten the level of scrutiny that they apply to such institutions, will continue to increase the frequency and scope of their credit reviews, will continue to request additional information from the companies that they rate, and may adjust upward the capital and other requirements employed in the NRSRO models for maintenance of certain ratings levels. Rating agencies use an outlook statement of positive, stable, negative or developing to indicate a medium- or long-term trend in credit fundamentals which, if continued, may lead to a ratings change. A rating may have a stable outlook to indicate that the rating is not expected to change; however, a stable rating does not preclude a rating agency from changing a rating at any time, without notice. Certain rating agencies assign rating modifiers such as CreditWatch or Under Review to indicate their opinion regarding the potential direction of a rating. These ratings modifiers are generally assigned in connection with certain events such as potential mergers and acquisitions, or material changes in a companys results, in order for the rating agencies to perform its analysis to fully determine the rating implications of the event. Certain rating agencies have recently implemented rating actions, including downgrades, outlook changes and modifiers, for MetLife, Inc.s and certain of its subsidiaries insurer financial strength and credit ratings. See Business Company Ratings Rating Actions.
We cannot predict what actions rating agencies may take, or what actions we may take in response to the actions of rating agencies, which could adversely affect our business. As with other companies in the financial services industry, our ratings could be downgraded at any time and without any notice by any NRSRO.
An Inability to Access Our Credit Facilities Could Result in a Reduction in Our Liquidity and Lead to Downgrades in Our Credit and Financial Strength Ratings
We have a $2.85 billion five-year revolving credit facility that matures in June 2012, as well as other facilities which we enter into in the ordinary course of business. See Managements Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations Liquidity and Capital Resources The Holding Company Liquidity and Capital Sources Credit and Committed Facilities and Note 11 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements.
We rely on our credit facilities as a potential source of liquidity. The availability of these facilities could be critical to our credit and financial strength ratings and our ability to meet our obligations as they come due in a market when alternative sources of credit are tight. The credit facilities contain certain administrative, reporting, legal and financial covenants. We must comply with covenants under our credit facilities (including the $2.85 billion five-year revolving credit facility), including a requirement to maintain a specified minimum consolidated net worth.
Our right to make borrowings under these facilities is subject to the fulfillment of certain important conditions, including our compliance with all covenants, and our ability to borrow under these facilities is also subject to the continued willingness and ability of the lenders that are parties to the facilities to provide funds. Our failure to comply with the covenants in the credit facilities or fulfill the conditions to borrowings, or the failure of lenders to fund their lending commitments (whether due to insolvency, illiquidity or other reasons) in the amounts provided for under the terms of the facilities, would restrict our ability to access these credit facilities when needed and, consequently, could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
Defaults, Downgrades or Other Events Impairing the Carrying Value of Our Fixed Maturity or Equity Securities Portfolio May Reduce Our Earnings
We are subject to the risk that the issuers, or guarantors, of fixed maturity securities we own may default on principal and interest payments they owe us. We are also subject to the risk that the underlying collateral within loan-backed securities, including mortgage-backed securities, may default on principal and interest payments causing an adverse change in cash flows paid to our investment. Fixed maturity securities represent a significant portion of our investment portfolio. The occurrence of a major economic downturn (such as the downturn in the economy during late 2008 and 2009), acts of corporate malfeasance, widening risk spreads, or other events that adversely affect the issuers, guarantors or underlying collateral of these securities could cause the estimated fair value of our fixed maturity securities portfolio and our earnings to decline and the default rate of the fixed maturity securities in our investment portfolio to increase. A ratings downgrade affecting issuers or guarantors of particular securities, or similar trends that could worsen the credit quality of issuers, such as the corporate issuers of securities in our investment portfolio, could also have a similar effect. With economic uncertainty, credit quality of issuers or guarantors could be adversely affected. Similarly, a ratings downgrade affecting asset-backed securities (ABS) we hold could indicate the credit quality of that security has deteriorated and could increase the capital we must hold to support that security to maintain our risk-based capital levels. Any event reducing the estimated fair value of these securities other than on a temporary basis could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition. Levels of writedowns or impairments are impacted by our assessment of intent to sell, or whether it is more likely than not that we will be required to sell, fixed maturity securities and the intent and ability to hold equity securities which have declined in value until recovery. If we determine to reposition or realign portions of the portfolio so as not to hold certain equity securities, or intend to sell or determine that it is more likely than not that we will be required to sell, certain fixed maturity securities in an unrealized loss position prior to recovery, then we will incur an other-than-temporary impairment charge in the period that the decision was made not to hold the equity security to recovery, or to sell, or the determination was made it is more likely than not that we will be required to sell the fixed maturity security.
Our Risk Management Policies and Procedures May Leave Us Exposed to Unidentified or Unanticipated Risk, Which Could Negatively Affect Our Business
Management of risk requires, among other things, policies and procedures to record properly and verify a large number of transactions and events. We have devoted significant resources to develop our risk management policies and procedures and expect to continue to do so in the future. Nonetheless, our policies and procedures may not be comprehensive. Many of our methods for managing risk and exposures are based upon the use of observed historical market behavior or statistics based on historical models. As a result, these methods may not fully predict future exposures, which can be significantly greater than our historical measures indicate. Other risk management methods depend upon the evaluation of information regarding markets, clients, catastrophe occurrence or other matters that is publicly available or otherwise accessible to us. This information may not always be accurate, complete, up-to-date or properly evaluated. See Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk.
Reinsurance May Not Be Available, Affordable or Adequate to Protect Us Against Losses
As part of our overall risk management strategy, we purchase reinsurance for certain risks underwritten by our various business segments. See Business Reinsurance Activity. While reinsurance agreements generally bind the reinsurer for the life of the business reinsured at generally fixed pricing, market conditions beyond our control determine the availability and cost of the reinsurance protection for new business. In certain circumstances, the price of reinsurance for business already reinsured may also increase. Any decrease in the amount of reinsurance will increase our risk of loss and any increase in the cost of reinsurance will, absent a decrease in the amount of reinsurance, reduce our earnings. Accordingly, we may be forced to incur additional expenses for reinsurance or may not be able to obtain sufficient reinsurance on acceptable terms, which could adversely affect our ability to write future business or result in the assumption of more risk with respect to those policies we issue.
If the Counterparties to Our Reinsurance or Indemnification Arrangements or to the Derivative Instruments We Use to Hedge Our Business Risks Default or Fail to Perform, We May Be Exposed to Risks We Had Sought to Mitigate, Which Could Materially Adversely Affect Our Financial Condition and Results of Operations
We use reinsurance, indemnification and derivative instruments to mitigate our risks in various circumstances. In general, reinsurance does not relieve us of our direct liability to our policyholders, even when the reinsurer is liable to us. Accordingly, we bear credit risk with respect to our reinsurers and indemnitors. We cannot provide assurance that our reinsurers will pay the reinsurance recoverables owed to us or that indemnitors will honor their obligations now or in the future or that they will pay these recoverables on a timely basis. A reinsurers or indemnitors insolvency, inability or unwillingness to make payments under the terms of reinsurance agreements or indemnity agreements with us could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
In addition, we use derivative instruments to hedge various business risks. We enter into a variety of derivative instruments, including options, forwards, interest rate, credit default and currency swaps with a number of counterparties. See Managements Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations Investments. If our counterparties fail or refuse to honor their obligations under these derivative instruments, our hedges of the related risk will be ineffective. This is a more pronounced risk to us in view of the stresses suffered by financial institutions over the past two years. Such failure could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
Differences Between Actual Claims Experience and Underwriting and Reserving Assumptions May Adversely Affect Our Financial Results
Our earnings significantly depend upon the extent to which our actual claims experience is consistent with the assumptions we use in setting prices for our products and establishing liabilities for future policy benefits and claims. Our liabilities for future policy benefits and claims are established based on estimates by actuaries of how much we will need to pay for future benefits and claims. For life insurance and annuity products, we calculate these liabilities based on many assumptions and estimates, including estimated premiums to be received over the assumed
life of the policy, the timing of the event covered by the insurance policy, the amount of benefits or claims to be paid and the investment returns on the investments we make with the premiums we receive. We establish liabilities for property and casualty claims and benefits based on assumptions and estimates of damages and liabilities incurred. To the extent that actual claims experience is less favorable than the underlying assumptions we used in establishing such liabilities, we could be required to increase our liabilities.
Due to the nature of the underlying risks and the high degree of uncertainty associated with the determination of liabilities for future policy benefits and claims, we cannot determine precisely the amounts which we will ultimately pay to settle our liabilities. Such amounts may vary from the estimated amounts, particularly when those payments may not occur until well into the future. We evaluate our liabilities periodically based on changes in the assumptions used to establish the liabilities, as well as our actual experience. We charge or credit changes in our liabilities to expenses in the period the liabilities are established or re-estimated. If the liabilities originally established for future benefit payments prove inadequate, we must increase them. Such increases could affect earnings negatively and have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Catastrophes May Adversely Impact Liabilities for Policyholder Claims and Reinsurance Availability
Our life insurance operations are exposed to the risk of catastrophic mortality, such as a pandemic or other event that causes a large number of deaths. Significant influenza pandemics have occurred three times in the last century, but neither the likelihood, timing, nor the severity of a future pandemic can be predicted. A significant pandemic could have a major impact on the global economy or the economies of particular countries or regions, including travel, trade, tourism, the health system, food supply, consumption, overall economic output and, eventually, on the financial markets. In addition, a pandemic that affected our employees or the employees of our distributors or of other companies with which we do business could disrupt our business operations. The effectiveness of external parties, including governmental and non-governmental organizations, in combating the spread and severity of such a pandemic could have a material impact on the losses experienced by us. In our group insurance operations, a localized event that affects the workplace of one or more of our group insurance customers could cause a significant loss due to mortality or morbidity claims. These events could cause a material adverse effect on our results of operations in any period and, depending on their severity, could also materially and adversely affect our financial condition.
Our Auto & Home business has experienced, and will likely in the future experience, catastrophe losses that may have a material adverse impact on the business, results of operations and financial condition of the Auto & Home segment. Although Auto & Home makes every effort to manage our exposure to catastrophic risks through volatility management and reinsurance programs, these efforts do not eliminate all risk. Catastrophes can be caused by various events, including pandemics, hurricanes, windstorms, earthquakes, hail, tornadoes, explosions, severe winter weather (including snow, freezing water, ice storms and blizzards), fires and man-made events such as terrorist attacks. Historically, substantially all of our catastrophe-related claims have related to homeowners coverages. However, catastrophes may also affect other Auto & Home coverages. Due to their nature, we cannot predict the incidence, timing and severity of catastrophes. In addition, changing climate conditions, primarily rising global temperatures, may be increasing, or may in the future increase, the frequency and severity of natural catastrophes such as hurricanes.
Hurricanes and earthquakes are of particular note for our homeowners coverages. Areas of major hurricane exposure include coastal sections of the northeastern United States (including lower New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts), the Gulf Coast (including Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas) and Florida. We also have some earthquake exposure, primarily along the New Madrid fault line in the central United States and in the Pacific Northwest.
The extent of losses from a catastrophe is a function of both the total amount of insured exposure in the area affected by the event and the severity of the event. Most catastrophes are restricted to small geographic areas; however, pandemics, hurricanes, earthquakes and man-made catastrophes may produce significant damage in larger areas, especially those that are heavily populated. Claims resulting from natural or man-made catastrophic events could cause substantial volatility in our financial results for any fiscal quarter or year and could materially reduce our profitability or harm our financial condition. Also, catastrophic events could harm the financial
condition of our reinsurers and thereby increase the probability of default on reinsurance recoveries. Our ability to write new business could also be affected. It is possible that increases in the value, caused by the effects of inflation or other factors, and geographic concentration of insured property, could increase the severity of claims from catastrophic events in the future.
Most of the jurisdictions in which our insurance subsidiaries are admitted to transact business require life and property and casualty insurers doing business within the jurisdiction to participate in guaranty associations, which are organized to pay contractual benefits owed pursuant to insurance policies issued by impaired, insolvent or failed insurers. These associations levy assessments, up to prescribed limits, on all member insurers in a particular state on the basis of the proportionate share of the premiums written by member insurers in the lines of business in which the impaired, insolvent or failed insurer is engaged. In addition, certain states have government owned or controlled organizations providing life and property and casualty insurance to their citizens. The activities of such organizations could also place additional stress on the adequacy of guaranty fund assessments. Many of these organizations also have the power to levy assessments similar to those of the guaranty associations described above. Some states permit member insurers to recover assessments paid through full or partial premium tax offsets. See Business Regulation Insurance Regulation Guaranty Associations and Similar Arrangements.
While in the past five years, the aggregate assessments levied against MetLife have not been material, it is possible that a large catastrophic event could render such guaranty funds inadequate and we may be called upon to contribute additional amounts, which may have a material impact on our financial condition or results of operations in a particular period. We have established liabilities for guaranty fund assessments that we consider adequate for assessments with respect to insurers that are currently subject to insolvency proceedings, but additional liabilities may be necessary. See Note 16 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements.
Consistent with industry practice and accounting standards, we establish liabilities for claims arising from a catastrophe only after assessing the probable losses arising from the event. We cannot be certain that the liabilities we have established will be adequate to cover actual claim liabilities. From time to time, states have passed legislation that has the effect of limiting the ability of insurers to manage risk, such as legislation restricting an insurers ability to withdraw from catastrophe-prone areas. While we attempt to limit our exposure to acceptable levels, subject to restrictions imposed by insurance regulatory authorities, a catastrophic event or multiple catastrophic events could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Our ability to manage this risk and the profitability of our property and casualty and life insurance businesses depends in part on our ability to obtain catastrophe reinsurance, which may not be available at commercially acceptable rates in the future. See Reinsurance May Not Be Available, Affordable or Adequate to Protect Us Against Losses.
Our Statutory Reserve Financings May be Subject to Cost Increases and New Financings May be Subject to Limited Market Capacity
To support statutory reserves for several products including, but not limited to, our level premium term life and universal life with secondary guarantees and MLICs closed block, we currently utilize capital markets solutions for financing a portion of our statutory reserve requirements. While we have financing facilities in place for our previously written business and have remaining capacity in existing facilities to support writings through the end of 2010 or later, certain of these facilities are subject to cost increases upon the occurrence of specified ratings downgrades of MetLife or are subject to periodic repricing. Any resulting cost increases could negatively impact our financial results.
Future capacity for these statutory reserve funding structures in the marketplace is not guaranteed. If capacity becomes unavailable for a prolonged period of time, hindering our ability to obtain funding for these new structures, our ability to write additional business in a cost effective manner may be impacted.
Competitive Factors May Adversely Affect Our Market Share and Profitability
Our business segments are subject to intense competition. We believe that this competition is based on a number of factors, including service, product features, scale, price, financial strength, claims-paying ratings, credit ratings, e-business capabilities and name recognition. We compete with a large number of other insurers, as well as non-insurance financial services companies, such as banks, broker-dealers and asset managers, for individual consumers, employers and other group customers and agents and other distributors of insurance and investment products. Some of these companies offer a broader array of products, have more competitive pricing or more attractive features in their products or, with respect to other insurers, have higher claims paying ability ratings. Some may also have greater financial resources with which to compete. National banks, which may sell annuity products of life insurers in some circumstances, also have pre-existing customer bases for financial services products.
Many of our group insurance products are underwritten annually, and, accordingly, there is a risk that group purchasers may be able to obtain more favorable terms from competitors rather than renewing coverage with us. The effect of competition may, as a result, adversely affect the persistency of these and other products, as well as our ability to sell products in the future.
In addition, the investment management and securities brokerage businesses have relatively few barriers to entry and continually attract new entrants. See Business Competition.
Finally, the choices made by the U.S. Treasury in the administration of EESA and in its distribution of amounts available thereunder could have the effect of supporting some parts of the financial system more than others. See Actions of the U.S. Government, Federal Reserve Bank of New York and Other Governmental and Regulatory Bodies for the Purpose of Stabilizing and Revitalizing the Financial Markets and Protecting Investors and Consumers May Not Achieve the Intended Effect or Could Adversely Affect MetLifes Competitive Position.
Industry Trends Could Adversely Affect the Profitability of Our Businesses
Our business segments continue to be influenced by a variety of trends that affect the insurance industry, including competition with respect to product features, price, distribution capability, customer service and information technology. See Managements Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations Industry Trends. The impact on our business and on the life insurance industry generally of the volatility and instability of the financial markets is difficult to predict, and our business plans, financial condition and results of operations may be negatively impacted or affected in other unexpected ways. In addition, the life insurance industry is subject to state regulation, and, as complex products are introduced, regulators may refine capital requirements and introduce new reserving standards. Furthermore, regulators have undertaken market and sales practices reviews of several markets or products, including variable annuities and group products. The market environment may also lead to changes in regulation that may benefit or disadvantage us relative to some of our competitors. See Competitive Factors May Adversely Affect Our Market Share and Profitability and Business Competition.
Consolidation of Distributors of Insurance Products May Adversely Affect the Insurance Industry and the Profitability of Our Business
The insurance industry distributes many of its individual products through other financial institutions such as banks and broker-dealers. An increase in bank and broker-dealer consolidation activity may negatively impact the industrys sales, and such consolidation could increase competition for access to distributors, result in greater distribution expenses and impair our ability to market insurance products to our current customer base or to expand our customer base. Consolidation of distributors and/or other industry changes may also increase the likelihood that distributors will try to renegotiate the terms of any existing selling agreements to terms less favorable to us.
Our Investments are Reflected Within the Consolidated Financial Statements Utilizing Different Accounting Bases and Accordingly We May Have Recognized Differences, Which May Be Significant, Between Cost and Estimated Fair Value in our Consolidated Financial Statements
Our principal investments are in fixed maturity and equity securities, trading securities, short-term investments, mortgage loans, policy loans, real estate, real estate joint ventures and other limited partnership interests and other invested assets. The carrying value of such investments is as follows:
Investments not carried at estimated fair value in our consolidated financial statements principally, mortgage loans held-for-investment, policy loans, real estate, real estate joint ventures, other limited partnerships and leveraged leases may have estimated fair values which are substantially higher or lower than the carrying value reflected in our consolidated financial statements. Each of these asset classes is regularly evaluated for impairment under the accounting guidance appropriate to the respective asset class.
Our Valuation of Fixed Maturity, Equity and Trading Securities and Short-Term Investments May Include Methodologies, Estimations and Assumptions Which Are Subject to Differing Interpretations and Could Result in Changes to Investment Valuations that May Materially Adversely Affect Our Results of Operations or Financial Condition
Fixed maturity, equity, and trading securities and short-term investments which are reported at estimated fair value on the consolidated balance sheets represent the majority of our total cash and investments. We have categorized these securities into a three-level hierarchy, based on the priority of the inputs to the respective valuation technique. The fair value hierarchy gives the highest priority to quoted prices in active markets for identical assets or liabilities (Level 1) and the lowest priority to unobservable inputs (Level 3). An asset or liabilitys classification within the fair value hierarchy is based on the lowest level of significant input to its valuation. The input levels are as follows:
At December 31, 2009, 8.0%, 84.3% and 7.7% of these securities represented Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3, respectively. The Level 1 securities primarily consist of certain U.S. Treasury, agency and government guaranteed fixed maturity securities; certain foreign government fixed maturity securities; exchange-traded common stock; certain trading securities; and certain short-term investments. The Level 2 assets include fixed maturity and equity securities priced principally through independent pricing services using observable inputs. These fixed maturity securities include most U.S. Treasury, agency and government guaranteed securities, as well as the majority of U.S. and foreign corporate securities, RMBS, commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS), state and political subdivision securities, foreign government securities, and ABS. Equity securities classified as Level 2 primarily consist of non-redeemable preferred securities and certain equity securities where market quotes are available but are not considered actively traded and are priced by independent pricing services. We review the valuation methodologies used by the independent pricing services on an ongoing basis and ensure that any changes to valuation methodologies are justified. Level 3 assets include fixed maturity securities priced principally through independent non-binding broker quotations or market standard valuation methodologies using inputs that are not market observable or cannot be derived principally from or corroborated by observable market data. Level 3 consists of less liquid fixed maturity securities with very limited trading activity or where less price transparency exists around the inputs to the valuation methodologies including: U.S. and foreign corporate securities including below investment grade private placements; RMBS; CMBS; and ABS including all of those supported by sub-prime mortgage loans. Equity securities classified as Level 3 securities consist principally of non-redeemable preferred stock and common stock of companies that are privately held or companies for which there has been very limited trading activity or where less price transparency exists around the inputs to the valuation. See Note 5 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements for the estimated fair values of these assets by hierarchy level.
Prices provided by independent pricing services and independent non-binding broker quotations can vary widely even for the same security.
The determination of estimated fair values by management in the absence of quoted market prices is based on: (i) valuation methodologies; (ii) securities we deem to be comparable; and (iii) assumptions deemed appropriate given the circumstances. The fair value estimates are made at a specific point in time, based on available market information and judgments about financial instruments, including estimates of the timing and amounts of expected future cash flows and the credit standing of the issuer or counterparty. Factors considered in estimating fair value include: coupon rate, maturity, estimated duration, call provisions, sinking fund requirements, credit rating, industry sector of the issuer, and quoted market prices of comparable securities. The use of different methodologies and assumptions may have a material effect on the estimated fair value amounts.
During periods of market disruption including periods of significantly rising or high interest rates, rapidly widening credit spreads or illiquidity, it may be difficult to value certain of our securities, for example sub-prime mortgage-backed securities, mortgage-backed securities where the underlying loans are Alt-A and CMBS, if trading becomes less frequent and/or market data becomes less observable. In times of financial market disruption, certain asset classes that were in active markets with significant observable data may become illiquid. In such cases, more securities may fall to Level 3 and thus require more subjectivity and management judgment. As such, valuations may include inputs and assumptions that are less observable or require greater estimation, as well as valuation methods which are more sophisticated or require greater estimation thereby resulting in estimated fair values which may be greater or less than the amount at which the investments may be ultimately sold. Further, rapidly changing and unprecedented credit and equity market conditions could materially impact the valuation of securities as reported within our consolidated financial statements and the period-to-period changes in estimated fair value could vary significantly. Decreases in value may have a material adverse effect on our results of operations or financial condition.
If Our Business Does Not Perform Well, We May Be Required to Recognize an Impairment of Our Goodwill or Other Long-Lived Assets or to Establish a Valuation Allowance Against the Deferred Income Tax Asset, Which Could Adversely Affect Our Results of Operations or Financial Condition
Goodwill represents the excess of the amounts we paid to acquire subsidiaries and other businesses over the estimated fair value of their net assets at the date of acquisition. We test goodwill at least annually for impairment. Impairment testing is performed based upon estimates of the estimated fair value of the reporting unit to which the goodwill relates. The reporting unit is the operating segment or a business one level below that operating segment if discrete financial information is prepared and regularly reviewed by management at that level. The estimated fair value of the reporting unit is impacted by the performance of the business. The performance of our businesses may be adversely impacted by prolonged market declines. If it is determined that the goodwill has been impaired, we must write down the goodwill by the amount of the impairment, with a corresponding charge to net income. Such writedowns could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations or financial position. See Managements Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations Summary of Critical Accounting Estimates Goodwill.
Long-lived assets, including assets such as real estate, also require impairment testing to determine whether changes in circumstances indicate that MetLife will be unable to recover the carrying amount of the asset group through future operations of that asset group or market conditions that will impact the estimated fair value of those assets. Such writedowns could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations or financial position.
Deferred income tax represents the tax effect of the differences between the book and tax basis of assets and liabilities. Deferred tax assets are assessed periodically by management to determine if they are realizable. Factors in managements determination include the performance of the business including the ability to generate future taxable income. If based on available information, it is more likely than not that the deferred income tax asset will not be realized then a valuation allowance must be established with a corresponding charge to net income. Such charges could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations or financial position.
Further or continued deterioration of financial market conditions could result in a decrease in the expected future earnings of our reporting units, which could lead to an impairment of some or all of the goodwill associated with them in future periods. Such deterioration could also result in the impairment of long-lived assets and the establishment of a valuation allowance on our deferred income tax assets.
If Our Business Does Not Perform Well or if Actual Experience Versus Estimates Used in Valuing and Amortizing DAC and VOBA Vary Significantly, We May Be Required to Accelerate the Amortization and/or Impair the DAC and VOBA Which Could Adversely Affect Our Results of Operations or Financial Condition
We incur significant costs in connection with acquiring new and renewal business. Those costs that vary with and are primarily related to the production of new and renewal business are deferred and referred to as DAC. The recovery of DAC is dependent upon the future profitability of the related business. The amount of future profit or margin is dependent principally on investment returns in excess of the amounts credited to policyholders, mortality, morbidity, persistency, interest crediting rates, dividends paid to policyholders, expenses to administer the business, creditworthiness of reinsurance counterparties and certain economic variables, such as inflation. Of these factors, we anticipate that investment returns are most likely to impact the rate of amortization of such costs. The aforementioned factors enter into managements estimates of gross profits or margins, which generally are used to amortize such costs. If the estimates of gross profits or margins were overstated, then the amortization of such costs would be accelerated in the period the actual experience is known and would result in a charge to income. Significant or sustained equity market declines could result in an acceleration of amortization of the DAC related to variable annuity and variable universal life contracts, resulting in a charge to income. Such adjustments could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations or financial condition.
VOBA reflects the estimated fair value of in-force contracts in a life insurance company acquisition and represents the portion of the purchase price that is allocated to the value of the right to receive future cash flows from the insurance and annuity contracts in-force at the acquisition date. VOBA is based on actuarially determined projections. Actual experience may vary from the projections. Revisions to estimates result in changes to the amounts expensed in the reporting period in which the revisions are made and could result in an impairment and a charge to income. Also, as VOBA is amortized similarly to DAC, an acceleration of the amortization of VOBA would occur if the estimates of gross profits or margins were overstated. Accordingly, the amortization of such costs would be accelerated in the period in which the actual experience is known and would result in a charge to net income. Significant or sustained equity market declines could result in an acceleration of amortization of the VOBA related to variable annuity and variable universal life contracts, resulting in a charge to income. Such adjustments could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations or financial condition.
See Managements Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations Summary of Critical Accounting Estimates Deferred Policy Acquisition Costs and Value of Business Acquired for further consideration of DAC and VOBA .
Changes in Accounting Standards Issued by the Financial Accounting Standards Board or Other Standard-Setting Bodies May Adversely Affect Our Financial Statements
Our financial statements are subject to the application of GAAP, which is periodically revised and/or expanded. Accordingly, from time to time we are required to adopt new or revised accounting standards issued by recognized authoritative bodies, including the Financial Accounting Standards Board. Market conditions have prompted accounting standard setters to expose new guidance which further interprets or seeks to revise accounting pronouncements related to financial instruments, structures or transactions, as well as to issue new standards expanding disclosures. The impact of accounting pronouncements that have been issued but not yet implemented is disclosed in our annual and quarterly reports on Form 10-K and Form 10-Q. An assessment of proposed standards is not provided as such proposals are subject to change through the exposure process and, therefore, the effects on our financial statements cannot be meaningfully assessed. It is possible that future accounting standards we are required to adopt could change the current accounting treatment that we apply to our consolidated financial statements and that such changes could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
Changes in Our Discount Rate, Expected Rate of Return and Expected Compensation Increase Assumptions for Our Pension and Other Postretirement Benefit Plans May Result in Increased Expenses and Reduce Our Profitability
We determine our pension and other postretirement benefit plan costs based on our best estimates of future plan experience. These assumptions are reviewed regularly and include discount rates, expected rates of return on plan assets and expected increases in compensation levels and expected medical inflation. Changes in these assumptions may result in increased expenses and reduce our profitability. See Note 17 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements for details on how changes in these assumptions would affect plan costs.
Guarantees Within Certain of Our Variable Annuity Guarantee Benefits that Protect Policyholders Against Significant Downturns in Equity Markets May Increase the Volatility of Our Results Related to the Inclusion of an Own Credit Adjustment in the Estimated Fair Value of the Liability for These Guaranteed Benefits
In determining the valuation of certain variable annuity guarantee benefit liabilities that are carried at estimated fair value, we must consider our own credit standing, which is not hedged. A decrease in our own credit spread could cause the value of these liabilities to increase, resulting in a reduction to net income. An increase in our own credit spread could cause the value of these liabilities to decrease, resulting in an increase to net income. Because this credit adjustment is determined, at least in part, by taking into consideration publicly available information relating to our publicly-traded debt, the overall condition of fixed income markets may impact this adjustment. The credit premium implied in our publicly-traded debt, instruments may not always necessarily reflect our actual credit rating or our claims paying ability. Recently, the fixed income markets have experienced a period of extreme volatility which has impacted market liquidity and credit spreads. An increase in credit default swap spreads has at times been even more pronounced than in the fixed income cash markets. In a broad based market downturn, an increase in our own credit spread could result in net income being relatively flat when a deterioration in other market inputs required for the estimate of fair value would otherwise result in a significant reduction in net income. The inclusion of our own credit standing in this case has the effect of muting the actual net income losses recognized. In subsequent periods, if our credit spreads improve relative to the overall market, we could have a reduction of net income in an overall improving market.
Guarantees Within Certain of Our Products that Protect Policyholders Against Significant Downturns in Equity Markets May Decrease Our Earnings, Increase the Volatility of Our Results if Hedging or Risk Management Strategies Prove Ineffective, Result in Higher Hedging Costs and Expose Us to Increased Counterparty Risk
Certain of our variable annuity products include guaranteed benefits. These include guaranteed death benefits, guaranteed withdrawal benefits, lifetime withdrawal guarantees, guaranteed minimum accumulation benefits, and guaranteed minimum income benefits. Periods of significant and sustained downturns in equity markets, increased equity volatility, or reduced interest rates could result in an increase in the valuation of the future policy benefit or policyholder account balance liabilities associated with such products, resulting in a reduction to net income. We use reinsurance in combination with derivative instruments to mitigate the liability exposure and the volatility of net income associated with these liabilities, and while we believe that these and other actions have mitigated the risks related to these benefits, we remain liable for the guaranteed benefits in the event that reinsurers or derivative counterparties are unable or unwilling to pay. In addition, we are subject to the risk that hedging and other management procedures prove ineffective or that unanticipated policyholder behavior or mortality, combined with adverse market events, produces economic losses beyond the scope of the risk management techniques employed. These, individually or collectively, may have a material adverse effect on net income, financial condition or liquidity. We are also subject to the risk that the cost of hedging these guaranteed minimum benefits increases, resulting in a reduction to net income.
We May Need to Fund Deficiencies in Our Closed Block; Assets Allocated to the Closed Block Benefit Only the Holders of Closed Block Policies
MLICs plan of reorganization, as amended (the Plan), required that we establish and operate an accounting mechanism, known as a closed block, to ensure that the reasonable dividend expectations of policyholders who own certain individual insurance policies of MLIC are met. See Note 10 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements. We allocated assets to the closed block in an amount that will produce cash flows which, together with anticipated revenue from the policies included in the closed block, are reasonably expected to be sufficient to support obligations and liabilities relating to these policies, including, but not limited to, provisions for the payment of claims and certain expenses and tax, and to provide for the continuation of the policyholder dividend scales in effect for 1999, if the experience underlying such scales continues, and for appropriate adjustments in such scales if the experience changes. We cannot provide assurance that the closed block assets, the cash flows generated by the closed block assets and the anticipated revenue from the policies included in the closed block will be sufficient to provide for the benefits guaranteed under these policies. If they are not sufficient, we must fund the shortfall. Even if they are sufficient, we may choose, for competitive reasons, to support policyholder dividend payments with our general account funds.
The closed block assets, the cash flows generated by the closed block assets and the anticipated revenue from the policies in the closed block will benefit only the holders of those policies. In addition, to the extent that these amounts are greater than the amounts estimated at the time the closed block was funded, dividends payable in respect of the policies included in the closed block may be greater than they would be in the absence of a closed block. Any excess earnings will be available for distribution over time only to closed block policyholders.
Litigation and Regulatory Investigations Are Increasingly Common in Our Businesses and May Result in Significant Financial Losses and Harm to Our Reputation
We face a significant risk of litigation and regulatory investigations and actions in the ordinary course of operating our businesses, including the risk of class action lawsuits. Our pending legal and regulatory actions include proceedings specific to us and others generally applicable to business practices in the industries in which we operate. In connection with our insurance operations, plaintiffs lawyers may bring or are bringing class actions and individual suits alleging, among other things, issues relating to sales or underwriting practices, claims payments and procedures, product design, disclosure, administration, denial or delay of benefits and breaches of fiduciary or other duties to customers. Plaintiffs in class action and other lawsuits against us may seek very large or indeterminate amounts, including punitive and treble damages, and the damages claimed and the amount of any probable and estimable liability, if any, may remain unknown for substantial periods of time. See Note 16 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements.
Due to the vagaries of litigation, the outcome of a litigation matter and the amount or range of potential loss at particular points in time may be inherently impossible to ascertain with any degree of certainty. Inherent uncertainties can include how fact finders will view individually and in their totality documentary evidence, the credibility and effectiveness of witnesses testimony, and how trial and appellate courts will apply the law in the context of the pleadings or evidence presented, whether by motion practice, or at trial or on appeal. Disposition valuations are also subject to the uncertainty of how opposing parties and their counsel will themselves view the relevant evidence and applicable law.
On a quarterly and annual basis, we review relevant information with respect to litigation and contingencies to be reflected in our consolidated financial statements. The review includes senior legal and financial personnel. Unless stated elsewhere herein, estimates of possible losses or ranges of loss for particular matters cannot in the ordinary course be made with a reasonable degree of certainty. Liabilities are established when it is probable that a loss has been incurred and the amount of the loss can be reasonably estimated. Liabilities have been established for a number of matters noted in Note 16 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements. It is possible that some of the matters could require us to pay damages or make other expenditures or establish accruals in amounts that could not be estimated at December 31, 2009.
MLIC and its affiliates are currently defendants in numerous lawsuits including class actions and individual suits, alleging improper marketing or sales of individual life insurance policies, annuities, mutual funds or other products.
In addition, MLIC is a defendant in a large number of lawsuits seeking compensatory and punitive damages for personal injuries allegedly caused by exposure to asbestos or asbestos-containing products. These lawsuits principally have focused on allegations with respect to certain research, publication and other activities of one or more of MLICs employees during the period from the 1920s through approximately the 1950s and have alleged that MLIC learned or should have learned of certain health risks posed by asbestos and, among other things, improperly publicized or failed to disclose those health risks. Additional litigation relating to these matters may be commenced in the future. The ability of MLIC to estimate its ultimate asbestos exposure is subject to considerable uncertainty, and the conditions impacting its liability can be dynamic and subject to change. The availability of reliable data is limited and it is difficult to predict with any certainty the numerous variables that can affect liability estimates, including the number of future claims, the cost to resolve claims, the disease mix and severity of disease in pending and future claims, the impact of the number of new claims filed in a particular jurisdiction and variations in the law in the jurisdictions in which claims are filed, the possible impact of tort reform efforts, the willingness of courts to allow plaintiffs to pursue claims against MLIC when exposure took place after the dangers of asbestos exposure were well known, and the impact of any possible future adverse verdicts and their amounts. The number of asbestos cases that may be brought or the aggregate amount of any liability that MLIC may incur, and the total amount paid in settlements in any given year are uncertain and may vary significantly from year to year. Accordingly, it is reasonably possible that our total exposure to asbestos claims may be materially greater than the liability recorded by us in our consolidated financial statements and that future charges to income may be necessary. The potential future charges could be material in the particular quarterly or annual periods in which they are recorded.
We are also subject to various regulatory inquiries, such as information requests, subpoenas and books and record examinations, from state and federal regulators and other authorities. A substantial legal liability or a significant regulatory action against us could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. Moreover, even if we ultimately prevail in the litigation, regulatory action or investigation, we could suffer significant reputational harm, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations, including our ability to attract new customers, retain our current customers and recruit and retain employees. Regulatory inquiries and litigation may cause volatility in the price of stocks of companies in our industry.
We cannot give assurance that current claims, litigation, unasserted claims probable of assertion, investigations and other proceedings against us will not have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations. It is also possible that related or unrelated claims, litigation, unasserted claims probable of assertion, investigations and proceedings may be commenced in the future, and we could become subject to further investigations and have lawsuits filed or enforcement actions initiated against us. In addition, increased regulatory scrutiny and any resulting investigations or proceedings could result in new legal actions and precedents and industry-wide regulations that could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Proposals to Regulate Compensation, if Implemented, Could Hinder or Prevent Us From Attracting and Retaining Management and Other Employees with the Talent and Experience to Manage and Conduct Our Business Effectively
Congress is considering the possibility of regulating the compensation that financial institutions may provide to their executive officers and other employees. In addition, the Federal Reserve Board and the FDIC have proposed guidelines on incentive compensation that, if adopted, may apply to or impact MetLife as a bank holding company. These restrictions could hinder or prevent us from attracting and retaining management and other employees with the talent and experience to manage and conduct our business effectively. They could also limit our tax deductions for certain compensation paid to executive employees in excess of specified amounts. We may also be subject to requirements and restrictions on our business if we participate in some of the programs established in whole or in part under EESA.
Changes in U.S. Federal and State Securities Laws and Regulations May Affect Our Operations and Our Profitability
Federal and state securities laws and regulations apply to insurance products that are also securities, including variable annuity contracts and variable life insurance policies. As a result, some of MetLife, Inc.s subsidiaries and their activities in offering and selling variable insurance contracts and policies are subject to extensive regulation under these securities laws. These subsidiaries issue variable annuity contracts and variable life insurance policies through separate accounts that are registered with the SEC as investment companies under the Investment Company Act. Each registered separate account is generally divided into sub-accounts, each of which invests in an underlying mutual fund which is itself a registered investment company under the Investment Company Act. In addition, the variable annuity contracts and variable life insurance policies issued by the separate accounts are registered with the SEC under the Securities Act. Other subsidiaries are registered with the SEC as broker-dealers under the Exchange Act, and are members of, and subject to, regulation by FINRA. Further, some of our subsidiaries are registered as investment advisers with the SEC under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, and are also registered as investment advisers in various states, as applicable.
Federal and state securities laws and regulations are primarily intended to ensure the integrity of the financial markets and to protect investors in the securities markets, as well as protect investment advisory or brokerage clients. These laws and regulations generally grant regulatory agencies broad rulemaking and enforcement powers, including the power to limit or restrict the conduct of business for failure to comply with the securities laws and regulations. Changes to these laws or regulations that restrict the conduct of our business could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations. In particular, changes in the regulations governing the registration and distribution of variable insurance products, such as changes in the regulatory standards for suitability of variable annuity contracts or variable life insurance policies, or changes in the standard of care which sales representatives owe to their customers with respect to the sale of variable insurance products, could have such a material adverse effect.
Changes in Tax Laws, Tax Regulations, or Interpretations of Such Laws or Regulations Could Increase Our Corporate Taxes; Changes in Tax Laws Could Make Some of Our Products Less Attractive to Consumers
Changes in tax laws, Treasury and other regulations promulgated thereunder, or interpretations of such laws or regulations could increase our corporate taxes. The Obama Administration has proposed corporate tax changes. Changes in corporate tax rates could affect the value of deferred tax assets and deferred tax liabilities. Furthermore, the value of deferred tax assets could be impacted by future earnings levels.
Changes in tax laws could make some of our products less attractive to consumers. A shift away from life insurance and annuity contracts and other tax-deferred products would reduce our income from sales of these products, as well as the assets upon which we earn investment income. The Obama Administration has proposed certain changes to individual income tax rates and rules applicable to certain policies.
We cannot predict whether any tax legislation impacting corporate taxes or insurance products will be enacted, what the specific terms of any such legislation will be or whether, if at all, any legislation would have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
We May be Unable to Attract and Retain Sales Representatives for Our Products
We must attract and retain productive sales representatives to sell our insurance, annuities and investment products. Strong competition exists among insurers for sales representatives with demonstrated ability. In addition, there is competition for representatives with other types of financial services firms, such as independent broker-dealers. We compete with other insurers for sales representatives primarily on the basis of our financial position, support services and compensation and product features. We continue to undertake several initiatives to grow our career agency force while continuing to enhance the efficiency and production of our existing sales force. We cannot provide assurance that these initiatives will succeed in attracting and retaining new agents. Sales of individual insurance, annuities and investment products and our results of operations and financial condition could be
materially adversely affected if we are unsuccessful in attracting and retaining agents. See Business Competition.
MetLife, Inc.s Board of Directors May Control the Outcome of Stockholder Votes on Many Matters Due to the Voting Provisions of the MetLife Policyholder Trust
Under the Plan, we established the MetLife Policyholder Trust (the Trust) to hold the shares of MetLife, Inc. common stock allocated to eligible policyholders not receiving cash or policy credits under the plan. At February 22, 2010, 231,759,896 shares, or 28.3%, of the outstanding shares of MetLife, Inc. common stock, are held in the Trust. Because of the number of shares held in the Trust and the voting provisions of the Trust, the Trust may affect the outcome of matters brought to a stockholder vote.
Except on votes regarding certain fundamental corporate actions described below, the trustee will vote all of the shares of common stock held in the Trust in accordance with the recommendations given by MetLife, Inc.s Board of Directors to its stockholders or, if the board gives no such recommendations, as directed by the board. As a result of the voting provisions of the Trust, the Board of Directors may be able to control votes on matters submitted to a vote of stockholders, excluding those fundamental corporate actions, so long as the Trust holds a substantial number of shares of common stock.
If the vote relates to fundamental corporate actions specified in the Trust, the trustee will solicit instructions from the Trust beneficiaries and vote all shares held in the Trust in proportion to the instructions it receives. These actions include:
If a vote concerns any of these fundamental corporate actions, the trustee will vote all of the shares of common stock held by the Trust in proportion to the instructions it received, which will give disproportionate weight to the instructions actually given by Trust beneficiaries.
State Laws, Federal Laws, Our Certificate of Incorporation and By-Laws and Our Stockholder Rights Plan May Delay, Deter or Prevent Takeovers and Business Combinations that Stockholders Might Consider in Their Best Interests
State laws and our certificate of incorporation and by-laws may delay, deter or prevent a takeover attempt that stockholders might consider in their best interests. For instance, they may prevent stockholders from receiving the benefit from any premium over the market price of MetLife, Inc.s common stock offered by a bidder in a takeover context. Even in the absence of a takeover attempt, the existence of these provisions may adversely affect the prevailing market price of MetLife, Inc.s common stock if they are viewed as discouraging takeover attempts in the future.
Any person seeking to acquire a controlling interest in us would face various regulatory obstacles which may delay, deter or prevent a takeover attempt that stockholders of MetLife, Inc. might consider in their best interests. First, the insurance laws and regulations of the various states in which MetLife, Inc.s insurance subsidiaries are
organized may delay or impede a business combination involving us. State insurance laws prohibit an entity from acquiring control of an insurance company without the prior approval of the domestic insurance regulator. Under most states statutes, an entity is presumed to have control of an insurance company if it owns, directly or indirectly, 10% or more of the voting stock of that insurance company or its parent company. We are also subject to banking regulations, and may in the future become subject to additional regulations. The Obama Administration and Congress have made various proposals that could restrict or impede consolidation, mergers and acquisitions by systemically significant firms and/or bank holding companies. In addition, the Investment Company Act would require approval by the contract owners of our variable contracts in order to effectuate a change of control of any affiliated investment adviser to a mutual fund underlying our variable contracts. Finally, FINRA approval would be necessary for a change of control of any FINRA registered broker-dealer that is a direct or indirect subsidiary of MetLife, Inc.
In addition, Section 203 of the Delaware General Corporation Law may affect the ability of an interested stockholder to engage in certain business combinations, including mergers, consolidations or acquisitions of additional shares, for a period of three years following the time that the stockholder becomes an interested stockholder. An interested stockholder is defined to include persons owning, directly or indirectly, 15% or more of the outstanding voting stock of a corporation.
MetLife, Inc.s certificate of incorporation and by-laws also contain provisions that may delay, deter or prevent a takeover attempt that stockholders might consider in their best interests. These provisions may adversely affect prevailing market prices for MetLife, Inc.s common stock and include: classification of MetLife, Inc.s Board of Directors into three classes; a prohibition on the calling of special meetings by stockholders; advance notice procedures for the nomination of candidates to the Board of Directors and stockholder proposals to be considered at stockholder meetings; and supermajority voting requirements for the amendment of certain provisions of the certificate of incorporation and by-laws.
The stockholder rights plan, which was adopted by MetLife, Inc.s Board of Directors in September 1999, might also have anti-takeover effects. The provisions of the rights plan might render an unsolicited takeover more difficult or less likely to occur or might prevent such a takeover, even though such takeover may offer MetLife, Inc.s stockholders the opportunity to sell their stock at a price above the prevailing market price and may be favored by a majority of MetLife, Inc.s stockholders. The rights plan is scheduled to expire at the close of business on April 4, 2010, and the Board of Directors does not currently intend to renew it.
The Continued Threat of Terrorism and Ongoing Military Actions May Adversely Affect the Level of Claim Losses We Incur and the Value of Our Investment Portfolio
The continued threat of terrorism, both within the United States and abroad, ongoing military and other actions and heightened security measures in response to these types of threats may cause significant volatility in global financial markets and result in loss of life, property damage, additional disruptions to commerce and reduced economic activity. Some of the assets in our investment portfolio may be adversely affected by declines in the credit and equity markets and reduced economic activity caused by the continued threat of terrorism. We cannot predict whether, and the extent to which, companies in which we maintain investments may suffer losses as a result of financial, commercial or economic disruptions, or how any such disruptions might affect the ability of those companies to pay interest or principal on their securities or mortgage loans. The continued threat of terrorism also could result in increased reinsurance prices and reduced insurance coverage and potentially cause us to retain more risk than we otherwise would retain if we were able to obtain reinsurance at lower prices. Terrorist actions also could disrupt our operations centers in the United States or abroad. In addition, the occurrence of terrorist actions could result in higher claims under our insurance policies than anticipated. See Difficult Conditions in the Global Capital Markets and the Economy Generally May Materially Adversely Affect Our Business and Results of Operations and These Conditions May Not Improve in the Near Future.
The Occurrence of Events Unanticipated In Our Disaster Recovery Systems and Management Continuity Planning Could Impair Our Ability to Conduct Business Effectively
In the event of a disaster such as a natural catastrophe, an epidemic, an industrial accident, a blackout, a computer virus, a terrorist attack or war, unanticipated problems with our disaster recovery systems could have a material adverse impact on our ability to conduct business and on our results of operations and financial position, particularly if those problems affect our computer-based data processing, transmission, storage and retrieval systems and destroy valuable data. We depend heavily upon computer systems to provide reliable service. Despite our implementation of a variety of security measures, our computer systems could be subject to physical and electronic break-ins, and similar disruptions from unauthorized tampering. In addition, in the event that a significant number of our managers were unavailable in the event of a disaster, our ability to effectively conduct business could be severely compromised. These interruptions also may interfere with our suppliers ability to provide goods and services and our employees ability to perform their job responsibilities.
Our Associates May Take Excessive Risks Which Could Negatively Affect Our Financial Condition and Business
As an insurance enterprise, we are in the business of being paid to accept certain risks. The associates who conduct our business, including executive officers and other members of management, sales managers, investment professionals, product managers, sales agents, and other associates, do so in part by making decisions and choices that involve exposing us to risk. These include decisions such as setting underwriting guidelines and standards, product design and pricing, determining what assets to purchase for investment and when to sell them, which business opportunities to pursue, and other decisions. Although we endeavor, in the design and implementation of our compensation programs and practices, to avoid giving our associates incentives to take excessive risks, associates may take such risks regardless of the structure of our compensation programs and practices. Similarly, although we employ controls and procedures designed to monitor associates business decisions and prevent us from taking excessive risks, there can be no assurance that these controls and procedures are or may be effective. If our associates take excessive risks, the impact of those risks could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition or business operations.
MetLife has no unresolved comments from the SEC staff regarding its periodic or current reports under the Exchange Act.
In 2006, we signed a lease for 410,000 rentable square feet on 12 floors in an office building in Manhattan, New York. The term of that lease commenced during 2008 and continues for 21 years. In August 2009, we subleased 32,000 rentable square feet of that space to a subtenant, which has met our standards of review with respect to creditworthiness, and we currently have approximately 68,000 rentable square feet of the 410,000 rentable square feet available for sublease. We moved certain operations from our Long Island City, New York facility, to the Manhattan space in late 2008, but continue to maintain an on-going presence in Long Island City. Our lease in Long Island City covers 686,000 rentable square feet, under a long-term lease arrangement. In connection with the move of certain operations to Manhattan, in late 2008, we subleased 80,000 rentable square feet to two subtenants, each of which has met our standards of review with respect to creditworthiness. Additionally, we currently have 180,000 rentable square feet available for sublease in our Long Island City location. As a result of this movement of operations, and current market conditions, the Company incurred a lease impairment charge of $52 million and $38 million, for the years ended December 31, 2009 and 2008, respectively.
In connection with the 2005 sale of the 200 Park Avenue property, we have retained rights to existing signage and are leasing space for associates in the property for 20 years with optional renewal periods through 2205.
We continue to own 15 other buildings in the United States that we use in the operation of our business. These buildings contain 4.2 million rentable square feet and are located in the following states: Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. Our computer center in
Rensselaer, New York is not owned in fee but rather is occupied pursuant to a long-term ground lease. We lease space in 755 other locations throughout the United States, and these leased facilities consist of 8.8 million rentable square feet. Approximately 53% of these leases are occupied as sales offices for the U.S. Business Operations segment. The balance of space is utilized for MetLife Bank and other corporate functions supporting business activities. We also own 7 properties outside the United States, comprising 247,000 rentable square feet including a 192,000 square foot condominium unit in Mexico that we use in the operation of our business. We lease 3.3 million rentable square feet in various locations outside the United States. We believe that these properties are suitable and adequate for our current and anticipated business operations.
We arrange for property and casualty coverage on our properties, taking into consideration our risk exposures and the cost and availability of commercial coverages, including deductible loss levels. In connection with the renewal of those coverages, we have arranged $700 million of property insurance, including coverage for terrorism, on our real estate portfolio through May 15, 2010, its renewal date.
See Note 16 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements.
No matter was submitted to a vote of security holders during the fourth quarter of 2009.
Issuer Common Equity
MetLife, Inc.s common stock, par value $0.01 per share, began trading on the NYSE under the symbol MET on April 5, 2000.
The following table presents high and low closing prices for the common stock on the NYSE for the periods indicated:
At February 22, 2010, there were 89,069 stockholders of record of common stock.
The table below presents dividend declaration, record and payment dates, as well as per share and aggregate dividend amounts, for the common stock:
Future common stock dividend decisions will be determined by the Companys Board of Directors after taking into consideration factors such as our current earnings, expected medium-term and long-term earnings, financial condition, regulatory capital position, and applicable governmental regulations and policies. Furthermore, the payment of dividends and other distributions to the Company by its insurance subsidiaries is regulated by insurance laws and regulations. See Business Regulation Insurance Regulation, Managements Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations Liquidity and Capital Resources The Holding Company Liquidity and Capital Sources Dividends from Subsidiaries and Note 18 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements.
Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities
Purchases of common stock made by or on behalf of the Company or its affiliates during the quarter ended December 31, 2009 are set forth below:
See also Managements Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations Liquidity and Capital Resources The Holding Company Liquidity and Capital Uses Share Repurchases for further information relating to common stock repurchases.
The following selected financial data has been derived from the Companys audited consolidated financial statements. The statement of operations data for the years ended December 31, 2009, 2008 and 2007, and the balance sheet data at December 31, 2009 and 2008 have been derived from the Companys audited financial statements included elsewhere herein. The statement of operations data for the years ended December 31, 2006 and 2005, and the balance sheet data at December 31, 2007, 2006 and 2005 have been derived from the Companys audited financial statements not included herein. The selected financial data set forth below should be read in conjunction with Managements Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations and the consolidated financial statements and related notes included elsewhere herein.
Item 7. Managements Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations
For purposes of this discussion, MetLife or the Company refers to MetLife, Inc., a Delaware corporation incorporated in 1999 (the Holding Company), and its subsidiaries, including Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (MLIC). Following this summary is a discussion addressing the consolidated results of operations and financial condition of the Company for the periods indicated. This discussion should be read in conjunction with Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements, Risk Factors, Selected Financial Data and the Companys consolidated financial statements included elsewhere herein.
This Managements Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations may contain or incorporate by reference information that includes or is based upon forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Forward-looking statements give expectations or forecasts of future events. These statements can be identified by the fact that they do not relate strictly to historical or current facts. They use words such as anticipate, estimate, expect, project, intend, plan, believe and other words and terms of similar meaning in connection with a discussion of future operating or financial performance. In particular, these include statements relating to future actions, prospective services or products, future performance
or results of current and anticipated services or products, sales efforts, expenses, the outcome of contingencies such as legal proceedings, trends in operations and financial results. Any or all forward-looking statements may turn out to be wrong. Actual results could differ materially from those expressed or implied in the forward-looking statements. See Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements.
The following discussion includes references to our performance measures operating earnings and operating earnings available to common shareholders, that are not based on generally accepted accounting principles in the United States of America (GAAP). Operating earnings is the measure of segment profit or loss we use to evaluate segment performance and allocate resources and, consistent with GAAP accounting guidance for segment reporting, is our measure of segment performance. Operating earnings is also a measure by which our senior managements and many other employees performance is evaluated for the purposes of determining their compensation under applicable compensation plans. Operating earnings is defined as operating revenues less operating expenses, net of income tax. Operating earnings available to common shareholders, which is used to evaluate the performance of Banking, Corporate & Other, as well as MetLife is defined as operating earnings less preferred stock dividends.
Operating revenues is defined as GAAP revenues (i) less net investment gains (losses), (ii) less amortization of unearned revenue related to net investment gains (losses), (iii) plus scheduled periodic settlement payments on derivative instruments that are hedges of investments but do not qualify for hedge accounting treatment, (iv) plus income from discontinued real estate operations, and (v) plus, for operating joint ventures reported under the equity method of accounting, the aforementioned adjustments and those identified in the definition of operating expenses, net of income tax, if applicable to these joint ventures.
Operating expenses is defined as GAAP expenses (i) less changes in experience-rated contractholder liabilities due to asset value fluctuations, (ii) less costs related to business combinations (since January 1, 2009) and noncontrolling interests, (iii) less amortization of DAC and VOBA and changes in the policyholder dividend obligation related to net investment gains (losses), and (iv) plus scheduled periodic settlement payments on derivative instruments that are hedges of policyholder account balances but do not qualify for hedge accounting treatment.
We believe the presentation of operating earnings and operating earnings available to common shareholders as we measure it for management purposes enhances the understanding of our performance by highlighting the results of operations and the underlying profitability drivers of our businesses. Operating earnings and operating earnings available to common shareholders should not be viewed as substitutes for GAAP income (loss) from continuing operations, net of income tax. Reconciliations of operating earnings and operating earnings available to common shareholders to GAAP income (loss) from continuing operations, net of income tax, the most directly comparable GAAP measure, are included in Consolidated Results of Operations.
MetLife is a leading provider of insurance, employee benefits and financial services with operations throughout the United States and the Latin America, Asia Pacific and Europe, Middle East and India (EMEI) regions. Through its subsidiaries, MetLife offers life insurance, annuities, auto and homeowners insurance, retail banking and other financial services to individuals, as well as group insurance and retirement & savings products and services to corporations and other institutions. MetLife is organized into five operating segments: Insurance Products, Retirement Products, Corporate Benefit Funding and Auto & Home (collectively, U.S. Business) and International. In addition, the Company reports certain of its results of operations in Banking, Corporate & Other, which is comprised of MetLife Bank and other business activities.
The U.S. and global financial markets experienced extraordinary dislocations during late 2008 through early 2009, with the U.S. economy entering a recession in January 2008. The economic crisis and the resulting recession have had an adverse effect on our financial results, as well as the financial services industry. Most economists believe the recession ended in the third quarter of 2009 when positive growth returned and now expect positive growth to continue through 2010. We have experienced an increase in market share and sales in some of our businesses from a flight to quality in the industry. In addition, the recovering global financial markets contributed to the improvement in net investment income and sales in most of our international regions. These positive impacts were outweighed by the adverse effects on our net investment income and the demand for certain of our products.
For a discussion of how the financial and economic environment has impacted our 2009 results, capital and liquidity, and expected 2010 performance, see Results of Operations, Liquidity and Capital Resources and Consolidated Company Outlook.
Year Ended December 31, 2009 compared with the Year Ended December 31, 2008
Unless otherwise stated, all amounts are net of income tax.
During the year ended December 31, 2009, MetLifes income (loss) from continuing operations, net of income tax, decreased $5.8 billion to a loss of $2.3 billion from income of $3.5 billion in the comparable 2008 period. The year over year change is predominantly due to a $5.2 billion unfavorable change in net investment gains (losses) to losses of $4.6 billion, net of related adjustments, in 2009 from gains of $644 million, net of related adjustments, in 2008. In addition, operating earnings available to common shareholders decreased by $329 million to $2.4 billion in 2009 from $2.7 billion in 2008.
The unfavorable change in net investment gains (losses) of $5.2 billion, net of related adjustments, was primarily driven by losses on freestanding derivatives, partially offset by gains on embedded derivatives, primarily associated with variable annuity minimum benefit guarantees, and lower losses on fixed maturity securities.
The positive impacts of business growth and favorable mortality in several of our businesses were more than offset by a decline in net investment income, resulting in a decrease in operating earnings of $329 million. The decrease in net investment income caused significant declines in the operating earnings of many of our businesses, especially the interest spread businesses. Also contributing to the decline in operating earnings was an increase in net guaranteed annuity benefit costs and a charge related to our closed block of business, a specific group of participating life policies that were segregated in connection with the demutualization of MLIC. The favorable impact of Operational Excellence, our enterprise-wide cost reduction and revenue enhancement initiative, was more than offset by higher pension and postretirement benefit costs, driving the increase in other expenses. The declines in operating earnings were partially offset by a change in amortization related to DAC, deferred sales inducement (DSI), and unearned revenue.
Year Ended December 31, 2008 compared with the Year Ended December 31, 2007
Unless otherwise stated, all amounts are net of income tax.
During the year ended December 31, 2008, MetLifes income (loss) from continuing operations, net of income tax, decreased $624 million to $3.5 billion from $4.1 billion in the comparable 2007 period. The year over year change was predominantly due to a $1.9 billion decrease in operating earnings available to common shareholders. Partially offsetting this decline was a $1.1 billion favorable change in net investment gains (losses) to gains of $644 million, net of related adjustments, in 2008 from losses of $438 million, net of related adjustments, in 2007.
Beginning in the third quarter of 2008, there was unprecedented disruption and dislocation in the global financial markets that caused extreme volatility in the equity, credit and real estate markets. This adversely impacted both net investment income as yields decreased and net investment gains (losses) as there was an increase in impairments and credit-related losses.
We responded to the extraordinary market conditions by increasing levels of cash, cash equivalents, short-term investments and high quality, lower yielding fixed maturity securities particularly in two operating segments: Corporate Benefit Funding and Retirement Products, as well as in Banking, Corporate & Other. We decreased fixed maturity security holdings to increase our liquidity position.
The favorable change of $1.1 billion in net investment gains (losses), net of related adjustments, was driven by increased gains on freestanding derivatives, partially offset by increased losses on embedded derivatives primarily associated with variable annuity minimum benefit guarantees, and increased impairment losses on fixed maturity securities and equity securities.
The unprecedented disruption and dislocation in the global financial markets resulted in decreased yields on our investment portfolio and, in response to the market conditions, we increased our asset allocation to lower yielding, more liquid investments, both of which contributed to a decline in net investment income and, consequently, operating earnings available to common shareholders. The market environments negative impact on investment results was partially offset by growth in average invested assets calculated excluding unrealized gains and losses. In addition, the volatile market environment also resulted in declines in our separate account balances. Such declines required us to increase DAC amortization, negatively affecting operating earnings available to common shareholders. The declines in the separate account balances also resulted in lower policy fees and other revenues. Operating earnings available to common shareholders for the year ended December 31, 2008 were also lower as a result of higher catastrophe losses and unfavorable mortality in various products. Higher earnings from our dental business and from our businesses in the Latin America and Asia Pacific regions partially offset the aforementioned items.
Consolidated Company Outlook
In 2009, the general economic conditions of the marketplace, particularly in the early part of the year, continued to be volatile and negatively impacted the results of the Company. In 2010, we expect meaningful earnings recovery for the Company, driven primarily by the following:
Despite expectations that the real estate market will remain challenging in 2010, higher returns on the investment portfolio are expected across all segments. We believe returns on alternative investment classes will improve and expect to reinvest cash and U.S. Treasuries into higher yielding asset classes.
Although difficult to predict, net investment gains (losses) on our invested asset portfolio are expected to show significant improvement as the financial markets stabilize across asset classes, returning to a more normalized level from the large losses encountered in 2009. More difficult to predict is the impact of
potential changes in fair value of derivatives instruments as even relatively small movements in market variables, including interest rates, equity levels and volatility, can have a large impact on derivatives fair values. Additionally, changes in MetLifes credit spread, may have a material impact on net investment gains (losses) as it is required to be included in the valuation of certain embedded derivatives.
Certain annuity and life benefit guarantees are tied to market performance, which when markets are depressed, may require us to establish additional liabilities, even though these guarantees are significantly hedged. In line with the assumptions discussed above, we expect a significant reduction in the volatility of these items in 2010 compared to 2009.
We do not expect any significant changes to the underlying trends that drive underwriting results and we anticipate solid results in 2010. While we did begin to see the negative impact of the economy on non-medical health experience in 2009, we expect to see improvement in our results in 2010 as the economy continues to improve. Pricing actions taken in 2009 in our dental business will help mitigate the impact of elevated claim utilization, experienced as a result of the challenging economic conditions and higher unemployment.
Our continued focus on expense control throughout the Company, as well the continuing impact of specific initiatives such as Operational Excellence (our enterprise-wide cost reduction and revenue enhancement initiative), should contribute to increased profitability. With continued improvement in the financial markets, we also expect that the Companys pension-related expenses will return to a more normal level in 2010.
The Companys segments continue to be influenced by a continuing unstable financial and economic environment that affects the industry.
Financial and Economic Environment. Our results of operations are materially affected by conditions in the global capital markets and the economy, generally, both in the United States and elsewhere around the world. The global economy and markets are now recovering from a period of significant stress that began in the second half of 2007 and substantially increased through the first quarter of 2009. This disruption adversely affected the financial services industry, in particular. The U.S. economy entered a recession in January 2008 and most economists believe this recession ended in the third quarter of 2009 when positive growth returned. Most economists now expect positive growth to continue through 2010.
Throughout 2008 and continuing in 2009, Congress, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the U.S. Treasury and other agencies of the Federal government took a number of increasingly aggressive actions (in addition to continuing a series of interest rate reductions that began in the second half of 2007) intended to provide liquidity to financial institutions and markets, to avert a loss of investor confidence in particular troubled institutions, to prevent or contain the spread of the financial crisis and to spur economic growth. How and to whom these governmental institutions distribute amounts available under the governmental programs could have the effect of supporting some aspects of the financial services industry more than others or provide advantages to some of our competitors. Governments in many of the foreign markets in which MetLife operates have also responded to address market imbalances and have taken meaningful steps intended to restore market confidence. As market conditions have stabilized, some of these programs have been terminated or allowed to expire. We cannot predict whether or when the U.S. or foreign governments will establish additional governmental programs or terminate or permit other programs to expire or the impact any additional measures, existing programs or termination or expiration of programs will have on the financial markets, whether on the levels of volatility currently being experienced, the levels of lending by financial institutions, the prices buyers are willing to pay for financial assets or otherwise. See Business Regulation Governmental Responses to Extraordinary Market Conditions.
The economic crisis and the resulting recession have had and will continue to have an adverse effect on the financial results of companies in the financial services industry, including MetLife. The declining financial markets and economic conditions have negatively impacted our investment income, our net investment gains (losses), and
the demand for and the cost and profitability of certain of our products, including variable annuities and guarantee benefits. See Results of Operations and Liquidity and Capital Resources.
Demographics. In the coming decade, a key driver shaping the actions of the life insurance industry will be the rising income protection, wealth accumulation and needs of the retiring Baby Boomers. As a result of increasing longevity, retirees will need to accumulate sufficient savings to finance retirements that may span 30 or more years. Helping the Baby Boomers to accumulate assets for retirement and subsequently to convert these assets into retirement income represents an opportunity for the life insurance industry.
Life insurers are well positioned to address the Baby Boomers rapidly increasing need for savings tools and for income protection. We believe that, among life insurers, those with strong brands, high financial strength ratings and broad distribution, are best positioned to capitalize on the opportunity to offer income protection products to Baby Boomers.
Moreover, the life insurance industrys products and the needs they are designed to address are complex. We believe that individuals approaching retirement age will need to seek information to plan for and manage their retirements and that, in the workplace, as employees take greater responsibility for their benefit options and retirement planning, they will need information about their possible individual needs. One of the challenges for the life insurance industry will be the delivery of this information in a cost effective manner.
Competitive Pressures. The life insurance industry remains highly competitive. The product development and product life-cycles have shortened in many product segments, leading to more intense competition with respect to product features. Larger companies have the ability to invest in brand equity, product development, technology and risk management, which are among the fundamentals for sustained profitable growth in the life insurance industry. In addition, several of the industrys products can be quite homogeneous and subject to intense price competition. Sufficient scale, financial strength and financial flexibility are becoming prerequisites for sustainable growth in the life insurance industry. Larger market participants tend to have the capacity to invest in additional distribution capability and the information technology needed to offer the superior customer service demanded by an increasingly sophisticated industry client base. We believe that the turbulence in financial markets that began in the latter half of 2008, its impact on the capital position of many competitors, and subsequent actions by regulators and rating agencies have highlighted financial strength as the most significant differentiator from the perspective of customers and certain distributors. In addition, the financial market turbulence and the economic recession have led many companies in our industry to re-examine the pricing and features of the products they offer and may lead to consolidation in the life insurance industry.
Regulatory Changes. The life insurance industry is regulated at the state level, with some products and services also subject to federal regulation. As life insurers introduce new and often more complex products, regulators refine capital requirements and introduce new reserving standards for the life insurance industry. Regulations recently adopted or currently under review can potentially impact the statutory reserve and capital requirements of the industry. In addition, regulators have undertaken market and sales practices reviews of several markets or products, including equity-indexed annuities, variable annuities and group products. The regulation of the financial services industry has received renewed scrutiny as a result of the disruptions in the financial markets in 2008 and 2009. Significant regulatory reforms have been proposed and these or other reforms could be implemented. We cannot predict whether any such reforms will be adopted, the form they will take or their effect upon us. We also cannot predict how the various government responses to the recent financial and economic difficulties will affect the financial services and insurance industries or the standing of particular companies, including our Company, within those industries. See Risk Factors Our Insurance and Banking Businesses Are Heavily Regulated, and Changes in Regulation May Reduce Our Profitability and Limit Our Growth and Risk Factors Changes in U.S. Federal and State Securities Laws and Regulations May Affect Our Operations and Our Profitability.
Pension Plans. On August 17, 2006, President Bush signed the Pension Protection Act of 2006 (PPA) into law. The PPA is a comprehensive reform of defined benefit and defined contribution plan rules. The provisions of the PPA may, over time, have a significant impact on demand for pension, retirement savings, and lifestyle protection products in both the institutional and retail markets. While the impact of the PPA is generally expected to be positive over time, these changes may have adverse short-term effects on our business as plan sponsors may react to these changes in a variety of ways as the new rules and related regulations begin to take effect. In response to the current financial and economic
environment, President Bush signed into the law the Worker, Retiree and Employer Recovery Act (the Employer Recovery Act) in December 2008. This Act is intended to, among other things, ease the transition of certain funding requirements of the PPA for defined benefit plans. In addition, legislation that would provide further relief for defined benefit plans is under consideration. The financial and economic environment and the enactment of the Employer Recovery Act, as well as additional funding relief provisions that may be enacted into law, may delay the timing or change the nature of qualified plan sponsor actions and, in turn, affect our business.
Summary of Critical Accounting Estimates
The preparation of financial statements in conformity with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America (GAAP) requires management to adopt accounting policies and make estimates and assumptions that affect amounts reported in the consolidated financial statements. The most critical estimates include those used in determining:
In applying the Companys accounting policies, we make subjective and complex judgments that frequently require estimates about matters that are inherently uncertain. Many of these policies, estimates and related judgments are common in the insurance and financial services industries; others are specific to the Companys businesses and operations. Actual results could differ from these estimates.
The Company defines fair value as the price that would be received to sell an asset or paid to transfer a liability (an exit price) in the principal or most advantageous market for the asset or liability in an orderly transaction between market participants on the measurement date. In many cases, the exit price and the transaction (or entry) price will be the same at initial recognition. However, in certain cases, the transaction price may not represent fair value. The fair value of a liability is based on the amount that would be paid to transfer a liability to a third-party with the same credit standing. It requires that fair value be a market-based measurement in which the fair value is determined based on a hypothetical transaction at the measurement date, considered from the perspective of a market participant. When quoted prices are not used to determine fair value, the Company considers three broad valuation techniques: (i) the market approach, (ii) the income approach, and (iii) the cost approach. The Company determines the most appropriate valuation technique to use, given what is being measured and the availability of sufficient inputs. The Company prioritizes the inputs to fair valuation techniques and allows for the use of unobservable inputs to the extent that observable inputs are not available. The Company categorizes its assets and liabilities measured at estimated fair value into a three-level hierarchy, based on the priority of the inputs to the respective valuation technique. The fair value hierarchy gives the highest priority to quoted prices in active markets for identical assets or liabilities (Level 1) and the lowest priority to unobservable inputs (Level 3). An asset or
liabilitys classification within the fair value hierarchy is based on the lowest level of input to its valuation. The input levels are as follows:
Prior to January 1, 2009, the measurement and disclosures of fair value based on exit price excluded certain items such as nonfinancial assets and nonfinancial liabilities initially measured at estimated fair value in a business combination, reporting units measured at estimated fair value in the first step of a goodwill impairment test and indefinite-lived intangible assets measured at estimated fair value for impairment assessment.
Estimated Fair Value of Investments
The Companys investments in fixed maturity and equity securities, investments in trading securities, certain short-term investments, most mortgage loans held-for-sale, and mortgage servicing rights (MSRs) are reported at their estimated fair value. In determining the estimated fair value of these investments, various methodologies, assumptions and inputs are utilized, as described further below.
When available, the estimated fair value of securities is based on quoted prices in active markets that are readily and regularly obtainable. Generally, these are the most liquid of the Companys securities holdings and valuation of these securities does not involve management judgment.
When quoted prices in active markets are not available, the determination of estimated fair value is based on market standard valuation methodologies. The market standard valuation methodologies utilized include: discounted cash flow methodologies, matrix pricing or other similar techniques. The inputs to these market standard valuation methodologies include, but are not limited to: interest rates, credit standing of the issuer or counterparty, industry sector of the issuer, coupon rate, call provisions, sinking fund requirements, maturity, estimated duration and managements assumptions regarding liquidity and estimated future cash flows. Accordingly, the estimated fair values are based on available market information and managements judgments about financial instruments.
The significant inputs to the market standard valuation methodologies for certain types of securities with reasonable levels of price transparency are inputs that are observable in the market or can be derived principally from or corroborated by observable market data. Such observable inputs include benchmarking prices for similar assets in active, liquid markets, quoted prices in markets that are not active and observable yields and spreads in the market.
When observable inputs are not available, the market standard valuation methodologies for determining the estimated fair value of certain types of securities that trade infrequently, and therefore have little or no price transparency, rely on inputs that are significant to the estimated fair value that are not observable in the market or cannot be derived principally from or corroborated by observable market data. These unobservable inputs can be based in large part on management judgment or estimation, and cannot be supported by reference to market activity.
Even though unobservable, these inputs are based on assumptions deemed appropriate given the circumstances and consistent with what other market participants would use when pricing such securities.
The estimated fair value of residential mortgage loans held-for-sale are determined based on observable pricing of residential mortgage loans held-for-sale with similar characteristics, or observable pricing for securities backed by similar types of loans, adjusted to convert the securities prices to loan prices. Generally, quoted market prices are not available. When observable pricing for similar loans or securities that are backed by similar loans are not available, the estimated fair values of residential mortgage loans held-for-sale are determined using independent broker quotations, which is intended to approximate the amounts that would be received from third parties. Certain other mortgage loans have also been designated as held-for-sale which are recorded at the lower of amortized cost or estimated fair value less expected disposition costs determined on an individual loan basis. For these loans, estimated fair value is determined using independent broker quotations or, when the loan is in foreclosure or otherwise determined to be collateral dependent, the estimated fair value of the underlying collateral estimated using internal models.
MSRs, which are recorded in other invested assets, are measured at estimated fair value and are either acquired or are generated from the sale of originated residential mortgage loans where the servicing rights are retained by the Company. The estimated fair value of MSRs is principally determined through the use of internal discounted cash flow models which utilize various assumptions as to discount rates, loan-prepayments, and servicing costs. The use of different valuation assumptions and inputs, as well as assumptions relating to the collection of expected cash flows may have a material effect on the estimated fair values of MSRs.
Financial markets are susceptible to severe events evidenced by rapid depreciation in asset values accompanied by a reduction in asset liquidity. The Companys ability to sell securities, or the price ultimately realized for these securities, depends upon the demand and liquidity in the market and increases the use of judgment in determining the estimated fair value of certain securities.
One of the significant estimates related to available-for-sale securities is the evaluation of investments for impairments. As described more fully in Note 1 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements, effective April 1, 2009, the Company adopted new other-than-temporary impairments guidance that amends the methodology for determining for fixed maturity securities whether an other-than-temporary impairment exists, and for certain fixed maturity securities, changes how the amount of the other-than-temporary loss that is charged to earnings is determined. There was no change in the other-than-temporary impairment (OTTI) methodology for equity securities. The discussion presented below incorporates the new OTTI guidance adopted April 1, 2009.
The assessment of whether impairments have occurred is based on our case-by-case evaluation of the underlying reasons for the decline in estimated fair value. The Companys review of its fixed maturity and equity securities for impairments includes an analysis of the total gross unrealized losses by three categories of securities: (i) securities where the estimated fair value had declined and remained below cost or amortized cost by less than 20%; (ii) securities where the estimated fair value had declined and remained below cost or amortized cost by 20% or more for less than six months; and (iii) securities where the estimated fair value had declined and remained below cost or amortized cost by 20% or more for six months or greater. An extended and severe unrealized loss position on a fixed maturity security may not have any impact on the ability of the issuer to service all scheduled interest and principal payments and the Companys evaluation of recoverability of all contractual cash flows or the ability to recover an amount at least equal to its amortized cost based on the present value of the expected future cash flows to be collected. In contrast, for certain equity securities, greater weight and consideration are given by the Company to a decline in estimated fair value and the likelihood such estimated fair value decline will recover.
Additionally, we consider a wide range of factors about the security issuer and use our best judgment in evaluating the cause of the decline in the estimated fair value of the security and in assessing the prospects for near-term recovery. Inherent in our evaluation of the security are assumptions and estimates about the operations of the
issuer and its future earnings potential. Considerations used by the Company in the impairment evaluation process include, but are not limited to:
The cost of fixed maturity and equity securities is adjusted for the credit loss component of OTTI in the period in which the determination is made. When an OTTI of a fixed maturity security has occurred, the amount of the OTTI recognized in earnings depends on whether the Company intends to sell the security or more likely than not will be required to sell the security before recovery of its amortized cost basis. If the fixed maturity security meets either of these two criteria, the OTTI recognized in earnings is equal to the entire difference between the securitys amortized cost basis and its estimated fair value at the impairment measurement date. For other-than-temporary impairments of fixed maturity securities that do not meet either of these two criteria, the net amount recognized in earnings is equal to the difference between the amortized cost of the fixed maturity security and the present value of projected future cash flows to be collected from this security. Any difference between the estimated fair value and the present value of the expected future cash flows of the security at the impairment measurement date is recorded in other comprehensive income (loss). For equity securities, the carrying value of the equity security is impaired to its estimated fair value, with a corresponding charge to earnings. The Company does not change the revised cost basis for subsequent recoveries in value.
The determination of the amount of allowances and impairments on other invested asset classes is highly subjective and is based upon the Companys periodic evaluation and assessment of known and inherent risks associated with the respective asset class. Such evaluations and assessments are revised as conditions change and new information becomes available.
Recognition of Income on Certain Investment Entities
The recognition of income on certain investments (e.g. loan-backed securities, including mortgage-backed and asset-backed securities, certain structured investment transactions, trading securities, etc.) is dependent upon market conditions, which could result in prepayments and changes in amounts to be earned.
Application of the Consolidation Rules to Certain Investments
The Company has invested in certain structured transactions that are variable interest entities (VIEs). These structured transactions include reinsurance trusts, asset-backed securitizations, hybrid securities, joint ventures, limited partnerships and limited liability companies. The Company is required to consolidate those VIEs for which it is deemed to be the primary beneficiary. The accounting rules for the determination of when an entity is a VIE and when to consolidate a VIE are complex. The determination of the VIEs primary beneficiary requires an evaluation
of the contractual rights and obligations associated with each party involved in the entity, an estimate of the entitys expected losses and expected residual returns and the allocation of such estimates to each party involved in the entity. The primary beneficiary is defined as the entity that will absorb a majority of a VIEs expected losses, receive a majority of a VIEs expected residual returns if no single entity absorbs a majority of expected losses, or both.
When assessing the expected losses to determine the primary beneficiary for structured investment products such as asset-backed securitizations and collateralized debt obligations, the Company uses historical default probabilities based on the credit rating of each issuer and other inputs including maturity dates, industry classifications and geographic location. Using computational algorithms, the analysis simulates default scenarios resulting in a range of expected losses and the probability associated with each occurrence. For other investment structures such as hybrid securities, joint ventures, limited partnerships and limited liability companies, the Company takes into consideration the design of the VIE and generally uses a qualitative approach to determine if it is the primary beneficiary. This approach includes an analysis of all contractual and implied rights and obligations held by all parties including profit and loss allocations, repayment or residual value guarantees, put and call options and other derivative instruments. If the primary beneficiary of a VIE can not be identified using this qualitative approach, the Company calculates the expected losses and expected residual returns of the VIE using a probability-weighted cash flow model. The use of different methodologies, assumptions and inputs in the determination of the primary beneficiary could have a material effect on the amounts presented within the consolidated financial statements.
Derivative Financial Instruments
The Company enters into freestanding derivative transactions including swaps, forwards, futures and option contracts to manage various risks relating to its ongoing business operations. To a lesser extent, the Company uses credit derivatives, such as credit default swaps, to synthetically replicate investment risks and returns which are not readily available in the cash market.
The estimated fair value of derivatives is determined through the use of quoted market prices for exchange-traded derivatives and financial forwards to sell certain to be announced securities or through the use of pricing models for over-the-counter derivatives. The determination of estimated fair value, when quoted market values are not available, is based on market standard valuation methodologies and inputs that are assumed to be consistent with what other market participants would use when pricing the instruments. Derivative valuations can be affected by changes in interest rates, foreign currency exchange rates, financial indices, credit spreads, default risk (including the counterparties to the contract), volatility, liquidity and changes in estimates and assumptions used in the pricing models. See Note 5 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements for additional details on significant inputs into the over-the-counter derivative pricing models and credit risk adjustment.
The accounting for derivatives is complex and interpretations of the primary accounting guidance continue to evolve in practice. Judgment is applied in determining the availability and application of hedge accounting designations and the appropriate accounting treatment under such accounting guidance. If it was determined that hedge accounting designations were not appropriately applied, reported net income could be materially affected. Differences in judgment as to the availability and application of hedge accounting designations and the appropriate accounting treatment may result in a differing impact on the consolidated financial statements of the Company from that previously reported. Assessments of hedge effectiveness and measurements of ineffectiveness of hedging relationships are also subject to interpretations and estimations and different interpretations or estimates may have a material effect on the amount reported in net income.
The Company issues certain variable annuity products with guaranteed minimum benefits. These include guaranteed minimum withdrawal benefits (GMWB), guaranteed minimum accumulation benefits (GMAB), and certain guaranteed minimum income benefits (GMIB). GMWB, GMAB and certain GMIB are embedded derivatives, which are measured at estimated fair value separately from the host variable annuity product, with changes in estimated fair value reported in net investment gains (losses).
The estimated fair values for these embedded derivatives are determined based on the present value of projected future benefits minus the present value of projected future fees. The projections of future benefits and future fees require capital market and actuarial assumptions including expectations concerning policyholder behavior. A risk neutral valuation methodology is used under which the cash flows from the guarantees are projected under multiple capital market scenarios using observable risk free rates. Beginning in 2008, the valuation of these embedded derivatives includes an adjustment for the Companys own credit and risk margins for non-capital market inputs. The Companys own credit adjustment is determined taking into consideration publicly available information relating to the Companys debt, as well as its claims paying ability. Risk margins are established to capture the non-capital market risks of the instrument which represent the additional compensation a market participant would require to assume the risks related to the uncertainties of such actuarial assumptions as annuitization, premium persistency, partial withdrawal and surrenders. The establishment of risk margins requires the use of significant management judgment.
These guarantees may be more costly than expected in volatile or declining equity markets. Market conditions including, but not limited to, changes in interest rates, equity indices, market volatility and foreign currency exchange rates; changes in the Companys own credit standing; and variations in actuarial assumptions regarding policyholder behavior, and risk margins related to non-capital market inputs may result in significant fluctuations in the estimated fair value of the guarantees that could materially affect net income.
The Company ceded the risk associated with certain of the GMIB and GMAB described in the preceding paragraphs. The value of the embedded derivatives on the ceded risk is determined using a methodology consistent with that described previously for the guarantees directly written by the Company.
The estimated fair value of the embedded equity and bond indexed derivatives contained in certain funding agreements is determined using market standard swap valuation models and observable market inputs, including an adjustment for the Companys own credit that takes into consideration publicly available information relating to the Companys debt, as well as its claims paying ability. Changes in equity and bond indices, interest rates and the Companys credit standing may result in significant fluctuations in estimated the fair value of these embedded derivatives that could materially affect net income.
The accounting for embedded derivatives is complex and interpretations of the primary accounting standards continue to evolve in practice. If interpretations change, there is a risk that features previously not bifurcated may require bifurcation and reporting at estimated fair value in the consolidated financial statements and respective changes in estimated fair value could materially affect net income.
Deferred Policy Acquisition Costs and Value of Business Acquired
The Company incurs significant costs in connection with acquiring new and renewal insurance business. Costs that vary with and relate to the production of new business are deferred as DAC. Such costs consist principally of commissions and agency and policy issuance expenses. VOBA is an intangible asset that represents the present value of future profits embedded in acquired insurance annuity and investment type contracts. VOBA is based on actuarially determined projections, by each block of business, of future policy and contract charges, premiums, mortality and morbidity, separate account performance, surrenders, operating expenses, investment returns and other factors. Actual experience on the purchased business may vary from these projections. The recovery of DAC and VOBA is dependent upon the future profitability of the related business. DAC and VOBA are aggregated in the financial statements for reporting purposes.
Note 1 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements describes the Companys accounting policy relating to DAC and VOBA amortization for various types of contracts.
Separate account rates of return on variable universal life contracts and variable deferred annuity contracts affect in-force account balances on such contracts each reporting period which can result in significant fluctuations in amortization of DAC and VOBA. The Companys practice to determine the impact of gross profits resulting from returns on separate accounts assumes that long-term appreciation in equity markets is not changed by short-term market fluctuations, but is only changed when sustained interim deviations are expected. The Company monitors these changes and only changes the assumption when its long-term expectation changes. The effect of an increase/
(decrease) by 100 basis points in the assumed future rate of return is reasonably likely to result in a decrease/(increase) in the DAC and VOBA amortization of approximately $140 million with an offset to the Companys unearned revenue liability of approximately $20 million for this factor.
The Company also reviews periodically other long-term assumptions underlying the projections of estimated gross margins and profits. These include investment returns, policyholder dividend scales, interest crediting rates, mortality, persistency, and expenses to administer business. We annually update assumptions used in the calculation of estimated gross margins and profits which may have significantly changed. If the update of assumptions causes expected future gross margins and profits to increase, DAC and VOBA amortization will decrease, resulting in a current period increase to earnings. The opposite result occurs when the assumption update causes expected future gross margins and profits to decrease.
Over the last several years, the Companys most significant assumption updates resulting in a change to expected future gross margins and profits and the amortization of DAC and VOBA have been updated due to revisions to expected future investment returns, expenses, in-force or persistency assumptions and policyholder dividends on contracts included within the Insurance Products and Retirement Products segments. During 2009, the amount of net investment gains (losses), as well as the level of separate account balances also resulted in significant changes to expected future gross margins and profits impacting amortization of DAC and VOBA. The Company expects these assumptions to be the ones most reasonably likely to cause significant changes in the future. Changes in these assumptions can be offsetting and the Company is unable to predict their movement or offsetting impact over time.
Note 6 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements provides a rollforward of DAC and VOBA for the Company for each of the years ended December 31, 2009, 2008 and 2007, as well as a breakdown of DAC and VOBA by segment and reporting unit at December 31, 2009 and 2008.
At December 31, 2009 and 2008, DAC and VOBA for the Company was $19.3 billion and $20.1 billion, respectively. A substantial portion, approximately 84%, of the Companys DAC and VOBA was associated with the Insurance Products and Retirement Products segments at December 31, 2009. At December 31, 2009 and 2008, DAC and VOBA for these segments was $16.1 billion and $17.4 billion, respectively. Amortization of DAC and VOBA associated with the variable & universal life and the annuities contracts within the Insurance Products and Retirement Products segments are significantly impacted by movements in equity markets. The following chart illustrates the effect on DAC and VOBA within the Companys U.S. Business of changing each of the respective assumptions, as well as updating estimated gross margins or profits with actual gross margins or profits during the years ended December 31, 2009, 2008 and 2007. Increases (decreases) in DAC and VOBA balances, as presented below, result in a corresponding decrease (increase) in amortization.
Prior to 2008, fluctuations in the amounts presented in the table above arose principally from normal assumption reviews during the period.
The following represents significant items contributing to the changes to DAC and VOBA amortization in 2009:
The following represent significant items contributing to the changes to DAC and VOBA amortization in 2008:
The Companys DAC and VOBA balance is also impacted by unrealized investment gains (losses) and the amount of amortization which would have been recognized if such gains and losses had been recognized. The significant decrease in unrealized investment losses decreased the DAC and VOBA balance by $2.8 billion in 2009
whereas increases in unrealized investment losses increased the DAC and VOBA balance by $3.4 billion in 2008. Notes 3 and 6 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements include the DAC and VOBA offset to unrealized investment losses.
Goodwill is the excess of cost over the estimated fair value of net assets acquired. Goodwill is not amortized but is tested for impairment at least annually or more frequently if events or circumstances, such as adverse changes in the business climate, indicate that there may be justification for conducting an interim test. We perform our annual goodwill impairment testing during the third quarter of each year based upon data as of the close of the second quarter.
Impairment testing is performed using the fair value approach, which requires the use of estimates and judgment, at the reporting unit level. A reporting unit is the operating segment or a business one level below the operating segment, if discrete financial information is prepared and regularly reviewed by management at that level. For purposes of goodwill impairment testing, a significant portion of goodwill within Banking, Corporate & Other is allocated to reporting units within our business segments.
For purposes of goodwill impairment testing, if the carrying value of a reporting unit exceeds its estimated fair value, there might be an indication of impairment. In such instances, the implied fair value of the goodwill is determined in the same manner as the amount of goodwill would be determined in a business acquisition. The excess of the carrying value of goodwill over the implied fair value of goodwill is recognized as an impairment and recorded as a charge against net income.
In performing our goodwill impairment tests, when we believe meaningful comparable market data are available, the estimated fair values of the reporting units are determined using a market multiple approach. When relevant comparables are not available, we use a discounted cash flow model. For reporting units which are particularly sensitive to market assumptions, such as the retirement products and individual life reporting units, we may corroborate our estimated fair values by using additional valuation methodologies.
The key inputs, judgments and assumptions necessary in determining estimated fair value include projected operating earnings, current book value (with and without accumulated other comprehensive income), the level of economic capital required to support the mix of business, long term growth rates, comparative market multiples, the account value of in-force business, projections of new and renewal business, as well as margins on such business, the level of interest rates, credit spreads, equity market levels, and the discount rate we believe appropriate to the risk associated with the respective reporting unit. The estimated fair value of the retirement products and individual life reporting units are particularly sensitive to the equity market levels.
When testing goodwill for impairment, we also consider our market capitalization in relation to our book value. We believe that our current market capitalization supports the value of the underlying reporting units.
We apply significant judgment when determining the estimated fair value of our reporting units and when assessing the relationship of market capitalization to the estimated fair value of our reporting units and their book value. The valuation methodologies utilized are subject to key judgments and assumptions that are sensitive to change. Estimates of fair value are inherently uncertain and represent only managements reasonable expectation regarding future developments. These estimates and the judgments and assumptions upon which the estimates are based will, in all likelihood, differ in some respects from actual future results. Declines in the estimated fair value of our reporting units could result in goodwill impairments in future periods which could materially adversely affect our results of operations or financial position.
During our 2009 impairment tests of goodwill, we concluded that the fair values of all reporting units were in excess of their carrying values and, therefore, goodwill was not impaired. However, we continue to evaluate current market conditions that may affect the estimated fair value of our reporting units to assess whether any goodwill impairment exists. Deteriorating or adverse market conditions for certain reporting units may have a significant impact on the estimated fair value of these reporting units and could result in future impairments of goodwill. See Note 7 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements for further consideration of goodwill impairment testing during 2009.
Liability for Future Policy Benefits
The Company establishes liabilities for amounts payable under insurance policies, including traditional life insurance, traditional annuities and non-medical health insurance. Generally, amounts are payable over an extended period of time and related liabilities are calculated as the present value of future expected benefits to be paid reduced by the present value of future expected premiums. Such liabilities are established based on methods and underlying assumptions in accordance with GAAP and applicable actuarial standards. Principal assumptions used in the establishment of liabilities for future policy benefits are mortality, morbidity, policy lapse, renewal, retirement, disability incidence, disability terminations, investment returns, inflation, expenses and other contingent events as appropriate to the respective product type. These assumptions are established at the time the policy is issued and are intended to estimate the experience for the period the policy benefits are payable. Utilizing these assumptions, liabilities are established on a block of business basis. If experience is less favorable than assumptions, additional liabilities may be required, resulting in a charge to policyholder benefits and claims.
Future policy benefit liabilities for disabled lives are estimated using the present value of benefits method and experience assumptions as to claim terminations, expenses and interest.
Liabilities for unpaid claims and claim expenses for property and casualty insurance are included in future policyholder benefits and represent the amount estimated for claims that have been reported but not settled and claims incurred but not reported. Other policyholder funds include claims that have been reported but not settled and claims incurred but not reported on life and non-medical health insurance. Liabilities for unpaid claims are estimated based upon the Companys historical experience and other actuarial assumptions that consider the effects of current developments, anticipated trends and risk management programs, reduced for anticipated salvage and subrogation. The effects of changes in such estimated liabilities are included in the results of operations in the period in which the changes occur.
Future policy benefit liabilities for minimum death and income benefit guarantees relating to certain annuity contracts and secondary and paid-up guarantees relating to certain life policies are based on estimates of the expected value of benefits in excess of the projected account balance and recognizing the excess ratably over the accumulation period based on total expected assessments. Liabilities for universal and variable life secondary guarantees and paid-up guarantees are determined by estimating the expected value of death benefits payable when the account balance is projected to be zero and recognizing those benefits ratably over the accumulation period based on total expected assessments. The assumptions used in estimating these liabilities are consistent with those used for amortizing DAC, and are thus subject to the same variability and risk. The assumptions of investment performance and volatility for variable products are consistent with historical S&P experience.
The Company periodically reviews its estimates of actuarial liabilities for future policy benefits and compares them with its actual experience. Differences between actual experience and the assumptions used in pricing of these policies and guarantees and in the establishment of the related liabilities result in variances in profit and could result in losses. The effects of changes in such estimated liabilities are included in the results of operations in the period in which the changes occur.
The Company enters into reinsurance agreements primarily as a purchaser of reinsurance for its various insurance products and also as a provider of reinsurance for some insurance products issued by third parties. Accounting for reinsurance requires extensive use of assumptions and estimates, particularly related to the future performance of the underlying business and the potential impact of counterparty credit risks. The Company periodically reviews actual and anticipated experience compared to the aforementioned assumptions used to establish assets and liabilities relating to ceded and assumed reinsurance and evaluates the financial strength of counterparties to its reinsurance agreements using criteria similar to that evaluated in the security impairment process discussed previously. Additionally, for each of its reinsurance agreements, the Company determines if the agreement provides indemnification against loss or liability relating to insurance risk, in accordance with applicable accounting standards. The Company reviews all contractual features, particularly those that may limit the amount of insurance risk to which the reinsurer is subject or features that delay the timely reimbursement of claims. If the
Company determines that a reinsurance agreement does not expose the reinsurer to a reasonable possibility of a significant loss from insurance risk, the Company records the agreement using the deposit method of accounting.
Income taxes represent the net amount of income taxes that the Company expects to pay to or receive from various taxing jurisdictions in connection with its operations. The Company provides for federal, state and foreign income taxes currently payable, as well as those deferred due to temporary differences between the financial reporting and tax bases of assets and liabilities. The Companys accounting for income taxes represents managements best estimate of various events and transactions.
Deferred tax assets and liabilities resulting from temporary differences between the financial reporting and tax bases of assets and liabilities are measured at the balance sheet date using enacted tax rates expected to apply to taxable income in the years the temporary differences are expected to reverse. The realization of deferred tax assets depends upon the existence of sufficient taxable income within the carryback or carryforward periods under the tax law in the applicable tax jurisdiction. Valuation allowances are established when management determines, based on available information, that it is more likely than not that deferred income tax assets will not be realized. Factors in managements determination consider the performance of the business including the ability to generate capital gains. Significant judgment is required in determining whether valuation allowances should be established, as well as the amount of such allowances. When making such determination, consideration is given to, among other things, the following:
The Company determines whether it is more likely than not that a tax position will be sustained upon examination by the appropriate taxing authorities before any part of the benefit is recorded in the financial statements. A tax position is measured at the largest amount of benefit that is greater than 50 percent likely of being realized upon settlement. The Company may be required to change its provision for income taxes when the ultimate deductibility of certain items is challenged by taxing authorities or when estimates used in determining valuation allowances on deferred tax assets significantly change, or when receipt of new information indicates the need for adjustment in valuation allowances. Additionally, future events, such as changes in tax laws, tax regulations, or interpretations of such laws or regulations, could have an impact on the provision for income tax and the effective tax rate. Any such changes could significantly affect the amounts reported in the consolidated financial statements in the year these changes occur.
Employee Benefit Plans
Certain subsidiaries of the Holding Company (the Subsidiaries) sponsor and/or administer pension and other postretirement benefit plans covering employees who meet specified eligibility requirements. The obligations and expenses associated with these plans require an extensive use of assumptions such as the discount rate, expected rate of return on plan assets, rate of future compensation increases, healthcare cost trend rates, as well as assumptions regarding participant demographics such as rate and age of retirements, withdrawal rates and mortality. In consultation with our external consulting actuarial firm, we determine these assumptions based upon a variety of factors such as historical performance of the plan and its assets, currently available market and industry data, and expected benefit payout streams. The assumptions used may differ materially from actual results due to, among other factors, changing market and economic conditions and changes in participant demographics. These differences may have a significant effect on the Companys consolidated financial statements and liquidity.
The Company is a party to a number of legal actions and is involved in a number of regulatory investigations. Given the inherent unpredictability of these matters, it is difficult to estimate the impact on the Companys financial position. Liabilities are established when it is probable that a loss has been incurred and the amount of the loss can be reasonably estimated. Liabilities related to certain lawsuits, including the Companys asbestos-related liability, are especially difficult to estimate due to the limitation of available data and uncertainty regarding numerous variables that can affect liability estimates. The data and variables that impact the assumptions used to estimate the Companys asbestos-related liability include the number of future claims, the cost to resolve claims, the disease mix and severity of disease in pending and future claims, the impact of the number of new claims filed in a particular jurisdiction and variations in the law in the jurisdictions in which claims are filed, the possible impact of tort reform efforts, the willingness of courts to allow plaintiffs to pursue claims against the Company when exposure to asbestos took place after the dangers of asbestos exposure were well known, and the impact of any possible future adverse verdicts and their amounts. On a quarterly and annual basis, the Company reviews relevant information with respect to liabilities for litigation, regulatory investigations and litigation-related contingencies to be reflected in the Companys consolidated financial statements. It is possible that an adverse outcome in certain of the Companys litigation and regulatory investigations, including asbestos-related cases, or the use of different assumptions in the determination of amounts recorded could have a material effect upon the Companys consolidated net income or cash flows in particular quarterly or annual periods.
Economic capital is an internally developed risk capital model, the purpose of which is to measure the risk in the business and to provide a basis upon which capital is deployed. The economic capital model accounts for the unique and specific nature of the risks inherent in MetLifes businesses. As a part of the economic capital process, a portion of net investment income is credited to the segments based on the level of allocated equity. This is in contrast to the standardized regulatory risk-based capital (RBC) formula, which is not as refined in its risk calculations with respect to the nuances of the Companys businesses.
Acquisitions and Dispositions
See Note 2 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements.
On February 2, 2010, MetLife announced that it is in discussions with American International Group, Inc. about acquiring its subsidiary, American Life Insurance Company, an international life insurance company. These discussions are ongoing. No agreement has been reached and there are no assurances that an agreement will be reached.
Consolidated Results of Operations
Year Ended December 31, 2009 compared with the Year Ended December 31, 2008
Unfavorable market conditions continued through 2009, providing a challenging business environment. The largest and most significant impact continued to be on our investment portfolio as declining yields resulted in lower net investment income. Market sensitive expenses were also negatively impacted by the market conditions as evidenced by an increase in pension and postretirement benefit costs. Higher levels of unemployment continued to impact certain group businesses as a decrease in covered payrolls reduced growth. Our auto and homeowners business was impacted by a declining housing market, the deterioration of the new auto sales market and the continuation of credit availability issues, all of which contributed to a decrease in insured exposures. Despite the challenging business environment, revenue growth remained solid in the majority of our businesses. A flight to quality during the year contributed to an improvement in sales in both our domestic fixed and variable annuity products. We also saw an increase in market share, especially in the structured settlement business, where we experienced an increase of 53% in premiums. An improvement in the global financial markets contributed to a recovery of sales in most of our international regions and resulted in improved investment performance in some
regions during the second half of 2009. We also benefited domestically from a strong residential mortgage refinance market and healthy growth in the reverse mortgage arena.
Unless otherwise stated, all amounts are net of income tax.
During the year ended December 31, 2009, MetLifes income (loss) from continuing operations, net of income tax decreased $5.8 billion to a loss of $2.3 billion from income of $3.5 billion in the comparable 2008 period. The year over year change is predominantly due to a $5.2 billion unfavorable change in net investment gains (losses) to losses of $4.6 billion, net of related adjustments, in 2009 from gains of $644 million, net of related adjustments, in 2008.
We manage our investment portfolio using disciplined Asset/Liability Management principles, focusing on cash flow and duration to support our current and future liabilities. Our intent is to match the timing and amount of liability cash outflows with invested assets that have cash inflows of comparable timing and amount, while optimizing, net of income tax, risk-adjusted net investment income and risk-adjusted total return. Our investment portfolio is heavily weighted toward fixed income investments, with over 80% of our portfolio invested in fixed maturity securities and mortgage loans. These securities and loans have varying maturities and other characteristics which cause them to be generally well suited for matching the cash flow and duration of insurance liabilities. Other invested asset classes including, but not limited to equity securities, other limited partnership interests and real estate and real estate joint ventures provide additional diversification and opportunity for long term yield enhancement in addition to supporting the cash flow and duration objectives of our investment portfolio. We also use derivatives as an integral part of our management of the investment portfolio to hedge certain risks, including changes in interest rates, foreign currencies, credit spreads and equity market levels. Additional considerations for our investment portfolio include current and expected market conditions and expectations for changes within our unique mix of products and business segments.
The composition of the investment portfolio of each business segment is tailored to the unique characteristics of its insurance liabilities, causing certain portfolios to be shorter in duration and others to be longer in duration. Accordingly, certain portfolios are more heavily weighted in fixed maturity securities, or certain sub-sectors of fixed maturity securities, than other portfolios.
Investments are purchased to support our insurance liabilities and not to generate net investment gains and losses. However, net investment gains and losses are generated and can change significantly from period to period, due to changes in external influences including movements in interest rates, foreign currencies and credit spreads, counterparty specific factors such as financial performance, credit rating and collateral valuation, and internal factors such as portfolio rebalancing that can generate gains and losses. As an investor in the fixed income, equity security, mortgage loan and certain other invested asset classes, we are exposed to the above stated risks, which can lead to both impairments and credit-related losses.
The unfavorable variance in net investment gains (losses) of $5.2 billion, net of related adjustments, was primarily driven by losses on freestanding derivatives, partially offset by gains on embedded derivatives associated with variable annuity minimum benefit guarantees, and decreased losses on fixed maturity securities. The negative change in freestanding derivatives, from gains in the prior year to losses in the current year, was primarily attributable to the effect of rising interest rates on certain interest rate sensitive derivatives that are economic hedges of certain invested assets and insurance liabilities; weakening U.S. Dollar on certain foreign currency sensitive derivatives, and equity market and interest rate derivatives that are economic hedges of embedded derivatives. Losses on embedded derivatives decreased from losses to gains and were driven primarily by rising interest rates and improving equity market performance. The gains were net of losses attributable to a narrowing of the Companys own credit spread. Losses on the freestanding derivatives hedging these embedded derivatives risks substantially offset the change in the liabilities attributable to market factors, excluding the adjustment for the change in the Companys own credit spread, which is not hedged. The decrease in losses on fixed maturity securities is primarily attributable to lower net losses on sales of fixed maturity securities, partially offset by increased impairments due to the current financial market conditions, although this trend lessened in the latter part of 2009.
As more fully described in the discussion of performance measures above, operating earnings is the measure of segment profit or loss we use to evaluate performance and allocate resources. Consistent with GAAP accounting guidance for segment reporting, it is our measure of performance, as reported below. Operating earnings is not determined in accordance with GAAP and should not be viewed as a substitute for GAAP income (loss) from continuing operations, net of income tax. We believe that the presentation of operating earnings enhances the understanding of our performance by highlighting the results of operations and the underlying profitability drivers of the business. Operating earnings available to common shareholders decreased by $329 million to $2.4 billion in 2009 from $2.7 billion in 2008.
Reconciliation of income (loss) from continuing operations, net of income tax, to operating earnings available to common shareholders
Year Ended December 31, 2009