Item 5. Market for Registrant's Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities
Item 6. Selected Financial Data
Item 7. Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations
Item 7A. Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk
Item 8. Financial Statements and Supplementary Data
Item 9. Changes in and Disagreements with Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure
Item 9A. Controls and Procedures
Item 9B. Other Information
Item 10. Directors, Executive Officers and Corporate Governance
Item 11. Executive Compensation
Item 12. Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management and Related Stockholder Matters
Item 13. Certain Relationships and Related Transactions, and Director Independence
Item 14. Principal Accountant Fees and Services
Item 15. Exhibits and Financial Statement Schedules
Item 16. Form 10-K Summary
Metropolitan Life Insurance Earnings 2018-12-31
MLIC 10K Annual Report
10-K 1 mlic-12312018x10k.htm 10-K Document
UNITED STATES SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2018
TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the transition period from to
Commission file number 000-55029
Metropolitan Life Insurance Company
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)
(State or other jurisdiction of
incorporation or organization)
200 Park Avenue, New York, N.Y.
(Address of principal
(Registrant’s telephone number, including area code)
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act: None
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act:
Common Stock, par value $0.01
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. Yes ¨ No þ
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Act. Yes ¨ 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 ¨
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted 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 such files). Yes þ No ¨
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 registrant’s 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. þ
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, a smaller reporting company, or an emerging growth company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” “smaller reporting company,” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.
Large accelerated filer
Smaller reporting company
Emerging growth company
If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act. ¨
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act). Yes ¨ No þ
At March 18, 2019, 494,466,664 shares of the registrant’s common stock, $0.01 par value per share, were outstanding, all of which were owned directly by MetLife, Inc.
REDUCED DISCLOSURE FORMAT
The registrant meets the conditions set forth in General Instruction I(1)(a) and (b) of Form 10-K and is therefore filing this Form with the reduced disclosure format.
As used in this Form 10-K, “MLIC,” the “Company,” “we,” “our” and “us” refer to Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, a New York corporation incorporated in 1868, and its subsidiaries. Metropolitan Life Insurance Company is a wholly-owned subsidiary of MetLife, Inc. (MetLife, Inc., together with its subsidiaries and affiliates, “MetLife”).
Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements
This Annual Report on Form 10‑K, including Management’s 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 and terms such as “anticipate,” “estimate,” “expect,” “project,” “intend,” “plan,” “believe,” “will,” and other words and terms of similar meaning, or are tied to future periods, in connection with a discussion of future 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.
Many factors will be important in determining the results of Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, its subsidiaries and affiliates. Forward-looking statements are based on our assumptions and current expectations, which may be inaccurate, and on the current economic environment, which may change. These statements are not guarantees of future performance. They involve a number of risks and uncertainties that are difficult to predict. 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 Metropolitan Life Insurance Company’s filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. These factors include: (1) difficult economic conditions, including risks relating to interest rates, credit spreads, equity, real estate, obligors and counterparties, and derivatives; (2) adverse global capital and credit market conditions, which may affect our ability to meet liquidity needs and access capital, including through credit facilities; (3) downgrades in our claims paying ability, financial strength or credit ratings; (4) availability and effectiveness of reinsurance, hedging or indemnification arrangements; (5) the impact on us of changes to and implementation of the wide variety of laws and regulations to which we are subject; (6) regulatory, legislative or tax changes relating to our operations that may affect the cost of, or demand for, our products or services; (7) adverse results or other consequences from litigation, arbitration or regulatory investigations; (8) investment losses, defaults and volatility; (9) potential liquidity and other risks resulting from our participation in a securities lending program and other transactions; (10) differences between actual claims experience and underwriting and reserving assumptions; (11) the impact of technological changes on our businesses; (12) catastrophe losses; (13) a deterioration in the experience of the closed block established in connection with the reorganization of Metropolitan Life Insurance Company; (14) changes in assumptions related to deferred policy acquisition costs, deferred sales inducements or value of business acquired; (15) exposure to losses related to guarantees in certain products; (16) ineffectiveness of risk management policies and procedures or models; (17) a failure in MetLife’s cybersecurity systems or other information security systems or MetLife’s disaster recovery plans; (18) any failure to protect the confidentiality of client information; (26) changes in accounting standards; (19) MetLife associates taking excessive risks; (20) difficulties in marketing and distributing products through our distribution channels; (21) difficulties, unforeseen liabilities, asset impairments, or rating agency actions arising from business acquisitions and dispositions, joint ventures, or other legal entity reorganizations; and (22) other risks and uncertainties described from time to time in Metropolitan Life Insurance Company’s filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Metropolitan Life Insurance Company does not undertake any obligation to publicly correct or update any forward-looking statement if Metropolitan Life Insurance Company later becomes aware that such statement is not likely to be achieved. Please consult any further disclosures Metropolitan Life Insurance Company makes on related subjects in reports to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Note Regarding Reliance on Statements in Our Contracts
See “Exhibit Index — Note Regarding Reliance on Statements in Our Contracts” for information regarding agreements included as exhibits to this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
As used in this Form 10-K, “MLIC,” the “Company,” “we,” “our” and “us” refer to Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, a New York corporation incorporated in 1868, and its subsidiaries. Metropolitan Life Insurance Company is a wholly-owned subsidiary of MetLife, Inc. (MetLife, Inc., together with its subsidiaries and affiliates, “MetLife”).
The Company is a provider of insurance, annuities, employee benefits and asset management. We are also one of the largest institutional investors in the United States with a $264.3 billion general account portfolio invested primarily in investment grade corporate bonds, structured finance securities, mortgage loans and U.S. Treasury and agency securities, as well as real estate and corporate equity, at December 31, 2018.
Our well-recognized brand, competitive and innovative product offerings and financial strength and expertise should help drive future growth building on a long history of fairness, honesty and integrity. We continue to pursue our refreshed enterprise strategy, focusing on transforming the Company to become more digital, driving efficiencies and innovation to achieve competitive advantage, and simplified, decreasing the costs and risks associated with our highly complex industry to customers. One MetLife remains at the center of everything we do: collaborating, sharing best practices, and putting the enterprise first. Digital and simplified are the key enablers of our strategic cornerstones, all of which satisfy the criteria of our Accelerating Value strategic initiative by offering customers truly differentiated value propositions that allow us to establish clear competitive advantages:
Optimize value and risk
Focus on in-force and new business opportunities using Accelerating Value analysis
Optimize cash and value
Balance risk across MetLife
Drive operational excellence
Become a more efficient, high performance organization
Focus on the customer with a disciplined approach to unit cost improvement
Strengthen distribution advantage
Transform our distribution channels to drive productivity and efficiency through digital enablement, improved customer persistency and deeper customer relationships
Deliver the right solutions for the right customers
Use customer insights to deliver differentiated value propositions - products, services and experiences to win the right customers and earn their loyalty
MLIC is organized into two segments: U.S. and MetLife Holdings. In addition, the Company reports certain of its results of operations in Corporate & Other. See “— Segments and Corporate & Other” and Note 2 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements for further information on the Company’s segments and Corporate & Other. Management continues to evaluate the Company’s segment performance and allocated resources and may adjust related measurements in the future to better reflect segment profitability.
Revenues derived from FedEx Corporation were $6.0 billion for the year ended December 31, 2018, which represented 20% of consolidated premiums, universal life and investment-type product policy fees and other revenues. The revenue was from a single premium received for a pension risk transfer. Revenues derived from an agreement with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management for the Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance program were $3.1 billion and $2.8 billion for the years ended December 31, 2018 and 2017, respectively, which represented 10% and 11%, respectively, of consolidated premiums, universal life and investment-type product policy fees and other revenues. Revenues derived from any other customer did not exceed 10% of consolidated premiums, universal life and investment-type product policy fees and other revenues for the years ended December 31, 2018 and 2017.
Segments and Corporate & Other
Our businesses in the U.S. segment offer 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 corporations and their respective employees, other institutions and their respective members, as well as individuals. Our U.S. segment is organized into two businesses: Group Benefits and Retirement and Income Solutions (“RIS”).
We have built a leading position in the United States group insurance market through long-standing relationships with many of the largest corporate employers in the United States.
Our Group Benefits business offers life, dental, group short- and long-term disability, individual disability, accidental death and dismemberment, vision and accident & health coverages, as well as prepaid legal plans. We also sell administrative services-only (“ASO”) arrangements to some employers.
Term Life Insurance
Provides a guaranteed benefit upon the death of the insured for a specified time period in return for the periodic payment of premiums. Premiums may be guaranteed at a level amount for the coverage period or may be non-level and non-guaranteed. Term contracts expire without value at the end of the coverage period when the insured party is still living.
Variable Life Insurance
Provides 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. Premiums and account balances can be directed by the policyholder into a variety of separate account investment options or directed to the Company’s general account. In the separate account investment options, the policyholder bears the entire risk of the investment results. With some products, by maintaining certain premium level, policyholders may have the advantage of various guarantees that may protect the death benefit from adverse investment experience.
Universal Life Insurance
Provides insurance coverage on the same basis as variable life, except that premiums, and the resulting accumulated balances, are allocated only to the Company’s general account. 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.
Provides insurance and ASO arrangements that assist employees, retirees and their families in maintaining oral health while reducing out-of-pocket expenses.
For groups and individuals, benefits such as income replacement, payment of business overhead expenses or mortgage protection, in the event of the disability of the insured.
Accident & Health Insurance
Provides accident, critical illness or hospital indemnity coverage to the insured.
Our RIS business provides funding and financing solutions that help institutional customers mitigate and manage liabilities primarily associated with their qualified, nonqualified and welfare employee benefit programs using a spectrum of life and annuity-based insurance and investment products.
Stable Value Products
• General account guaranteed interest contracts (“GICs”) are designed to provide stable value investment options within tax-qualified defined contribution plans by offering a fixed maturity investment with a guarantee of liquidity at contract value for participant transactions.
• Separate account GICs are available to defined contribution plan sponsors by offering market value returns on separate account investments with a general account guarantee of liquidity at contract value.
• Private floating rate funding agreements are generally privately-placed, unregistered investment contracts issued as general account obligations with interest credited based on the three-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”). These agreements are used for money market funds, securities lending cash collateral portfolios and short-term investment funds.
Pension Risk Transfers
General account and separate account annuities are offered in connection with defined benefit pension plans which include single premium buyouts allowing for full or partial transfers of pension liabilities.
• General account annuities include nonparticipating group contract benefits purchased for retired employees or active employees covered under terminating or ongoing pension plans.
• Separate account annuities include both participating and non-participating group contract benefits. Participating contract benefits are purchased for retired, terminated, or active employees covered under active or terminated pension plans. The assets supporting the guaranteed benefits for each contract are held in a separate account, however, the Company fully guarantees all benefit payments. Non-participating contracts have economic features similar to our general account product, but offer the added protection of an insulated separate account. Under accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America (“GAAP”), these annuity contracts are treated as general account products.
Institutional Income Annuities
General account contracts that are guaranteed payout annuities purchased for employees upon retirement or termination of employment. They can be life or non-life contingent non-participating contracts which do not provide for any loan or cash surrender value and, with few exceptions, do not permit future considerations.
• Structured settlement annuities are customized annuities designed to serve as an alternative to a lump sum payment in a lawsuit initiated because of personal injury, wrongful death, or a workers’ compensation claim or other claim for damages. Surrenders are generally not allowed, although commutations are permitted in certain circumstances. Guaranteed payments consist of life contingent annuities, term certain annuities and lump sums.
• Funding agreement-backed notes are part of a medium term note program, under which funding agreements are issued to a special-purpose trust that issues marketable notes in U.S. dollars or foreign currencies. The proceeds of these note issuances are used to acquire a funding agreement with matching interest and maturity payment terms from Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. The notes are underwritten and marketed by major investment banks’ broker-dealer operations and are sold to institutional investors.
• Funding agreement-backed commercial paper is issued by a special purpose limited liability company which deposits the proceeds under a master funding agreement issued to it by Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. The commercial paper is issued in U.S. dollars or foreign currencies, receives the same short-term credit rating as Metropolitan Life Insurance Company and is marketed by major investment banks’ broker-dealer operations.
• Through the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York (“FHLB of New York”) advance program, Metropolitan Life Insurance Company issues funding agreements to the FHLB of New York. Through the Federal Agricultural Mortgage Corporation (“Farmer Mac”) program, Metropolitan Life Insurance Company has issued funding agreements to a subsidiary of Farmer Mac.
Other Products and Services
Specialized life insurance products and funding agreements designed specifically to provide solutions for funding postretirement benefits and company-, bank- or trust-owned life insurance used to finance nonqualified benefit programs for executives.
Group Benefits Distribution
We distribute Group Benefits products and services through a sales force primarily comprised of MetLife employees 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. In addition, voluntary products are sold by specialists. Employers have been emphasizing voluntary products and, as a result, we have increased our focus on communicating and marketing to employees in order to further foster sales of those products.
We have entered into several operating joint ventures and other arrangements with third parties to expand opportunities to market and distribute Group Benefits products and services. We also sell our Group Benefits products and services through sponsoring organizations and affinity groups and provide life and dental coverage to certain employees of the U.S. Government.
Retirement and Income Solutions Distribution
We distribute RIS products and services through dedicated sales teams and relationship managers primarily comprised of MetLife employees. We may sell products directly to benefit plan sponsors and advisors or through brokers, consultants or other intermediaries. In addition, these sales professionals work with individual and group distribution areas to better reach and service customers, brokers, consultants and other intermediaries.
Our MetLife Holdings segment consists of operations relating to products and businesses that we no longer actively market, such as variable, universal, term and whole life insurance, variable, fixed and index-linked annuities, and long-term care insurance.
These life products are similar to those offered by our Group Benefits business, except that these products were historically marketed to individuals through various retail distribution channels. For a description of these products, see “— U.S. — Product Overview — Group Benefits.”
Whole Life Insurance
Provides a benefit upon the death of the insured in return for the periodic payment of a fixed premium over a predetermined period. 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.
Provides for both asset accumulation and asset distribution needs. Variable annuities allow the contractholder to allocate deposits into various investment options in a separate account, as determined by the contractholder. In certain variable annuity products, contractholders may also choose to allocate all or a portion of their account to the Company’s general account and are credited with interest at rates we determine, subject to specified minimums. Contractholders may also elect certain minimum death benefit and minimum living benefit guarantees for which additional fees are charged and where asset allocation restrictions may apply.
Fixed and Indexed-Linked Annuities
Fixed annuities provide for both asset accumulation and asset distribution needs. Deposits made into deferred annuity contracts are allocated to the Company’s general account and are credited with interest at rates we determine, subject to specified minimums. Fixed income annuities provide a guaranteed monthly income for a specified period of years and/or for the life of the annuitant. Additionally, the Company has issued indexed-linked annuities which allow the contractholder to participate in returns from equity indices.
Provides protection against the potentially high costs of long-term health care services. Generally pay benefits to insureds who need assistance with activities of daily living or have a cognitive impairment.
Corporate & Other
Corporate & Other contains the excess capital, as well as certain charges and activities, not allocated to the segments, including enterprise-wide strategic initiative restructuring charges and various start-up businesses. Additionally, Corporate & Other includes run-off businesses. Corporate & Other also includes the Company’s ancillary international operations, interest expense related to the majority of the Company’s outstanding debt, as well as expenses associated with certain legal proceedings and income tax audit issues. In addition, Corporate & Other includes the elimination of intersegment amounts, which generally relate to affiliated reinsurance and intersegment loans, which bear interest rates commensurate with related borrowings.
We establish, and carry as liabilities, actuarially determined amounts that are calculated to meet 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. 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 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 claims and benefits based on assumptions and estimates of losses and liabilities incurred. Amounts for actuarial liabilities are computed and reported on the consolidated financial statements in conformity with GAAP. For more details on policyholder liabilities see “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations — Summary of Critical Accounting Estimates — Liability for Future Policy Benefits.”
Pursuant to applicable insurance laws and regulations, we, as well as a captive reinsurance subsidiary, establish statutory reserves, reported as liabilities, to meet our obligations on our 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 and actuarial liabilities for future policy benefits generally differ based on accounting guidance.
State insurance laws and regulations, including New York Insurance Law and regulations, require certain MLIC entities to submit to superintendents of insurance, including the New York Superintendent of Financial Services, 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 Adequacy Analysis.”
Underwriting and Pricing
MetLife’s Global Risk Management Department (“GRM”) contains a dedicated unit, the primary responsibility of which is the development of product pricing standards and independent pricing and underwriting oversight for MetLife’s insurance businesses. Further important controls around management of underwriting and pricing processes include regular experience studies to monitor assumptions against expectations, formal new product approval processes, periodic updates to product profitability studies and the use of reinsurance to manage our exposures, as appropriate. See “— Reinsurance Activity.”
Underwriting generally involves an evaluation of applications by a professional staff of underwriters and actuaries, who determine the type and the amount of insurance risk that we are willing to accept. We employ detailed underwriting policies, guidelines and procedures designed to assist the underwriter to properly assess and quantify such risks before issuing policies to qualified applicants or groups.
Insurance underwriting considers not only an applicant’s 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 and for certain coverages, members of a group 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 a policy is not issued unless the particular risk or group has been examined and approved in accordance with our underwriting guidelines.
The underwriting conducted by our remote underwriting offices and intermediaries, as well as our corporate underwriting office, is subject to periodic quality assurance reviews to maintain high standards of underwriting and consistency. Such offices are also subject to periodic external audits by reinsurers with whom we do business.
We have established 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.
We continually review our underwriting guidelines in light of applicable regulations and to ensure that our policies remain competitive and supportive of our marketing strategies and profitability goals.
Product pricing reflects our pricing standards. GRM, as well as regional finance and product teams, are responsible for pricing and oversight for all of our insurance businesses. 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 returns, expenses, persistency and optionality and possible variability of results. For certain products, 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 we bear all prior year gains and losses. 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 us to recoup certain losses or distribute certain gains back to the policyholder based on actual prior years’ experience.
Rates for group benefit products are based on anticipated earnings and expenses for the book of business being underwritten. Renewals are generally reevaluated annually or biannually and are re-priced to reflect actual experience on such products. Products offered by RIS are priced on demand. Pricing reflects expected investment returns, as well as mortality, longevity and expense assumptions appropriate for each product. This business is generally nonparticipating and illiquid, as policyholders have few or no options or contractual rights to cash values.
Rates for individual life insurance products are highly regulated and generally must be approved by the regulators of the jurisdictions in which the product is sold.
We continually review our pricing guidelines in light of applicable regulations and to ensure that our policies remain competitive and supportive of our marketing strategies and profitability goals.
We enter into reinsurance agreements primarily as a purchaser of reinsurance for our various insurance products and also as a provider of reinsurance for some insurance products issued by third parties and related parties. We participate in reinsurance activities in order to limit losses, minimize exposure to significant risks, and provide additional capacity for future growth. 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 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. Cessions under reinsurance agreements do not discharge our obligations as the primary insurer. In the event that reinsurers do not meet their obligations under the terms of the reinsurance agreements, reinsurance recoverable balances could become uncollectible.
We reinsure our business through a diversified group of well-capitalized 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 is 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. Additionally, we enter into reinsurance agreements for risk and capital management purposes with other affiliates and several affiliated captive reinsurers. Captive reinsurers are affiliated insurance companies licensed under specific provisions of insurance law of their respective jurisdictions, such as the Special Purpose Financial Captive law adopted by several states including Vermont and South Carolina, and have a very narrow business plan that specifically restricts the majority or all of their activity to reinsuring business from their affiliates. See “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations — Liquidity and Capital Resources — Capital — Affiliated Captive Reinsurance Transactions.”
For certain policies within our Group Benefits business, we generally retain most of the risk and only cede particular risk on certain client arrangements. The majority of our reinsurance activity within this business relates to the following client agreements:
Employer sponsored captive programs: through these programs, employers buy a group life insurance policy with the condition that a portion of the risk is reinsured back to a captive insurer sponsored by the client.
Risk-sharing agreements: through these programs, clients require that we reinsure a portion of the risk back to third parties, such as minority-owned reinsurers.
Multinational pooling: through these agreements, employers buy many group insurance policies which are aggregated in a single insurer via reinsurance.
The risks ceded under these agreements are generally quota shares of group life and disability policies. The cessions vary from 50% to 90% of all the risks of the policies.
For our RIS business, we have periodically engaged in reinsurance activities on an opportunistic basis. There were no such transactions during the periods presented. In April 1996 and December 1997, the Company entered into two long-term transactions representing approximately $1.5 billion of reserve transfers on structured settlement policies. Through these transactions, 100% of certain risks were transferred, such as payments contingent upon the beneficiary living at the time payment is owed, beginning in 2019 for certain policies, and non-contingent payments guaranteed for a certain minimum number of years, for other policies.
For our life products, we have historically reinsured the mortality risk primarily on an excess of retention basis or on a quota share basis. In addition to reinsuring mortality risk as described above, we reinsure other risks, as well as specific coverages. Placement of reinsurance is done primarily on an automatic basis and also on a facultative basis for risks with specified characteristics.
We have exposure to catastrophes which could contribute to significant fluctuations in our results of operations. We purchase catastrophe coverage to reinsure risks issued within territories that we believe are subject to the greatest catastrophic risks. We use excess of retention and quota share reinsurance agreements to provide greater diversification of risk and minimize exposure to larger risks. Excess of retention reinsurance agreements provide for a portion of a risk to remain with the direct writing company and quota share reinsurance agreements provide for the direct writing company to transfer a fixed percentage of all risks of a class of policies.
For information regarding ceded reinsurance recoverable balances, included in premiums, reinsurance and other receivables on the consolidated balance sheets, see Note 6 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements.
The U.S. insurance industry is regulated primarily at the state level by state insurance regulators, with some products and services also subject to federal regulation. We are also subject to regulation under the insurance holding company laws of New York. Furthermore, some of our operations, products and services are subject to consumer protection laws, securities regulation, environmental and unclaimed property laws and regulations, and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”).
We expect the scope and extent of regulation and regulatory oversight generally to continue to increase. The regulatory environment and changes in laws in the jurisdictions in which we operate could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations.
Insurance regulation generally aims at supervising and regulating insurers, with the goal of protecting policyholders and ensuring that insurance companies remain solvent. Insurance regulators have increasingly sought information about the potential impact of activities in holding company systems as a whole, and some jurisdictions have adopted laws and regulations enhancing “group-wide” supervision, including as developed through the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ (“NAIC”) Solvency Modernization Initiative. See “— NAIC” for information regarding group-wide supervision.
Metropolitan Life Insurance Company has all material licenses to transact its business in, and is subject to regulation and supervision by, all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Northern Mariana Islands. The extent of such regulation varies, but most jurisdictions have laws and regulations governing the financial aspects and business conduct of insurers. State laws in the United States grant insurance regulatory authorities broad administrative powers with respect to, among other things:
licensing companies and agents to transact business;
calculating the value of assets to determine compliance with statutory requirements;
mandating certain insurance benefits;
regulating certain premium rates;
reviewing and approving certain policy forms, including required policyholder disclosures;
regulating unfair trade and claims practices, including through the imposition of restrictions on marketing and sales practices, distribution arrangements and payment of inducements, and identifying and paying to the states or local authorities benefits and other property that is not claimed by the owners;
establishing statutory capital and reserve requirements and solvency standards;
specifying the conditions under which a ceding company can take credit for reinsurance in its statutory financial statements (i.e., reduce its reserves by the amount of reserves ceded to a reinsurer);
fixing maximum interest rates on insurance policy loans and minimum rates for guaranteed crediting rates on life insurance policies and annuity contracts;
adopting and enforcing suitability standards with respect to the sale of annuities and other insurance products;
approving changes in control of insurance companies;
restricting the payment of dividends and other transactions between affiliates; and
regulating the types and amounts of investments.
We are required to file reports, generally including detailed annual financial statements, with insurance regulatory authorities in each of the jurisdictions in which we do business, and our operations and accounts are subject to periodic examination by such authorities. We 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 we operate.
Insurance and securities regulatory authorities and other law enforcement agencies and attorneys general from time to time make inquiries regarding our compliance 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.
Although the insurance business in the United States is primarily regulated by the states, federal initiatives often have an impact on our business in a variety of ways. From time to time, federal measures are proposed that may significantly affect the insurance business.
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd-Frank”) effected the most far-reaching overhaul of financial regulation in the United States in decades, including the creation of the Financial Stability Oversight Council, which was given the authority to designate certain financial companies as non-bank systemically important financial institutions subject to supervision by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (“Federal Reserve Board”) and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (collectively with the Federal Reserve Board, the “Federal Reserve”). We are not able to predict with certainty whether or what changes may be made to Dodd-Frank in the future or whether such changes would have a material effect on our business operations. As such, we cannot currently identify all of the risks or opportunities, if any, that may be posed to our businesses as a result of changes to, or legislative replacements for, Dodd-Frank.
Dodd-Frank includes provisions that may impact our investments and investment activities, including the federal regulation of such activities. Until the various final regulations are promulgated pursuant to Dodd-Frank, and perhaps for some time thereafter, the full impact of Dodd-Frank on such activities will remain unclear.
Guaranty Associations and Similar Arrangements
Many jurisdictions in which we are admitted to transact business require life and health insurers doing business within the jurisdiction to participate in guaranty associations or similar arrangements in order to pay certain contractual insurance benefits owed pursuant to insurance policies issued by impaired, insolvent or failed insurers, or those that may become impaired, insolvent or fail. We have established liabilities for guaranty fund assessments that we consider adequate. See Note 16 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information on the guaranty association assessments.
Insurance Regulatory Examinations and Other Activities
As part of their regulatory oversight process, U.S. 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. Except as otherwise disclosed below regarding the consent order and in Note 16 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements, during the years ended December 31, 2018, 2017 and 2016, we did not receive any material adverse findings resulting from state insurance department examinations of its insurance subsidiaries. On October 15, 2018, MetLife received notice that insurance regulators for the states of Pennsylvania, California, Florida, North Dakota and New Hampshire have scheduled a multistate market conduct re-examination of MetLife and its affiliates relating to compliance with the Regulatory Settlement Agreement on unclaimed proceeds. On January 28, 2019, MetLife entered into a consent order with the New York State Department of Financial Services (“NYDFS”) relating to the open quinquennial exam and agreed to pay a $19.75 million fine, an additional $1.5 million in customer restitution and submit remediation plans for approval within 60 days.
Regulatory authorities in a number of states, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and, occasionally, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) have had investigations or inquiries relating to sales of individual life insurance policies or annuities or other products issued by Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. These investigations often focus on the conduct of particular financial services representatives, the sale of unregistered or unsuitable products, or misuse of client assets. Over the past several years, these and a number of investigations by other regulatory authorities were resolved for monetary payments and certain other relief, including restitution payments. We may continue to receive, and may resolve, further investigations and actions on these matters in a similar manner.
Insurance standard-setting and regulatory support organizations, including the NAIC, encourage insurance supervisors to establish Supervisory Colleges for U.S.-based insurance groups with international operations to facilitate cooperation and coordination among the insurance groups’ supervisors and to enhance the member regulators’ understanding of an insurance group’s risk profile. MetLife’s regulators, such as the NYDFS, regularly chair Supervisory College meetings that are attended by MetLife’s key U.S. and non-U.S. regulators.
In addition, claims payment practices by insurance companies have received increased scrutiny from regulators. See Note 16 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements for further information regarding retained asset accounts and unclaimed property inquiries, including pension benefits.
Policy and Contract Reserve Adequacy Analysis
Annually, we, as well as our captive reinsurance subsidiary, are required to conduct an analysis of the adequacy of all statutory reserves. In each case, a qualified actuary must submit an opinion that states that the statutory reserves make adequate provision, according to accepted actuarial standards of practice, for the anticipated cash flows required by the contractual obligations and related expenses of the insurance company. The adequacy of the statutory reserves is considered in light of the assets held by the insurer with respect to such reserves and related actuarial items including, but not limited to, the investment earnings on such assets, and the consideration anticipated to be received and retained under the related policies and contracts. We may increase reserves in order to submit an opinion without qualification. Since the inception of this requirement, we, as well as our captive reinsurance subsidiary, have provided these opinions, as required, without qualifications.
The NAIC assists state insurance regulatory authorities in serving the public interest and achieving the insurance regulatory goals of its members, the state insurance regulatory officials. State insurance regulators may act independently or adopt regulations proposed by the NAIC. State insurance regulators and the NAIC regularly re-examine existing laws and regulations applicable to insurance companies and their products. Through the NAIC, state insurance regulators establish standards and best practices, conduct peer reviews, and coordinate their regulatory oversight. The NAIC provides standardized insurance industry accounting and reporting guidance through its Accounting Practices and Procedures Manual (the “Manual”), which states have largely adopted by regulation. However, statutory accounting principles continue to be established by individual state laws, regulations and permitted practices, which may differ from the Manual. Changes to the Manual or modifications by the various state insurance departments may impact our statutory capital and surplus.
State insurance holding company laws and regulations are generally based on the Model Holding Company Act and Regulation. These insurance holding company laws and regulations vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but generally require a controlled insurance company (i.e., 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.
The Model Holding Company Act and Regulation include a requirement that the ultimate controlling person of a U.S. insurer file an annual enterprise risk report with the lead state of the insurer identifying risks likely to have a material adverse effect upon the financial condition or liquidity of the insurer or its insurance holding company system as a whole. To date, all of the states where MetLife has domestic insurers have enacted a version of the revised Model Holding Company Act, including the enterprise risk reporting requirement. The Model Holding Company Act also authorizes state insurance commissioners to act as global group-wide supervisors for internationally active insurance groups, as well as other insurers that choose to opt in for the group-wide supervision. The Model Holding Company Act creates a selection process for the group-wide supervisor, extends confidentiality protection to communications with the group-wide supervisor, and outlines the duties of the group-wide supervisor. To date, a number of jurisdictions have adopted laws and regulations enhancing group-wide supervision.
The NAIC has concluded its “Solvency Modernization Initiative,” which was designed to review the U.S. financial regulatory system and all aspects of financial regulation affecting insurance companies. Though broad in scope, the NAIC’s Solvency Modernization Initiative focused on: (i) capital requirements; (ii) corporate governance and risk management; (iii) group supervision; (iv) statutory accounting and financial reporting; and (v) reinsurance. In furtherance of this initiative, the NAIC adopted the Corporate Governance Annual Disclosure Model Act and Regulation. The model act, which requires insurers to make an annual confidential filing regarding their corporate governance policies, has been adopted in twenty-seven states as of February 2019, including certain of our insurance subsidiaries’ domiciliary states. In addition, the NAIC adopted the Risk Management and Own Risk and Solvency Assessment Model Act (“ORSA Model Act”), which has been enacted by New York, our domiciliary state. The ORSA Model Act requires that insurers maintain a risk management framework and conduct an internal own risk and solvency assessment of the insurer’s material risks in normal and stressed environments. The assessment must be documented in a confidential annual summary report, a copy of which must be made available to regulators as required or upon request. MetLife, Inc. has submitted on behalf of the enterprise an Own Risk and Solvency Assessment summary report to the NYDFS annually since this requirement became effective.
The NAIC has approved a new valuation manual containing a principle-based approach to the calculation of life insurance reserves. Principle-based reserving is designed to better address reserving for products, including the current generation of products for which the current formulaic basis for reserve determination does not work effectively. The principle-based approach became effective on January 1, 2017 in the states where it had been adopted, to be followed by a three-year phase-in period (at the option of insurance companies on a product-by-product basis) for new business since it was enacted into law by the required number of state legislatures. New York has enacted legislation which will allow principle-based reserving no later than January 1, 2020. New York’s implementing regulation establishes that the reserving standard in New York will be consistent with the reserve standards, valuation methods and related requirements of the NAIC Valuation Manual (the “Valuation Manual”), while also authorizing the NYDFS to deviate from the Valuation Manual, by regulation, if it determines that an alternative requirement would be in the best interest of the policyholders of New York.
In 2015, the NAIC commenced an initiative to study variable annuity solvency regulations, with the goal of curtailing the use of variable annuity captives. In connection with this initiative, the NAIC engaged a third-party consultant to develop recommendations regarding reserve and capital requirements. Following several public exposures of the consultant’s recommendations, the NAIC adopted a new variable annuity framework, which is designed to reduce the level and volatility of the non-economic aspect of reserve and risk-based capital (“RBC”) requirements for variable annuity products. The NAIC is now preparing technical language to be included in various NAIC manuals and guidelines to implement the new framework. We cannot predict the impact of this framework on our business until such technical requirements of the framework are completed, and we cannot predict whether the NYDFS or other state insurance regulators will adopt standards different from the NAIC framework.
In August 2017, the NAIC released a paper on macro-prudential initiatives, in which they proposed potential enhancements in supervisory practices related to liquidity, recovery and resolution, capital stress testing and exposure concentrations. The NAIC has adopted extensive changes to Statutory Annual Statement reporting, effective for year-end 2019, which it believes will improve liquidity risk monitoring.
We currently utilize capital markets solutions to finance a portion of our statutory reserve requirements for several products, including, but not limited to, our level premium term life subject to the NAIC Model Regulation Valuation of Life Insurance Policies (commonly referred to as XXX), and universal and variable life policies with secondary guarantees subject to NAIC Actuarial Guideline 38 (commonly referred to as AXXX), as well as our closed block. Future capacity for these statutory reserve funding structures in the marketplace is not guaranteed. In 2014, the NAIC approved a new regulatory framework applicable to the use of captive insurers in connection with Regulation XXX and Guideline AXXX transactions. Among other things, the framework called for more disclosure of an insurer’s use of captives in its statutory financial statements, and narrows the types of assets permitted to back statutory reserves that are required to support the insurer’s future obligations. In 2014, the NAIC implemented the framework through an actuarial guideline (“AG 48”), which requires the actuary of the ceding insurer that opines on the insurer’s reserves to issue a qualified opinion if the framework is not followed. The requirements of AG 48 became effective as of January 1, 2015 in all states without any further action necessary by state legislatures or insurance regulators to implement them, and apply prospectively to new policies issued and new reinsurance transactions entered into on or after January 1, 2015. In late 2016, the NAIC adopted an update to AG 48 and a model regulation that contains the same substantive requirements as the updated AG 48. The states have started to adopt the model regulation.
We cannot predict the capital and reserve impacts or compliance costs, if any, that may result from the above initiatives, or what impact these initiatives will have on our business, financial condition or results of operations.
Surplus and Capital
Insurers are required to maintain their capital and surplus at or above minimum levels. Regulators generally have discretionary authority, in connection with the continued licensing of an insurer, to limit or prohibit the insurer’s 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.
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. Dividends in excess of prescribed limits and transactions above a specified size between an insurer and its affiliates require the approval of the insurance regulator in the insurer’s state of domicile. See “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations — Liquidity and Capital Resources — Capital — Statutory Capital and Dividends.” See also “Dividend Restrictions” in Note 12 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements for further information regarding such limitations.
Metropolitan Life Insurance Company is subject to RBC requirements that were developed by the NAIC and adopted by New York. RBC is based on a formula calculated by applying factors to various asset, premium, claim, expense and statutory reserve items. The formula takes into account the risk characteristics of the insurer and is calculated on an annual basis. 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 total adjusted capital does not meet or exceed certain RBC levels. See “Statutory Equity and Income” in Note 12 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements and “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations — Liquidity and Capital Resources — Capital — Statutory Capital and Dividends.”
In December 2017, President Trump signed into law H.R.1, commonly referred to as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (“U.S. Tax Reform”). Following the reduction in the federal corporate income tax rate pursuant to U.S. Tax Reform, the NAIC adopted revisions to certain factors used to calculate Life RBC, which is the denominator of the RBC ratio. These revisions to the NAIC’s Life RBC calculation have resulted in increases in RBC charges and a reduction in our RBC ratio. The NAIC is also studying RBC revisions for bonds, real estate, and longevity risk, but it is premature to project the impact of any potential regulatory changes resulting from such proposals.
The NAIC is continuing to develop a group capital calculation tool using an RBC aggregation methodology for all entities within the insurance holding company system, including non-U.S. entities. The goal is to provide U.S. regulators with a method to aggregate the available capital and the minimum capital of each entity in a group in a way that applies to all groups regardless of their structure. The NAIC expects to conduct field testing in the first half of 2019. The NAIC has stated that the calculation will be a regulatory tool and will not constitute a requirement or standard. Nonetheless, any new group capital calculation methodology may incorporate existing RBC concepts. It is not possible to predict what impact any such regulatory tool may have on our business.
With the exception of changes related to the NAIC’s principle-based reserving framework, discussed above under “— NAIC,” we are not aware of any upcoming NAIC adoptions or state insurance department regulation changes that would have a material impact on the RBC ratio of Metropolitan Life Insurance Company.
Metropolitan Life Insurance Company is subject to state laws and regulations that require diversification of investment portfolios and limit the amount of investments that an insurer may have in certain asset categories, such as below investment grade fixed income securities, real estate equity, 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 Metropolitan Life Insurance Company complied, in all material respects, with such regulations at December 31, 2018.
New York Insurance Regulation 210
Insurance Regulation 210 went into effect in New York on March 19, 2018. Insurance Regulation 210 establishes standards for the determination and any readjustment of non-guaranteed elements (“NGEs”) that may vary at the insurer's discretion for life insurance policies and annuity contracts delivered or issued for delivery in New York. Examples of NGEs include cost of insurance for universal life insurance policies, as well as interest crediting rates for annuities and universal life insurance policies. The regulation requires insurers to notify policyholders at least 60 days in advance of any change in NGEs that is adverse to policyholders and, with respect to life insurance, to notify the NYDFS at least 120 days prior to any such changes. Additionally, the regulation requires insurers to file annually with NYDFS to inform the NYDFS of any changes adverse to policyholders made in the prior year. The regulation generally prohibits insurers from increasing profit margins for in-force policies or adjusting NGEs in order to recoup past losses.
Cybersecurity and Privacy Regulation
Pursuant to U.S. federal and state laws, and laws of other jurisdictions in which we operate, various government agencies have established rules protecting the privacy and security of personal information. In addition, most U.S. states have enacted laws, which vary significantly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, to safeguard the privacy and security of personal information. The area of cybersecurity has also come under increased scrutiny by insurance and other regulators.
New York’s cybersecurity regulation for financial services institutions, including banking and insurance entities under its jurisdiction, requires these entities to establish and maintain a cybersecurity program designed to protect consumers’ private data. The regulation specifically provides for: (i) controls relating to the governance framework for a cybersecurity program; (ii) risk-based minimum standards for technology systems for data protection; (iii) minimum standards for cyber breach responses, including notice to NYDFS of material events; and (iv) identification and documentation of material deficiencies, remediation plans and annual certifications of regulatory compliance to the NYDFS.
In addition, on October 24, 2017, the NAIC adopted the Insurance Data Security Model Law (the “Cybersecurity Model Law”), which establishes standards for data security and for the investigation of and notification of insurance commissioners of cybersecurity events involving unauthorized access to, or the misuse of, certain nonpublic information. To date, the Cybersecurity Model Law has only been adopted by South Carolina. As adopted by South Carolina, and if adopted as state legislation elsewhere, the Cybersecurity Model Law would impose significant new regulatory burdens intended to protect the confidentiality, integrity and availability of information systems. A drafting note in the Cybersecurity Model Law states that a licensee’s compliance with the New York cybersecurity regulation is intended to constitute compliance with the Cybersecurity Model Law.
The California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (the “CCPA”) grants all California residents the right to know what information a business has collected from them and the sourcing and sharing of that information, as well as a right to have a business delete their personal information (with some exceptions). Its definition of “personal information” is more expansive than those found in other privacy laws applicable to us in the United States. Failure to comply with the CCPA could result in regulatory fines, and the law grants a private right of action for any unauthorized disclosure of personal information as a result of failure to maintain reasonable security procedures. We expect that exceptions to the CCPA will apply to a significant portion of our business. The CCPA is expected to become operational on January 1, 2020, but California’s Attorney General is expected to delay enforcement actions until six months after a final regulation is promulgated or July 1, 2020, whichever is sooner.
ERISA and Fiduciary Considerations
We provide products and services to certain employee benefit plans that are subject to ERISA and 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 that fiduciaries may not cause a covered plan to engage in certain prohibited transactions. The applicable provisions of ERISA and the Code are subject to enforcement by the Department of Labor (“DOL”), the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.
The prohibited transaction rules of ERISA and the Code generally restrict the provision of investment advice to ERISA plans and participants and Individual Retirement Accounts (“IRAs”) if the investment recommendation results in fees paid to an individual advisor, the firm that employs the advisor or their affiliates that vary according to the investment recommendation chosen, unless an exemption or exception is available. Similarly, without an exemption or exception, fiduciary advisors are prohibited from receiving compensation from third parties in connection with their advice. ERISA also affects certain of our in-force insurance policies and annuity contracts, as well as insurance policies and annuity contracts we may sell in the future.
The DOL issued regulations that largely were applicable in 2017 that expanded the definition of “investment advice” and required an advisor to meet an impartial or “best interests” standard, but the regulations were formally vacated by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in 2018. The Court of Appeals decision also vacated certain DOL amendments to prohibited transaction exemptions. The DOL has announced that it plans to issue revised fiduciary investment advice regulations in September 2019. At this time, we cannot predict what form those regulations may take or their potential impact on us.
Separately, on April 18, 2018, the SEC proposed and opened for public comment a package of the rule proposals and interpretations regarding Regulation Best Interest, which would require broker-dealers to act in the best interest of “retail” customers including participants in ERISA-covered plans and IRAs when making a recommendation of any securities transaction or investment strategy involving securities. The comment period for these proposals has closed. We cannot predict the timing of any final rules or interpretations.
On December 14, 2017, the DOL released its semiannual regulatory agenda, which proposed revisions to Form 5500, the form used for ERISA annual reporting, proposed jointly with the IRS and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation in 2016. The revisions affect employee pension and welfare benefit plans, including our ERISA plans, and require audits of information, self-directed brokerage account disclosure and additional extensive disclosure. We cannot predict the effect these proposals will have on our business, if enacted, or what other proposals may be made, what legislation may be introduced or enacted, or what impact any such legislation may have on our results of operations and financial condition.
In addition, the DOL has issued a number of regulations that increase the level of disclosure that must be provided to plan sponsors and participants. The participant disclosure regulations and the regulations that require service providers to disclose fee and other information to plan sponsors took effect in 2012. 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 insurer’s 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 days’ notice and receive without penalty, at the policyholder’s 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.
Several other regulatory organizations have also proposed various “best interest” standards. The NAIC has been discussing proposed revisions to the Suitability in Annuity Transactions Model Regulation throughout 2018. The revisions are intended to elevate the standard of care in existing suitability standards for the sale of annuities and to make consumers aware of any material conflicts of interest. A further updated draft of the Suitability in Annuity Transactions Model Regulation was exposed for public comment through mid-February 2019. The NAIC intends to finalize the revisions to the Suitability in Annuity Transactions Model Regulation in 2019. In addition, on December 27, 2017, the NYDFS proposed initial revisions to Insurance Regulation 187, which not only incorporate the “best interest” standard but also would expand the scope of the regulation beyond annuity transactions to include sales of life insurance policies to consumers. On July 22, 2018, the NYDFS issued the final version of revised Insurance Regulation 187, which takes effect on August 1, 2019 for annuity products and on February 1, 2020 for life insurance products.
Dodd-Frank includes a framework of regulation of the over-the-counter (“OTC”) derivatives markets which requires clearing of certain types of transactions currently traded OTC and which imposes additional costs, including reporting and margin requirements. Our costs of risk mitigation are increasing under Dodd-Frank. For example, Dodd-Frank imposes requirements to pledge variation and/or initial margin (i) for “OTC-cleared” transactions (OTC derivatives that are cleared and settled through central clearing counterparties), and (ii) for “OTC-bilateral” transactions (OTC derivatives that are bilateral contracts between two counterparties); the margin requirements for OTC-cleared transactions and the variation margin requirements for OTC-bilateral derivatives are already in effect, while the initial margin requirements for OTC-bilateral transactions will likely be applicable to us in September 2020. These increased margin requirements, combined with increased capital charges for our counterparties and central clearinghouses with respect to non-cash collateral, will likely require increased holdings of cash and highly liquid securities with lower yields causing a reduction in income and less favorable pricing for OTC-cleared and OTC-bilateral transactions. Centralized clearing of certain OTC derivatives exposes us to the risk of a default by a clearing member or clearinghouse with respect to our cleared derivative transactions. We use derivatives to mitigate a wide range of risks in connection with our businesses, including the impact of increased benefit exposures from certain of our annuity products that offer guaranteed benefits. We have always been subject to the risk that hedging and other management procedures might prove ineffective in reducing the risks to which insurance policies expose us or that unanticipated policyholder behavior or mortality, combined with adverse market events, could produce economic losses beyond the scope of the risk management techniques employed. Any such losses could be increased by higher costs of writing derivatives (including customized derivatives) and the reduced availability of customized derivatives that might result from the implementation of Dodd-Frank and comparable international derivatives regulations.
Dodd-Frank also expanded the definition of “swap” and mandated the SEC and U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) to study whether “stable value contracts” should be treated as swaps. Pursuant to the new definition and the SEC’s and CFTC’s interpretive regulations, products offered by our insurance subsidiaries other than stable value contracts might also be treated as swaps, even though we believe otherwise. Should such products become regulated as swaps, we cannot predict how the rules would be applied to them or the effect on such products’ profitability or attractiveness to our clients. Federal banking regulators have recently adopted new rules that will apply to certain qualified financial contracts, including many derivatives contracts, securities lending agreements and repurchase agreements, with certain banking institutions and certain of their affiliates. These new rules, which went into effect on January 1, 2019, will generally require the banking institutions and their applicable affiliates to include contractual provisions in their qualified financial contracts that limit or delay certain rights of their counterparties including counterparties’ default rights (such as the right to terminate the contracts or foreclose on collateral) and restrictions on assignments and transfers of credit enhancements (such as guarantees) arising in connection with the banking institution or an applicable affiliate becoming subject to a bankruptcy, insolvency, resolution or similar proceeding. To the extent that any of the derivatives, securities lending agreements or repurchase agreements that we enter into are subject to these new rules, it could limit our recovery in the event of a default and increase our counterparty risk.
The amount of collateral we are required to pledge and the payments we are required to make under our derivatives transactions are expected to increase as a result of the requirement to pledge initial margin for OTC-cleared transactions and for OTC-bilateral transactions entered into after the phase-in period, which will likely be applicable to us in September 2020 as a result of adoption by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (“OCC”), the Federal Reserve Board, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (“FDIC”), the Farm Credit Administration and the Federal Housing Finance Agency (collectively, the “Prudential Regulators”) and the CFTC of final margin requirements for non-centrally cleared derivatives.
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 well as certain fixed interest rate or index-linked contracts with features that require them to be registered as securities (such as “registered fixed contracts”) or sold through private placement issuances. As a result, some of our activities in offering and selling variable insurance contracts and policies are subject to extensive regulation under these securities laws.
Federal and state securities laws and regulations generally grant regulatory agencies broad rulemaking and enforcement powers, including the power to adopt new rules impacting new or existing products, regulate the issuance, sale and distribution of our products and limit or restrict the conduct of business for failure to comply with such laws and regulations.
Some of our activities in offering and selling variable insurance products and certain fixed interest rate or index-linked contracts are subject to extensive regulation under the federal securities laws and regulations administered by the SEC. We 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 (the “Investment Company Act”) or are exempt from registration under the Investment Company Act. Such separate accounts are 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 associated with these registered separate accounts are registered with the SEC under the Securities Act of 1933 (the “Securities Act”) or are exempt from registration under the Securities Act. We also issue fixed interest rate or index-linked contracts with features that require them to be registered as securities under the Securities Act.
Federal and state securities regulatory authorities from time to time make inquiries and conduct examinations regarding our compliance with securities laws and regulations. We cooperate with such inquiries and examinations and take corrective action when warranted.
Environmental Laws and Regulations
As an owner and operator of real property in many jurisdictions, we are subject to extensive environmental laws and regulations in such jurisdictions. 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.
We are subject to the laws and regulations of states and other jurisdictions concerning identification, reporting and escheatment of unclaimed or abandoned funds, and are subject to audit and examination for compliance with these requirements. See “—Insurance Regulation — Insurance Regulatory Examinations and Other Activities” for discussion of the Regulatory Settlement Agreement relating to unclaimed proceeds. See also “Controls and Procedures” and Note 16 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements.
If the U.S. Congress does not approve annual appropriations or otherwise extend appropriations by continuing resolution, many federal government agencies must discontinue most non-essential, discretionary functions, known as a “partial government shutdown.” Most recently, the U.S. government operated under a partial shutdown from December 22, 2018 to January 25, 2019. During a partial government shutdown, financial markets, including the government bond market, continue to function. If the SEC is shut down, although certain SEC functions continue, the SEC may not process new or pending registration statements, qualifications of new or pending offering statements or applications for exemptive relief, which could disrupt or delay new public bond issuances. The partial shutdown of certain other federal agencies could also delay or otherwise impact certain transactions or projects. An extended partial government shutdown could also negatively impact capital markets and economic conditions generally.
Insurer financial strength ratings represent the opinions of rating agencies, including A.M. Best Company (“A.M. Best”), Fitch Ratings (“Fitch”), Moody’s Investors Service (“Moody’s”) and Standard & Poor’s Global Ratings (“S&P”), regarding the ability of an insurance company to meet its financial obligations to policyholders and contractholders.
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, acquisitions, dispositions or material changes in a company’s results, in order for the rating agency to perform its analysis to fully determine the rating implications of the event.
Insurer Financial Strength Ratings
The following insurer financial strength ratings represent each rating agency’s opinion of Metropolitan Life Insurance Company’s 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 securities of Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. Insurer financial strength ratings are not 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.
Our insurer financial strength ratings at the date of this filing are indicated in the following table. Outlook is stable unless otherwise indicated. Additional information about financial strength ratings can be found on the websites of the respective rating agencies.
“A++ (superior)” to “S (suspended)”
“AAA (exceptionally strong)” to “C (distressed)”
“Aaa (highest quality)” to “C (lowest rated)”
“AAA (extremely strong)” to “SD (Selective Default)” or “D (Default)”
Metropolitan Life Insurance Company
2nd of 16
4th of 19
4th of 21
4th of 22
See “Risk Factors — Economic Environment and Capital Markets Risks — A Downgrade or a Potential Downgrade in Our Financial Strength or Credit Ratings or MetLife, Inc.’s Credit Ratings Could Result in a Loss of Business and Materially Adversely Affect Our Financial Condition and Results of Operations.” See also “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations — Liquidity and Capital Resources — Capital — Rating Agencies” for an in-depth description of the impact of a ratings downgrade.
Difficult Economic Conditions May Adversely Affect Our Business, Results of Operations and Financial Condition
Stressed conditions, volatility and disruptions in financial asset classes or various markets can have an adverse effect on us, in part because we have a large investment portfolio and our insurance liabilities are sensitive to changing market factors. Global market factors, including interest rates, credit spreads, equity prices, derivative prices and availability, real estate markets, consumer spending, business investment, government spending, the volatility and strength of the capital markets, and deflation and inflation, and government actions taken in response to any of these factors, could all adversely affect our financial condition (including our liquidity and capital levels), our business operations and our ability to meet our obligations, by virtue of their impact on levels of economic activity, employment, customer behavior, or mismatched impacts on the value of our assets and our liabilities. Such factors could also have a material adverse effect on our results of operations, financial condition, liquidity or cash flows through realized investment losses, derivative losses, changes in insurance liabilities, impairments, increased valuation allowances, increases in reserves for future policyholder benefits, reduced net investment income and changes in unrealized gain or loss positions.
Sustained periods of low interest rates and risk asset returns could reduce income from our investment portfolio, increase our liabilities for claims and future benefits, and increase the cost of risk transfer measures such as hedging, causing our profit margins to erode as a result of reduced income from our investment portfolio and increase in insurance liabilities. In the event of extreme prolonged market events, such as a global credit crisis, a market downturn, or sustained low market returns, we could incur significant capital or operating losses due to, among other reasons, losses incurred in our general account and as a result of the impact on us of guarantees, including increases in liabilities, capital maintenance obligations and collateral requirements associated with our affiliated reinsurers and other similar arrangements. Any of these events could also impair our financial strength ratings.
See “Business — Regulation.”
Interest Rate Risk
Some of our products, principally traditional life, universal life, fixed annuities, GICs, funding agreements and structured settlements, expose us to the risk that changes in interest rates, including reductions in the difference between short-term and long-term interest rates, could reduce our investment margin or “spread,” which could in turn reduce our net income.
In a low interest rate environment, we may be forced to reinvest proceeds from investments that have matured or have been prepaid or sold at lower yields, which could reduce our investment spread. Moreover, borrowers may prepay or redeem the fixed income securities and commercial, agricultural or residential mortgage loans in our investment portfolio with greater frequency in order to borrow at lower market rates, thereby exacerbating this risk. Although lowering interest crediting rates can help offset decreases in spreads on some products, our ability to lower these rates is limited to the portion of our in-force product portfolio that has adjustable interest crediting rates, and 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, which could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and financial condition.
Significantly lower spreads may cause us to accelerate amortization, thereby reducing net income and potentially negatively affecting our credit instrument covenants or rating agency assessment of our financial condition. In addition, during periods of declining interest rates, life insurance and annuity products may be relatively more attractive investments to consumers. This could result in increased premium payments on products with flexible premium features, repayment of policy loans and increased persistency 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. During periods of sustained lower interest rates, our reserves for policy liabilities may not be sufficient to meet future policy obligations and may need to be strengthened. Accordingly, declining and sustained lower interest rates may materially affect our results of operations, financial position and cash flows, and may significantly reduce our profitability.
Increases in 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 our general account with higher yielding investments needed to fund the higher crediting rates necessary to keep interest rate 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 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 interest rates, which may result in realized investment losses. Unanticipated withdrawals, terminations and substantial policy amendments may cause us to accelerate the amortization of deferred policy acquisition costs (“DAC”) and value of business acquired (“VOBA”), which reduces net income and potentially negatively affects our credit instrument covenants and rating agency assessment of our financial condition. Furthermore, if interest rates rise, our unrealized gains on fixed income securities would decrease and our unrealized losses would increase, perhaps substantially. The accumulated change in estimated fair value of these fixed income securities would be recognized in net income when a gain or loss is realized upon the sale of the security or if the decline in estimated fair value is determined to be other than temporary and an impairment charge to earnings is taken. Finally, 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.
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 interest rate sensitive liabilities. For some of our liability portfolios, it is not possible to invest assets to the full liability duration, thereby creating some asset/liability mismatch. In addition, asymmetrical and non-economic accounting may cause material changes to our net income and stockholders’ equity in any given period because our nonqualified derivatives are recorded at fair value through earnings, while the related hedged items either follow an accrual-based accounting model, such as insurance liabilities, or are recorded at fair value through other comprehensive income.
Regulators, law enforcement agencies, or the ICE Benchmark Association (the current administrator of LIBOR) may take actions resulting in changes to the way LIBOR is determined, the discontinuance of reliance on LIBOR as a benchmark rate or the establishment of alternative reference rates. The U.K. Financial Conduct Authority has announced that it intends to stop persuading or compelling banks to submit LIBOR rates after 2021. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York has begun publishing a Secured Overnight Financing Rate (“SOFR”), which is intended to replace U.S. dollar LIBOR, and central banks in several other jurisdictions have also announced plans for alternative reference rates for other currencies. At this time, we cannot predict how markets will respond to these new rates, and we cannot predict the effect of any changes to or discontinuation of LIBOR on new or existing financial instruments to which we have exposure. Any changes to or discontinuation of LIBOR may have an adverse effect on interest rates on certain derivatives and floating-rate securities we hold, securities we have issued, or other assets or liabilities whose value is tied to LIBOR or to a LIBOR alternative. Any uncertainty regarding the continued use and reliability of LIBOR could adversely affect the value of such instruments. Furthermore, changes to or the discontinuation of LIBOR may impact other aspects of our business, including products, pricing, and models. Any change to or discontinuation of similar benchmark rates besides LIBOR could have similar effects.
“Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations — Investments — Current Environment;”
“Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations — Investments — Fixed Maturity Securities AFS and Equity Securities;” and
Note 9 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements.
Credit Spread Risk
Changes in credit spreads may result in market price volatility and cash flow variability. Market price volatility can make it difficult to value certain of our securities if trading becomes less frequent. In such case, valuations may include assumptions or estimates that may have significant period-to-period changes, which could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations or financial condition and may require additional reserves. Significant volatility in the markets could cause changes in credit spreads and defaults and a lack of pricing transparency, which could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations, financial condition, liquidity or cash flows. An increase in credit spreads relative to U.S. Treasury benchmarks can also adversely affect the cost of our borrowing should we need to access credit markets.
See “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations — Investments — Investment Risks.”
Downturns and volatility in equity markets can have a material adverse effect on the revenues and investment returns from our savings and investment products and services, where fee income is earned based upon the estimated fair value of the assets that we manage. The variable annuity business in particular is highly sensitive to equity markets, and a sustained weakness or stagnation in the equity markets could decrease revenues and earnings with respect to those products. Furthermore, certain of our variable annuity products offer guaranteed benefits that increase our potential benefit exposure should equity markets decline or stagnate.
The timing of distributions from and valuations of leveraged buy-out funds, hedge funds and other private equity funds in which we invest can be difficult to predict and depends on the performance of the underlying investments, the funds’ schedules for making distributions, and their needs for cash. As a result, the amount of net investment income from these investments can vary substantially from period to period. Significant volatility could adversely impact returns and net investment income on these alternative investment classes. In addition, the estimated fair value of such alternative investments or equity securities we hold may be adversely impacted by downturns or volatility in equity markets.
See “Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk.”
Real Estate Risk
Our investments in commercial, agricultural and residential mortgage loans, and our investments in real estate and real estate joint ventures, can be adversely affected by changes in the supply and demand of leasable commercial space, creditworthiness of tenants and partners, capital markets volatility, interest rate fluctuations, commodity prices, farm incomes and housing and commercial property market conditions. These factors, which are beyond our control, could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations, financial condition, liquidity or cash flows.
Obligor and Counterparty Risk
The issuers or guarantors of fixed income securities and mortgage loans we own may default on principal and interest payments they owe us. Additionally, the underlying collateral within asset-backed securities, including mortgage-backed securities, may default on principal and interest payments causing an adverse change in cash flows. The occurrence of a major economic downturn, acts of corporate malfeasance, widening credit spreads, or other events that adversely affect the issuers, guarantors or underlying collateral of these securities and mortgage loans could cause the estimated fair value of our portfolio of fixed income securities and mortgage loans and our earnings to decline and the default rate of the fixed income securities and mortgage loans in our investment portfolio to increase. U.S. states, municipalities may face budget deficits and other financial difficulties, which could have an adverse impact on the value of securities we hold issued by and political subdivisions or under the auspices of such U.S. states, municipalities and political subdivisions.
Many of our transactions with counterparties such as brokers and dealers, central clearinghouses, commercial banks, investment banks, hedge funds and investment funds and other financial institutions expose us to the risk of counterparty default. Such credit risk may be exacerbated if we cannot realize the collateral held by us in secured transactions or cannot liquidate such collateral at prices sufficient to recover the full amount of the loan or derivative exposure due to us. Furthermore, potential action by governments and regulatory bodies, such as investment, nationalization, conservatorship, receivership and other intervention, whether under existing legal authority or any new authority that may be created, or lack of action by governments and central banks, as well as deterioration in the banks’ credit standing, could negatively impact these instruments, securities, transactions and investments or limit our ability to trade with them. Any such losses or impairments to the carrying value of these investments or other changes may materially and adversely affect our business and results of operations.
If our counterparties, clearing brokers or central clearinghouses fail or refuse to honor their obligations under our derivatives, our hedges of the related risk will be ineffective. A counterparty’s or central clearinghouse’s insolvency, inability or unwillingness to make payments under the terms of derivatives agreements or inability or unwillingness to return collateral could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations, including our liquidity. If the net estimated fair value of a derivative to which we are a party declines, we may be required to pledge collateral or make payments related to such decline. In addition, ratings downgrades or financial difficulties of derivative counterparties may require us to utilize additional capital with respect to the impacted businesses. Furthermore, the valuation of our derivatives could change based on changes to our valuation methodology or the discovery of errors in such valuation or valuation methodology.
“Business — Regulation — Derivatives Regulation” and
“Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations — Derivatives.”
Adverse Capital and Credit Market Conditions May Significantly Affect Our Ability to Meet Liquidity Needs, Our Access to Capital and Our Cost of Capital
Volatility, disruptions, or other conditions in global capital markets could also have an adverse impact on our capital, credit capacity, and liquidity. If our stress-testing indicates that such conditions could have an impact beyond expectations, or our business otherwise requires, we may have to seek additional financing, the availability and cost of which could be adversely affected by market conditions, regulatory considerations, availability of credit to our industry generally, our credit ratings and credit capacity, and the perception of our customers and lenders regarding our long- or short-term financial prospects if we incur large operating or investment losses or if the level of our business activity decreases 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 or derivatives agreements or we are required to post collateral or make payments related to specified counterparty agreements.
Without sufficient liquidity, our ability to pay claims, other operating expenses, interest on our debt and dividends on our capital stock, to maintain our securities lending activities, to replace certain maturing liabilities, and to sustain our operations and investments could be adversely affected, and our business and financial results may suffer. Disruptions, uncertainty or volatility in the capital and credit markets may also limit our access to capital needed to operate our business, most significantly in our insurance operations. Such market conditions may limit our ability to replace, in a timely manner, maturing liabilities, satisfy regulatory capital requirements, and access the capital necessary to grow our business. As a result, we may be forced to delay raising capital, issue different types of securities than we would have 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.
“Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations — Investments — Securities Lending and Repurchase Agreements” and
“Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations — Liquidity and Capital Resources — Liquidity.”
An Inability to Access Credit Facilities Could Result in a Reduction in Our Liquidity and Lead to Downgrades in MetLife, Inc.’s Credit Ratings and Our Financial Strength Ratings
MetLife, Inc.’s failure to comply with or fulfill all conditions and covenants under the unsecured credit facility (the “Credit Facility”) maintained by MetLife, Inc. and MetLife Funding, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (“MetLife Funding”), 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 Credit Facility, could restrict MetLife, Inc.’s ability to access the Credit Facility when needed. This could adversely affect our ability to meet our obligations as they come due and on MetLife, Inc.’s credit ratings and our financial strength ratings, and could thus have a material adverse effect on our liquidity, financial condition and results of operations.
“Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations — Liquidity and Capital Resources — Liquidity and Capital Sources — Global Funding Sources — Credit Facility” and
Note 11 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements.
A Downgrade or a Potential Downgrade in Our Financial Strength or Credit Ratings or MetLife, Inc.’s Credit Ratings Could Result in a Loss of Business and Materially Adversely Affect Our Financial Condition and Results of Operations
Nationally Recognized Statistical Rating Organizations (“NRSROs”) and similar entities could downgrade our financial strength ratings or credit ratings or MetLife, Inc.’s credit ratings, or lower our or MetLife, Inc.’s ratings outlooks, at any time and without notice. Such changes could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations in many ways, including:
reducing new sales of insurance products, annuities and other investment products;
impacting our ability to generate cash flows from issuances of funding agreements and other capital market products;
impacting the cost and availability of financing for MetLife, Inc. and its subsidiaries, including us;
adversely affecting our relationships with our sales force and independent sales intermediaries;
materially increasing the number or amount of policy surrenders and withdrawals by contractholders and policyholders;
requiring us to post collateral, including additional collateral under certain of our financing and derivative transactions;
requiring us to reduce prices for many of our products and services to remain competitive;
providing termination rights for the benefit of our derivative instrument counterparties;
adversely affecting our ability to obtain reinsurance at reasonable prices or at all;
limiting our access to the capital markets;
increasing the cost of debt; and
subjecting us to increased regulatory scrutiny.
NRSROs may heighten the level of scrutiny that they apply to insurance companies, increase the frequency and scope of their credit reviews, request additional information from the companies that they rate, and adjust upward the capital and other requirements employed in the models for maintenance of certain ratings levels.
“Business — Company Ratings;”
“Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations — Liquidity and Capital Resources — Liquidity and Capital Uses — Pledged Collateral;”
“Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations — Liquidity and Capital Resources — Capital — Rating Agencies;” and
Note 9 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements.
Reinsurance May Not Be Available, Affordable or Adequate to Protect Us Against Losses
Market conditions beyond our control determine the availability and cost of reinsurance protection for new business, and 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 the policies we issue.
Because reinsurance does not relieve us of our direct liability to policyholders, a reinsurer’s insolvency, inability or unwillingness to make payments under the terms of a reinsurance agreement, or a reinsurer’s inability or unwillingness to maintain collateral, could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations, including our liquidity.
Our Businesses Are Highly Regulated, and Changes in Laws, Regulation and in Supervisory and Enforcement Policies May Reduce Our Profitability, Limit Our Growth, or Otherwise Adversely Affect Our Business, Results of Operations and Financial Condition
Our businesses are subject to a wide variety of insurance and other laws and regulations in the jurisdictions in which they operate. Authorities and regulators may take actions or make decisions, including implementing or modifying licensing, permit, or approval requirements, that may negatively affect our business. They may also take actions or make decisions that adversely affect our customers and independent sales intermediaries or their operations, which may affect our business relationships with them and their ability to purchase or distribute our products, and thus may negatively affect our business in a variety of jurisdictions. The overall regulatory environment (or changes to that environment) in the jurisdictions in which we operate, and changes in laws in those jurisdictions, could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations.
We cannot predict with any certainty the impact on our business, financial condition or results of operations of changes to legislative or administrative policies that can affect insurance, such as policies regarding financial services regulation, securities regulation, derivatives regulation, pension regulation, health care regulation, privacy, tort reform legislation and taxation, or any new legislation or regulatory changes that may be adopted. From time to time, regulators raise issues during examinations or audits that could, if determined adversely, have a material impact on us. In addition, regulators may change interpretations of regulations and legislators may enact statutes with retroactive impact, particularly in areas such as accounting or statutory reserve requirements, which may adversely affect our businesses. Further, a particular regulator or other governmental authority may interpret a law, regulation or accounting principle differently than we have, exposing us to different or additional risks. Compliance with applicable laws and regulations, including regulatory and securities filings requirements, 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. Additionally, any failure to strictly comply with regulatory or securities filing requirements, or any other legal or regulatory requirements, could harm our reputation or result in regulatory sanctions or legal claims. Changes to or failure to comply with applicable laws and regulations could thus have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
We also cannot predict with certainty the impact of rules, should they take effect, substantially expanding the definition of “investment advice” and imposing an impartial or “best interests” standard in providing such advice, thereby broadening the circumstances under which we or our representatives could be deemed a fiduciary under ERISA or the Code, or amendments to certain prohibited transaction exemptions, will have on our products and services to certain employee benefit plans that are subject to ERISA or the Code. Furthermore, we cannot predict the impact that “best interest” standards recently proposed by various regulators may have on our business, results of operations, or financial condition. Compliance with new or changed rules or legislation in this area may increase our regulatory burden and that of our independent sales intermediaries, require changes to our compensation practices and product offerings, and increase litigation risk, which could adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Changes in laws and regulations that affect our customers and independent sales intermediaries or their operations also may affect our business relationships with them and their ability to purchase or distribute our products. Such actions may negatively affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.
If our associates fail to adhere to regulatory requirements or our policies and procedures, we may be subject to penalties, restrictions or other sanctions by applicable regulators, and we may suffer reputational harm.
See “Business — Regulation,” as supplemented by discussions of regulatory developments in our subsequently filed Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q under the caption “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations — Business — Regulatory Developments.”
Changes in Tax Laws or Interpretations of Such Laws Could Materially Impact Our Operations by Increasing Our Corporate Taxes and Making Some of Our Products Less Attractive to Consumers
Changes in tax laws or interpretations of such laws could increase our corporate taxes, which may materially impact our net equity. Budget deficits make it likely that governments’ need for additional offsetting revenue will result in future tax proposals that will increase our effective tax rate or have product implications. However, it remains difficult to predict the timing and effect that future tax law changes could have on our corporate taxes. Such changes could not only directly impact our corporate taxes but also could adversely impact our products (including life insurance and retirement plans) by making some of our products less attractive to consumers. A shift away from life insurance and annuity contracts and other tax-deferred products by our customers would reduce our income from sales of these products, as well as the asset base upon which we earn investment income and fees, thereby reducing our earnings and potentially affecting the value of our deferred tax assets.
The precise impact of certain provisions of U.S. Tax Reform is still uncertain. For instance, many regulations under the new law have not been finalized or have only recently been finalized. U.S. Tax Reform thus contains provisions whose meaning is subject to differing interpretations, and future guidance may materially differ from our current interpretation.
“Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations — Overview — U.S. Tax Reform” and
Note 15 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements.
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. 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, investments, 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. 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 often be difficult to ascertain. Uncertainties can include how fact finders will evaluate documentary evidence and the credibility and effectiveness of witness 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. In addition, a court or other governmental authority may interpret a law, regulation or accounting principle differently than we have, exposing us to different or additional risks. Disposition valuations are also subject to the uncertainty of how opposing parties and their counsel will themselves view the relevant evidence and applicable law.
A substantial legal liability or a significant federal, state or other regulatory action against us, as well as regulatory inquiries or investigations, could harm our reputation, result in material fines or penalties, result in significant legal costs and otherwise have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. Even if we ultimately prevail in the litigation, regulatory action or investigation, our ability to attract new customers, retain our current customers and recruit and retain associates could be materially and adversely impacted. Regulatory inquiries and litigation may also cause volatility in the price of stocks of companies in our industry.
Current claims, litigation, unasserted claims probable of assertion, investigations and other proceedings against us could 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 arise or be commenced in the future, and we could become subject to further investigations, lawsuits, or enforcement actions. 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.
Material pending litigation and regulatory matters affecting us and risks to our business presented by these proceedings are discussed in Note 16 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements. Updates are provided in the notes to our interim condensed consolidated financial statements regarding contingencies, commitments and guarantees included in our subsequently filed Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q, as well as in Part II, Item 1 (“Legal Proceedings”) of those Quarterly Reports.
Defaults, Downgrades, Volatility or Other Events May Adversely Affect the Investments We Hold, Resulting in a Reduction in Our Net Income and Profitability
A major economic downturn, acts of corporate malfeasance, widening credit risk spreads, ratings downgrades or other events could adversely affect the issuers or guarantors of securities or the underlying collateral of structured securities that we hold, which could cause the estimated fair value of our fixed income securities portfolio and corresponding earnings to decline and the default rate of the fixed income securities in our investment portfolio to increase. Similarly, a ratings downgrade affecting a security we hold could require us to hold more capital to support that security in order to maintain our RBC levels. Our intent to sell, or our assessment of the likelihood that we will be required to sell, fixed income securities may adversely impact levels of writedowns or impairments. Realized losses or impairments on these securities may have a material adverse effect on our net income in a particular quarterly or annual period.
An increase in the default rate of our mortgage loan investments or fluctuations in their performance could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition. Substantially all of our commercial and agricultural mortgage loans held for investment have balloon payment maturities, which may increase the risk of default. Any geographic or property type concentration of our mortgage loans may have adverse effects on our investment portfolio and consequently on our results of operations or financial condition, and 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, legislation that would allow or require modifications to the terms of mortgage loans could have an adverse effect on our investment portfolio, results of operations or financial condition.
See “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations — Investments — Mortgage Loans.”
We May Have Difficulty Selling Certain Holdings in Our Investment Portfolio or in Our Securities Lending Program in a Timely Manner and Realizing Full Value
There may be a limited market for certain investments we hold in our investment portfolio, making them relatively illiquid. These include privately-placed fixed income securities, certain derivative instruments, mortgage loans, policy loans, direct financing and leveraged leases, other limited partnership interests, tax credit and renewable energy partnerships and real estate equity, including real estate joint ventures and funds. Even some of our very high quality investments may experience reduced liquidity during periods of market volatility or disruption. If we are forced to sell certain assets in our investment portfolio during periods of market volatility or disruption, market prices may be lower than our carrying value in such investments, and we may have difficulty selling such investments in a timely manner, be forced to sell investments in a volatile or illiquid market for less than we otherwise would have been able to realize under normal market conditions, or both. This may result in realized losses that could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and financial condition, as well as our financial ratios, which could in turn affect compliance with our credit instruments and rating agency capital adequacy measures.
We may face similar risks if we are required under our securities lending program to return significant amounts of cash collateral that we have invested. If we decrease the amount of our securities lending activities over time in response to such risks, the amount of net 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 Derivatives Transactions or Specified Assets in Connection with OTC-Cleared and OTC-Bilateral Transactions May Adversely Affect Our Liquidity, Expose Us to Central Clearinghouse and Counterparty Credit Risk, and Increase our Costs of Hedging
The amount of collateral we may be required to pledge and the payments we may be required to make under our derivatives transactions may increase under certain circumstances. The OCC, the Federal Reserve Board, FDIC, Prudential Regulators, the CFTC, central clearinghouses and counterparties may restrict or eliminate certain types of eligible collateral or charge us to pledge such non-cash collateral, which would increase our costs and could adversely affect the liquidity of our investments and the composition of our investment portfolio.
“Business — Regulation — Derivatives Regulation;”
“Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations — Liquidity and Capital Resources — Liquidity and Capital Uses — Pledged Collateral;” and
Note 9 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements.
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. We cannot determine precisely the amounts that we will ultimately pay to settle our liabilities, particularly when those payments may not occur until well into the future. We evaluate our actual experience and liabilities periodically based on accounting requirements, and that evaluation can result in a change to liability assumptions that may increase our liabilities. Reserve estimates in some instances are also affected by our operating practices and procedures that are used, among other things, to support our assumptions with respect to the Company’s obligations to its policyholders and contractholders. These practices and procedures include, among other things, obtaining, accumulating, and filtering data, and our use of technology, such as database analysis and electronic communications. To the extent that these practices and procedures do not accurately produce the data to support our assumptions or cause us to change our assumptions, or to the extent that enhanced technological tools become available to us, such assumptions and procedures, as well as our reserves, may require adjustment. Furthermore, to the extent that any of our operating practices and procedures do not accurately produce, or reproduce, data that we use to conduct any or all aspects of our business, such errors may negatively impact our business, reputation, results of operations, and financial condition.
Increased longevity due to improvements in medical technologies may require us to modify our assumptions, models, or reserves. Additionally, increases in the prevalence and accuracy of genetic testing, or legislation or regulation regarding the use by insurers of information produced by such testing, may exacerbate adverse selection risks. Such changes in medical technologies may thus have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, and financial condition.
“Business — Policyholder Liabilities;”
“Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations — Summary of Critical Accounting Estimates — Deferred Policy Acquisition Costs and Value of Business Acquired;”
“Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations — Summary of Critical Accounting Estimates — Derivatives;” and
“Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations — Results of Operations — Consolidated Results — Year Ended December 31, 2018 Compared with the Year Ended December 31, 2017 — Actuarial Assumption Review and Certain Other Insurance Adjustments.”
Technological Changes May Present New and Intensified Challenges to Our Business
Recent and future changes in technology may present us with new challenges and may intensify many of the challenges that we already face. For example, as a result of the availability of new technological tools for data collection and analysis, we have access to an increasing amount of data, from an increasing variety of sources, regarding deaths of our policyholders and annuitants. We may be unable to accurately or completely process this increased volume of information within the time periods required by applicable standards. Furthermore, the additional information that we obtain as a result of technological improvements may require us to modify our assumptions, models, or reserves. Changes in technology related to collection and analysis of data regarding customers could, in these ways or others, expose us to regulatory or legal actions and may have a material adverse effect on our business, reputation, results of operations, and financial condition.
Technological advances may also impact the composition and results of our investment portfolio. For example, changes in energy technology may impact the relative attractiveness of investments in a variety of energy sources, and increasing consumer preferences for e-commerce may negatively impact the profitability of retail and commercial real estate. If we are unable to adjust our investments in reaction to such changes, our results of operations and financial condition may be materially and adversely affected.
Catastrophes May Adversely Impact Liabilities for Policyholder Claims and Reinsurance Availability
Our life insurance operations face the risk of catastrophic mortality, such as a pandemic or other event that causes a large number of deaths. A significant pandemic could have a major impact on the global economy and financial markets or could result in disruption to our business operations. The effectiveness of external parties, including governmental and non-governmental organizations, in combating the spread and severity of such a pandemic is outside of our control and could have a material impact on the losses we experience. 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 have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition in any period.
We May Need to Fund Deficiencies in Our Closed Block; Assets Allocated to the Closed Block Benefit Only the Holders of Closed Block Policies
The closed block assets established in connection with the demutualization of Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, the cash flows generated by the closed block assets and the anticipated revenue from the policies included in the closed block may not be sufficient to provide for the benefits guaranteed under these policies. If they are not, 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. Such actions may reduce funds that would otherwise be available to us for other uses and could thus adversely impact our results of operations or financial condition.
See Note 7 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements.
We May Be Required to Accelerate the Amortization of or Impair DAC, DSI or VOBA
DAC, deferred sales inducements (“DSI”) and VOBA for certain products are amortized in proportion to actual and expected gross profits or margins. Low investment returns, 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 may negatively affect the amount of future gross profit or margins. If actual gross profits or margins are less than originally expected, then the amortization of such costs would be accelerated in the period the actual experience is known and would result in a charge to net income. Significant or sustained equity market declines or significantly lower spreads could result in an acceleration of amortization of DAC, DSI and VOBA, resulting in a charge to net income. Such adjustments could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations or financial condition.
“Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations — Summary of Critical Accounting Estimates — Deferred Policy Acquisition Costs and Value of Business Acquired” and
Note 1 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements.
Guarantees Within Certain Products May Decrease Our Earnings, Increase the Volatility of Our Results, Result in Higher Risk Management Costs and Expose Us to Increased Counterparty Risk
The valuation of our liabilities associated with products that include guaranteed benefits, including guaranteed minimum death benefits (including but not limited to no-lapse guarantee benefits), guaranteed minimum withdrawal benefits, guaranteed minimum accumulation benefits, guaranteed minimum income benefits (“GMIBs”), and minimum crediting rate features could increase in the event of significant and sustained downturns in equity markets, increased equity volatility, or reduced interest rates. An increase in these liabilities would result in a decrease in our net income.
The derivatives and other risk management strategies we use to hedge the economic exposure to these liabilities that do not qualify for hedge accounting treatment may result in volatility in the results of our operations, including net income, to the extent the financial measurement of the hedged liability does not fully reflect the sensitivity to the underlying economic exposure. The risk management strategies and hedging instruments that we use to directly mitigate the volatility in net income associated with certain of these liabilities, including the use of reinsurance and derivatives, may not effectively offset the costs of guarantees and may not be completely effective. Furthermore, changes in policyholder behavior or mortality, combined with adverse market events, may produce economic losses not addressed by the risk management techniques employed. These factors may have a material adverse effect on our results of operations, including net income, capitalization, financial condition or liquidity.
See Note 1 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements.
MetLife’s Risk Management Policies and Procedures or Our Models May Leave Us Exposed to Unidentified or Unanticipated Risk
MetLife’s enterprise risk management policies and procedures may not be sufficiently comprehensive and may not identify every risk to which MetLife and its subsidiaries, including Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, are exposed. Many of MetLife’s methods for managing risk and exposures are based upon the use of observed historical market behavior to model or project potential future exposure.
Models used by our business are based on assumptions, projections and data that may be inaccurate. Business or other decisions, including determination of reserves, based on incorrect or misused model output and reports could have a material adverse impact on our results of operations. Models used by our business may be misspecified for their intended purpose, may be misused, may not operate properly, and may contain errors related to model inputs, data, assumptions, calculations, or output. We perform model reviews that could give rise to adjustments to models that may adversely impact our results of operations. Additionally, our model review process may not adequately identify or remediate errors in or related to our models. As a result, our models may not fully predict future exposures or correctly reflect past experience, which may have a material impact on our business, reputation, results of operations or financial condition.
Other risk management methods depend upon the evaluation of information regarding markets, clients, catastrophe occurrence or other matters that are publicly available or otherwise accessible to us. This information may not always be accurate, complete, up-to-date or properly evaluated. Furthermore, there can be no assurance that we can effectively review and monitor all risks or that all of MetLife’s associates will follow MetLife’s risk management policies and procedures, nor can there be any assurance that MetLife’s risk management policies and procedures will enable us to accurately identify all risks and limit our exposures based on our assessments. In addition, MetLife may have to implement more extensive and perhaps different risk management policies and procedures in the future due to legal and regulatory requirements, which could result in increased costs and may adversely affect our results of operations.
“Business — Regulation — Insurance Regulation” and
“Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk.”
Our Policies and Procedures May Be Insufficient To Protect Us From Certain Operational Risks
We are highly dependent on our ability to process a large number of complex transactions across our businesses. The large number of transactions we process, and complexity of our administrative systems, makes it possible that errors will occasionally occur, and the controls and procedures we have in place to prevent such errors may not be entirely effective. The occurrence of mistakes, particularly significant ones, can subject us to claims from our customers and may have a material adverse effect on our reputation, business, results of operations, or financial condition.
We are dependent on our group product customers or their employees for certain information to accurately review and pay claims on many of our products. If we are unable to obtain necessary and accurate information from our customers, we may be unable to provide or verify coverage and to pay claims, or we may pay claims without accurate or complete documentation, which may have a material adverse effect on our reputation, business, results of operations, or financial condition.
From time to time, we rely on vendors or other service providers for services related to the administration of our products, investment management, or other business operations. To the extent our efforts to ensure such vendors’ controls meet our standards are inadequate, our vendors fail to perform their services accurately or timely, the exchange of information between us and our vendors is imperfect, or our vendors suffer financial or reputational distress, any errors, misconduct, or discontinuation of services that result could have a material adverse effect on our business, reputation, results of operations, or financial condition.
From time to time, our administrative and operational practices may fail to timely and completely identify all of the property that we are legally required to escheat to a variety of jurisdictions as unclaimed property. As a result, we may be subject to unexpected charges, reserve strengthening, and expenses, as well as regulatory examinations, penalties or other fines. Each of these affects may harm our reputation or regulatory relationships that may harm our business, financial condition, or results of operations.
Our practices and procedures are evaluated periodically and from time to time may limit our efforts to contact all of our customers, which may result in delayed, untimely, or missed customer payments that may have a material adverse effect on the Company, including reputational harm.
We are subject to risks related to fraud, including fraud committed by MetLife’s associates, as well as fraud through claims and other processes. Our policies and procedures may be ineffective in preventing, detecting or mitigating fraud and other illegal or improper acts, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, reputation, financial condition, or results of operations.
If MetLife’s policies and practices to attract, motivate and retain employees, to develop talent, and to plan for management succession are not effective, our business, results of operations, and financial condition could be adversely affected.
We cannot be certain that we will not identify control deficiencies or material weaknesses in the future. If we identify future control deficiencies or material weaknesses, these may lead to additional adverse effects on our business, our reputation, our results of operations, and the market price of our common stock.
See “Business — Regulation — Unclaimed Property.”
A Failure in Our Cybersecurity or Other Information Security Systems or MetLife’s Disaster Recovery Plans, or Those of MetLife’s Suppliers, Could Result in a Loss or Disclosure of Confidential Information, Damage to Our Reputation and Impairment of Our Ability to Conduct Business Effectively
We rely on the effective operation of MetLife’s and its suppliers’ computer systems throughout our business for a variety of functions, including processing claims, transactions and applications, providing information to customers and distributors, performing actuarial analyses and maintaining financial records. We also retain confidential and proprietary information on MetLife’s and its suppliers’ computer systems, and we rely on sophisticated technologies to maintain the security of that information. MetLife’s and its suppliers’ computer systems are subject to computer viruses or other malicious codes, unauthorized or fraudulent access, social engineering, phishing, human error, cyberattacks or other computer-related penetrations, and such threats have increased over recent periods. The administrative and technical controls and other preventive actions we take to reduce the risk of cyber-incidents and protect our information technology may be insufficient to prevent physical and electronic break-ins, cyber-attacks, compromised credentials, fraud, other security breaches or other unauthorized access to MetLife’s and its suppliers’ computer systems. In some cases, such cyber-incidents may not be immediately detected. Such incidents may impede or interrupt our business operations and could adversely affect our business, reputation, financial condition and results of operations.
In the event of a disaster such as a natural catastrophe, epidemic, industrial accident, blackout, computer virus, terrorist attack, cyberattack or war, unanticipated problems with MetLife’s and its suppliers’ 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 MetLife’s and its suppliers’ computer-based data processing, transmission, storage and retrieval systems and destroy valuable data. In addition, if a significant number of MetLife’s managers, or MetLife associates generally, are unavailable following a disaster, our ability to effectively conduct business could be severely compromised. These interruptions also may interfere with MetLife’s suppliers’ ability to provide goods and services and MetLife’s associates’ ability to perform their job responsibilities.
The failure of MetLife’s and its suppliers’ computer systems or MetLife and its suppliers’ disaster recovery plans for any reason, or any such failure on the part of vendors, distributors, and other third parties that provide operational or information technology services to MetLife, could cause significant interruptions in our operations and result in a failure to maintain the security, confidentiality or privacy of sensitive data, including personal information relating to our customers. Such a failure could harm our reputation, subject us to regulatory investigations and sanctions, expose us to legal claims, lead to a loss of customers and revenues and otherwise adversely affect our business and financial results. Insurance for cyber liability, operational and other risks relating to our business and systems may not be sufficient to protect us against such losses or may become less readily available or more expensive, which could adversely affect our results of operations. In addition, increased scrutiny of cybersecurity issues by regulators, including new laws or regulations, could result in increased compliance costs.
There can be no assurance that MetLife’s information security policies and systems in place can prevent unauthorized access, use or disclosure of confidential information, including nonpublic personal information, nor can we be certain that we will be able to reliably access all of the documents and records in the information storage systems we use, whether electronic or physical. In some circumstances, we may fail to obtain or maintain all of the records we need to accurately and timely administer, and establish appropriate reserves for benefits and claims with respect to, our products, which failure could adversely affect our business, reputation, results of operations or our financial condition.
MetLife is continuously evaluating and enhancing systems and creating new systems and processes as our business depends on our ability to maintain and improve technology systems. Due to the complexity and interconnectedness of these systems and processes, these changes, as well as changes designed to update and enhance MetLife’s protective measures to address new threats, increase the risk of a system or process failure or the creation of a gap in MetLife’s security measures. Any such failure or gap could adversely affect our business, reputation, results of operations or financial condition.
Any Failure to Protect the Confidentiality of Client Information Could Adversely Affect Our Reputation or Result in Legal or Regulatory Penalties
If MetLife or its suppliers fail to maintain adequate internal controls or if MetLife’s or its suppliers’ associates fail to comply with relevant policies and procedures, misappropriation or intentional or unintentional inappropriate disclosure or misuse of our clients’ confidential personal information could occur. Such internal control inadequacies or non-compliance could materially damage our reputation or lead to civil or criminal penalties, which, in turn, could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. Increased scrutiny of privacy issues by regulators, including new laws or regulations, could result in increased compliance costs. In addition, any inquiries from U.S. state, federal or other regulators regarding the use of “big data” techniques could result in harm to our reputation, and any limitations on such use could have a material impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
See “Business — Regulation — Cybersecurity and Privacy Regulation.”
Changes in Accounting Standards May Adversely Affect Our Financial Statements
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 and the IFRS Foundation. We cannot always meaningfully assess the effects of such new or revised accounting standards on our financial statements. Our adoption of future accounting standards could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
See Note 1 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements.
MetLife’s Associates May Take Excessive Risks, Which Could Negatively Affect Our Financial Condition and Business
The associates who conduct our business, including executive officers and other members of management, sales managers, investment professionals, product managers, sales agents, wholesalers, underwriters, and other associates, may take excessive risks in a wide variety of business decisions, including setting underwriting guidelines and standards, determining claims, designing and pricing products, determining what assets to purchase for investment and when to sell them, evaluating business opportunities, and other decisions. The design and implementation of MetLife’s compensation programs and practices may not be effective in deterring MetLife’s associates from taking excessive risks, and MetLife’s controls and procedures may not be sufficient to monitor its associates’ business decisions, prevent excessive risk-taking, or prevent associate misconduct. If MetLife’s associates take excessive risks, the impact of those risks could have a material adverse effect on our reputation, financial condition and business operations.
We May Experience Difficulty in Marketing and Distributing Products Through Our Distribution Channels
Third-party distributors, through whom we primarily distribute our products, may suspend, alter, reduce or terminate their distribution relationships with us for various reasons, including changes in our distribution strategy, adverse developments in our business, adverse rating agency actions or concerns about market-related risks. There can be no assurance that the terms of our agreements with third-party distributors will remain acceptable to us or such third parties. Key distribution partners may merge, change their business models in ways that affect how our products are sold, or terminate their distribution contracts with us, and new distribution channels could emerge, and such developments could adversely impact the effectiveness of our distribution efforts. Consolidation of distributors and 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. Interruptions or changes to our relationships with distributors could materially hinder our ability to market our products and could have a material adverse effect on our business, operating results and financial condition.
We may not be able to monitor or control the manner in which unaffiliated firms or agents distribute our products. If our products are distributed by such firms or agents in an inappropriate manner, or to customers for whom they are unsuitable, we may be subject to reputational harm, regulatory fines and other harm to our business.
Risks Related to Acquisitions, Dispositions or Other Structural Changes
We Could Face Difficulties, Unforeseen Liabilities, Asset Impairments or Rating Actions Arising from Business Acquisitions, Dispositions of Businesses, or Legal Entity Reorganizations
Acquisitions and dispositions of businesses, joint ventures, and other structural changes expose us to a number of risks arising from, among other factors:
potential difficulties achieving projected financial results, including the costs and benefits of integration or deconsolidation, due to macroeconomic, business, demographic, actuarial, regulatory, or political factors;
unforeseen liabilities or asset impairments;
the scope and duration of rights to indemnification for losses, and the recoverability of such indemnification;
the use of capital that could be used for other purposes;
reactions of ratings agencies, policyholders and contractholders, distributors, suppliers and other contractual counterparties;
regulatory requirements that could impact our operations or capital requirements;
changes in statutory or U.S. GAAP accounting principles, practices or policies;
dedication of management resources that could otherwise be deployed to other business, or distraction of key personnel from maximizing business value;
providing or receiving transition services that may disrupt operations or impose liabilities or restrictions on us;
loss of key personnel or difficulties recruiting personnel;
loss of customers;
loss of distribution resources or suppliers;
inefficiencies as we integrate operations and address differences in cultural, management, information, compliance and financial systems and procedures; and
impacts on internal controls and procedures.
Reorganizing or consolidating the legal entities through which we conduct business may raise similar risks. The success with which we are able to realize benefits from legal entity reorganizations will also depend on our ability to manage a variety of issues, including regulatory approvals, modification of our operations and changes to our investment portfolios or derivatives hedging activities.
Any of these risks, if realized, could prevent us from achieving the benefits we expect or could otherwise have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations or financial condition.
Item 1B. Unresolved Staff Comments
Item 2. Properties
Throughout the U.S., we or our affiliates own eight buildings and have approximately 112 leases used in support of all segments, as well as Corporate & Other.
We believe our and our affiliates’ properties are adequate and suitable for our business as currently conducted, and are adequately maintained. The above properties do not include properties we own for investment-only purposes.
Item 3. Legal Proceedings
See Note 16 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements.
Forward-Looking Statements and Other Financial Information
For purposes of this discussion, “MLIC,” the “Company,” “we,” “our” and “us” refer to Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, a New York corporation incorporated in 1868, and its subsidiaries. Metropolitan Life Insurance Company is a wholly-owned subsidiary of MetLife, Inc. (MetLife, Inc., together with its subsidiaries and affiliates, “MetLife”). Management's narrative analysis of the Company’s results of operations is presented pursuant to General Instruction I(2)(a) of Form 10-K. This narrative analysis should be read in conjunction with “Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements,” “Risk Factors,” “Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk” and the Company's consolidated financial statements included elsewhere herein.
This narrative analysis 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. See “Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements” for cautionary language regarding forward-looking statements.
This narrative analysis includes references to our performance measure, adjusted earnings, that is not based on GAAP. See “— Non-GAAP and Other Financial Disclosures” for a definition and discussion of this and other financial measures, and “— Results of Operations” for reconciliations of historical non-GAAP financial measures to the most directly comparable GAAP measures.
MLIC is a provider of insurance, annuities, employee benefits and asset management. MLIC is organized into two segments: U.S. and MetLife Holdings. In addition, the Company reports certain of its results of operations in Corporate & Other. See “Business — Segments and Corporate & Other” and Note 2 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements for further information on the Company’s segments and Corporate & Other. Management continues to evaluate the Company’s segment performance and allocated resources and may adjust related measurements in the future to better reflect segment profitability.
U.S. Tax Reform
In December 2017, U.S. Tax Reform was signed into law. U.S. GAAP requires that the impact of tax legislation be recognized in the period in which the law was enacted. As a result, the Company recognized the tax effects of U.S. Tax Reform for the year ended December 31, 2017. While the Company recorded a reasonable estimate of the tax effects of U.S. Tax Reform in the period of enactment, its income tax accounting was not complete due to uncertainties that existed at the time. Accordingly, certain U.S. Tax Reform amounts were revised in the Company’s consolidated financial statements for the year ended December 31, 2018. In addition, given the complexities of U.S. Tax Reform, there still remain uncertainties surrounding aspects of the new law that may impact results in the future. See Note 15 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements for a further discussion of U.S. Tax Reform.
Separation of Brighthouse
In August 2017, MetLife, Inc. completed the separation of Brighthouse Financial, Inc. and its subsidiaries (“Brighthouse”) through a distribution of 96,776,670 shares of Brighthouse Financial, Inc. common stock to the MetLife, Inc. common shareholders (the “Separation”). MetLife, Inc. retained the remaining ownership interest of 22,996,436 shares, or 19.2%, of Brighthouse Financial, Inc. common stock outstanding.
In June 2018, MetLife, Inc. sold Brighthouse Financial, Inc. common stock in exchange for MetLife, Inc. senior notes and Brighthouse was no longer considered a related party. At December 31, 2018, MetLife, Inc. no longer held any shares of Brighthouse Financial, Inc. for its own account; however, certain insurance company separate accounts managed by MetLife held shares of Brighthouse Financial, Inc.
The preparation of financial statements in conformity with GAAP requires management to adopt accounting policies and make estimates and assumptions that affect amounts reported on the Consolidated Financial Statements. For a discussion of our significant accounting policies, see Note 1 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements. The most critical estimates include those used in determining:
liabilities for future policy benefits and the accounting for reinsurance;
capitalization and amortization of DAC and the establishment and amortization of VOBA;
estimated fair values of investments in the absence of quoted market values;
estimated fair values of freestanding derivatives and the recognition and estimated fair value of embedded derivatives requiring bifurcation;
measurement of employee benefit plan liabilities;
measurement of income taxes and the valuation of deferred tax assets; and
liabilities for litigation and regulatory matters.
In applying these policies and estimates, management makes subjective and complex judgments that frequently require assumptions 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 our business and operations. Actual results could differ from these estimates.
Liability for Future Policy Benefits
Generally, future policy benefits 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 assumed, additional liabilities may be established, 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 are estimated based upon our historical experience and other actuarial assumptions that consider the effects of current developments, anticipated trends and risk management programs.
Future policy benefit liabilities for minimum death and income benefit guarantees relating to certain annuity contracts are based on estimates of the expected value of benefits in excess of the projected account balance, 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 the secondary and paid-up guarantee 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 experience of the appropriate underlying equity index, such as the S&P 500 Index.
We regularly review our estimates of liabilities for future policy benefits and compare them with our actual experience. Differences between actual experience and the assumptions used in pricing these policies and guarantees, as well as in the establishment of the related liabilities, result in variances in profit and could result in losses.
See Note 4 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information on our liability for future policy benefits.
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. We periodically review actual and anticipated experience compared to the aforementioned assumptions used to establish assets and liabilities relating to ceded and assumed reinsurance and evaluate the financial strength of counterparties to our reinsurance agreements using criteria similar to that evaluated in our security impairment process. See “— Investment Impairments.” Additionally, for each of our reinsurance agreements, we determine whether the agreement provides indemnification against loss or liability relating to insurance risk, in accordance with applicable accounting standards. We review all contractual features, including 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 we determine that a reinsurance agreement does not expose the reinsurer to a reasonable possibility of a significant loss from insurance risk, we record the agreement using the deposit method of accounting.
See Note 6 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information on our reinsurance programs.
Deferred Policy Acquisition Costs and Value of Business Acquired
We incur significant costs in connection with acquiring new and renewal insurance business. Costs that relate directly to the successful acquisition or renewal of insurance contracts are capitalized as DAC. In addition to commissions, certain direct-response advertising expenses and other direct costs, deferrable costs include the portion of an employee’s total compensation and benefits related to time spent selling, underwriting or processing the issuance of new and renewal insurance business only with respect to actual policies acquired or renewed. We utilize various techniques to estimate the portion of an employee’s time spent on qualifying acquisition activities that result in actual sales, including surveys, interviews, representative time studies and other methods. These estimates include assumptions that are reviewed and updated on a periodic basis to reflect significant changes in processes or distribution methods.
VOBA represents the excess of book value over the estimated fair value of acquired insurance, annuity and investment-type contracts in force at the acquisition date. The estimated fair value of the acquired obligations is based on projections, by each block of business, of future policy and contract charges, premiums, mortality and morbidity, separate account performance, surrenders, expenses, investment returns, nonperformance risk adjustment 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.
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. Our 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. We monitor these events and only change the assumption when our 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 with an offset to our unearned revenue liability which nets to approximately $30 million. We use a mean reversion approach to separate account returns where the mean reversion period is five years with a long-term separate account return after the five-year reversion period is over. The current long-term rate of return assumption for the variable universal life contracts and variable deferred annuity contracts is 7.0%.
We periodically review long-term assumptions underlying the projections of estimated gross margins and profits. These assumptions primarily relate to investment returns, policyholder dividend scales, interest crediting rates, mortality, persistency, and expenses to administer business. Assumptions used in the calculation of estimated gross margins and profits which may have significantly changed are updated annually. 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.
Our most significant assumption updates resulting in a change to expected future gross margins and profits and the amortization of DAC and VOBA are due to revisions to expected future investment returns, expenses, in-force or persistency assumptions and policyholder dividends on participating traditional life contracts, variable and universal life contracts and annuity contracts. We expect these assumptions to be the ones most reasonably likely to cause significant changes in the future. Changes in these assumptions can be offsetting and we are unable to predict their movement or offsetting impact over time.
See Note 5 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information on DAC and VOBA.
In determining the estimated fair value of our investments, fair values are based on unadjusted quoted prices for identical investments in active markets that are readily and regularly obtainable. When such unadjusted quoted prices are not available, estimated fair values are based on quoted prices in markets that are not active, quoted prices for similar but not identical investments, or other observable inputs. If these inputs are not available, or observable inputs are not determinable, unobservable inputs and/or adjustments to observable inputs requiring management judgment are used to determine the estimated fair value of investments.
The methodologies, assumptions and inputs utilized are described in Note 10 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements.
Financial markets are susceptible to severe events evidenced by rapid depreciation in asset values accompanied by a reduction in asset liquidity. Our ability to sell investments, or the price ultimately realized for investments, depends upon the demand and liquidity in the market and increases the use of judgment in determining the estimated fair value of certain investments.
One of the significant estimates related to fixed maturity securities available-for-sale (“AFS”) is our impairment evaluation. The assessment of whether an other-than-temporary impairment (“OTTI”) occurred is based on our case-by-case evaluation of the underlying reasons for the decline in estimated fair value on a security-by-security basis. Our review of each security for OTTI includes an analysis of gross unrealized losses by three categories of severity and/or age of gross unrealized loss. An extended and severe unrealized loss position on a security may not have any impact on the ability of the issuer to service all scheduled interest and principal payments. Accordingly, such an unrealized loss position may not impact our 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.
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. Factors we consider in the OTTI evaluation process are described in Note 8 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements.
The determination of the amount of allowances and impairments on the remaining invested asset classes is highly subjective 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.
See Notes 1 and 8 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information relating to our determination of the amount of allowances and impairments.
The determination of the estimated fair value of freestanding derivatives, when quoted market values are not available, is based on market standard valuation methodologies and inputs that management believes are 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, nonperformance risk, volatility, liquidity and changes in estimates and assumptions used in the pricing models. See Note 9 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements for additional details on significant inputs into the OTC derivative pricing models and credit risk adjustment.
We issue variable annuity products with guaranteed minimum benefits, some of which are embedded derivatives measured at estimated fair value separately from the host variable annuity product, with changes in estimated fair value reported in net derivative gains (losses). The estimated fair values of 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. The valuation of these embedded derivatives also includes an adjustment for our nonperformance risk and risk margins for non-capital market inputs. The nonperformance risk adjustment, which is captured as a spread over the risk-free rate in determining the discount rate to discount the cash flows of the liability, is determined by taking into consideration publicly available information relating to spreads in the secondary market for MetLife, Inc.’s debt, including related credit default swaps. These observable spreads are then adjusted, as necessary, to reflect the priority of these liabilities and the claims paying ability of the issuing insurance subsidiaries compared to MetLife, Inc. 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 in certain actuarial assumptions. The establishment of risk margins requires the use of significant management judgment, including assumptions of the amount and cost of capital needed to cover the guarantees.
The accounting for derivatives is complex and interpretations of accounting standards continue to evolve in practice. If it is determined that hedge accounting designations were not appropriately applied, reported net income could be materially affected. 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.
Variable annuities with guaranteed minimum benefits 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 our nonperformance risk, variations in actuarial assumptions regarding policyholder behavior, mortality 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. If interpretations change, there is a risk that features previously not bifurcated may require bifurcation and reporting at estimated fair value on the consolidated financial statements and respective changes in estimated fair value could materially affect net income.
Additionally, we ceded the risk associated with certain of the variable annuities with guaranteed minimum benefits 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 us with the exception of the input for nonperformance risk that reflects the credit of the reinsurer. Because certain of the direct guarantees do not meet the definition of an embedded derivative and, thus are not accounted for at fair value, significant fluctuations in net income may occur since the change in fair value of the embedded derivative on the ceded risk is being recorded in net income without a corresponding and offsetting change in fair value of the direct guarantee.
See Note 9 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information on our derivatives and hedging programs.
Employee Benefit Plans
Through September 30, 2018, the Company sponsored and/or administered various qualified and nonqualified defined benefit pension plans and other postretirement employee benefit plans covering eligible employees who meet specified eligibility requirements of the sponsor and its participating affiliates. See Note 14 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements for information regarding the change in plan sponsor from the Company to an affiliate effective October 1, 2018, as well as amendments to our U.S. benefit plans. The calculation of the obligations and expenses associated with these plans requires an extensive use of assumptions such as the discount rate, expected rate of return on plan assets, rate of future compensation increases and healthcare cost trend rates, as well as assumptions regarding participant demographics such as rate and age of retirement, withdrawal rates and mortality. In consultation with external actuarial firms, we determine these assumptions based upon a variety of factors such as historical experience of the plan and its assets, currently available market and industry data, and expected benefit payout streams.
We determine the expected rate of return on plan assets based upon an approach that considers inflation, real return, term premium, credit spreads, equity risk premium and capital appreciation, as well as expenses, expected asset manager performance, asset weights and the effect of rebalancing. We determine the discount rates used to value the pension and postretirement obligations, based upon rates commensurate with current yields on high quality corporate bonds. 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 impact on the Company’s consolidated financial statements and liquidity.
See Note 14 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements for additional discussion of assumptions used in measuring liabilities relating to our employee benefit plans.
We provide 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. Our accounting for income taxes represents our best estimate of various events and transactions. Tax laws are often complex and may be subject to differing interpretations by the taxpayer and the relevant governmental taxing authorities. In establishing a provision for income tax expense, we must make judgments and interpretations about the application of inherently complex tax laws. We must also make estimates about when in the future certain items will affect taxable income in the various tax jurisdictions in which we conduct business.
In establishing a liability for unrecognized tax benefits, assumptions may be made in determining whether, and to what extent, a tax position may be sustained. Once established, unrecognized tax benefits are adjusted when there is more information available or when events occur requiring a change.
Valuation allowances are established against deferred tax assets when management determines, based on available information, that it is more likely than not that deferred income tax assets will not be realized. Significant judgment is required in determining whether valuation allowances should be established, as well as the amount of such allowances. See Note 1 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information relating to our determination of such valuation allowances.
We may be required to change our provision for income taxes 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 on the consolidated financial statements in the year these changes occur.
In December 2017, U.S. Tax Reform was signed into law. U.S. GAAP requires that the impact of tax legislation be recognized in the period in which the law was enacted. As a result, the Company recognized the tax effects of U.S. Tax Reform for the year ended December 31, 2017. While the Company recorded a reasonable estimate of the tax effects of U.S. Tax Reform in the period of enactment, its income tax accounting was not complete due to uncertainties that existed at the time. Accordingly, certain U.S. Tax Reform amounts were revised in the Company’s consolidated financial statements for the year ended December 31, 2018.
See also Notes 1 and 15 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information on our income taxes.
We are a defendant in a large number of litigation matters and are involved in a number of regulatory investigations. Given the large and/or indeterminate amounts sought in certain of these matters and the inherent unpredictability of litigation, it is possible that an adverse outcome in certain matters could, from time to time, have a material effect on the Company’s consolidated net income or cash flows in particular quarterly or annual periods. 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 our asbestos-related liability, are especially difficult to estimate due to the limitation of reliable data and uncertainty regarding numerous variables that can affect liability estimates. On a quarterly and annual basis, we review relevant information with respect to liabilities for litigation, regulatory investigations and litigation-related contingencies to be reflected in our consolidated financial statements. It is possible that an adverse outcome in certain of our 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 our consolidated net income or cash flows in particular quarterly or annual periods.
See Note 16 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements for additional information regarding our assessment of litigation contingencies.
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 MetLife’s and the Company’s business.
MetLife’s economic capital model, coupled with considerations of local capital requirements, aligns segment allocated equity with emerging standards and consistent risk principles. The model applies statistics-based risk evaluation principles to the material risks to which the Company is exposed. These consistent risk principles include calibrating required economic capital shock factors to a specific confidence level and time horizon while applying an industry standard method for the inclusion of diversification benefits among risk types. Economic capital-based risk estimation is an evolving science and industry best practices have emerged and continue to evolve. Areas of evolving industry best practices include stochastic liability valuation techniques, alternative methodologies for the calculation of diversification benefits, and the quantification of appropriate shock levels. MetLife’s management is responsible for the ongoing production and enhancement of the economic capital model and reviews its approach periodically to ensure that it remains consistent with emerging industry practice standards.
Segment net investment income is credited or charged based on the level of allocated equity; however, changes in allocated equity do not impact the Company’s consolidated net investment income, net income (loss), or adjusted earnings.
Net investment income is based upon the actual results of each segment’s specifically identifiable investment portfolios adjusted for allocated equity. Other costs are allocated to each of the segments based upon: (i) a review of the nature of such costs; (ii) time studies analyzing the amount of employee compensation costs incurred by each segment; and (iii) cost estimates included in the Company’s product pricing.
In 2016, MLIC distributed to MetLife, Inc., as a non-cash extraordinary dividend, all of the issued and outstanding shares of common stock of each of New England Life Insurance Company (“NELICO”) and General American Life Insurance Company (“GALIC”). See Note 3 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements.
Business Overview. Overall sales in our U.S. segment for the year ended December 31, 2018 increased over 2017 levels reflecting higher sales of pension risk transfers (driven by a large transaction in the second quarter of 2018) and stable value products, partially offset by a decrease in funding agreement issuances, as well as lower sales of specialized life insurance and structured settlement products, all within our RIS business. Sales in our Group Benefits business were slightly lower compared to 2017, as the impact of strong jumbo case sales in our core products in 2017 more than offset strong sales in our voluntary products in 2018. Revenues in our MetLife Holdings segment decreased as a result of the discontinuance of the marketing of life and annuity products in early 2017.
Years Ended December 31,
Universal life and investment-type product policy fees
Net investment income
Net investment gains (losses)
Net derivative gains (losses)
Policyholder benefits and claims and policyholder dividends
Interest credited to policyholder account balances
Capitalization of DAC
Amortization of DAC and VOBA
Interest expense on debt
Income (loss) before provision for income tax
Provision for income tax expense (benefit)
Net income (loss)
Less: Net income (loss) attributable to noncontrolling interests
Net income (loss) attributable to Metropolitan Life Insurance Company
Year Ended December 31, 2018 Compared with the Year Ended December 31, 2017
During the year ended December 31, 2018, net income (loss) increased $609 million from 2017, primarily driven by favorable changes in adjusted earnings and net derivative gains (losses), partially offset by a 2017 tax benefit related to U.S. Tax Reform and an unfavorable change in net investment gains (losses).
Management of Investment Portfolio and Hedging Market Risks with Derivatives. We manage our investment portfolio using disciplined asset/liability management (“ALM”) 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 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 AFS 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.
We purchase investments to support our insurance liabilities and not to generate net investment gains and losses. However, net investment gains and losses are incurred and can change significantly from period to period due to changes in external influences, including changes in market factors such as interest rates, foreign currency exchange rates, credit spreads and equity markets; counterparty specific factors such as financial performance, credit rating and collateral valuation; and internal factors such as portfolio rebalancing. Changes in these factors from period to period can significantly impact the levels of both impairments and realized gains and losses on investments sold.
We also use derivatives as an integral part of our management of the investment portfolio and insurance liabilities to hedge certain risks, including changes in interest rates, foreign currency exchange rates, credit spreads and equity market levels. We use freestanding interest rate, equity, credit and currency derivatives to hedge certain invested assets and insurance liabilities. A portion of these hedges are designated and qualify as accounting hedges, which reduce volatility in earnings. For those hedges not designated as accounting hedges, changes in market factors lead to the recognition of fair value changes in net derivative gains (losses) generally without an offsetting gain or loss recognized in earnings for the item being hedged, which creates volatility in earnings. We actively evaluate market risk hedging needs and strategies to ensure our liquidity objectives are met under a range of market conditions. For example, during 2017, we restructured certain derivative hedges to decrease volatility from nonqualified interest rate derivatives and to help meet liquidity objectives under varying interest rate scenarios. As part of this restructuring, we replaced certain nonqualified derivatives with derivatives that qualify for hedge accounting treatment. In addition, we also entered into replication transactions using interest rate swaps, which are accounted for at amortized cost under statutory guidelines and are nonqualified derivatives under GAAP.
Certain direct or assumed variable annuity products with guaranteed minimum benefits contain embedded derivatives that are measured at estimated fair value separately from the host variable annuity contract, with changes in estimated fair value recorded in net derivative gains (losses). We use reinsurance and derivatives to hedge the market and other risks inherent in these variable annuity guarantees. Ceded reinsurance of direct variable annuity products with guaranteed minimum benefits generally contain embedded derivatives that are measured at estimated fair value separately from the host variable annuity contract, with changes in estimated fair value recorded in net derivative gains (losses). Ongoing refinement of the strategy may be required to take advantage of recently adopted NAIC rules related to a statutory accounting election for derivatives that mitigate interest rate sensitivity related to variable annuity guarantees. The restructured hedge strategy is classified as a macro hedge program, included in the non-VA program derivatives section of the table below, to protect our overall statutory capital from significant adverse economic conditions. The valuation of these embedded derivatives includes a nonperformance risk adjustment, which is unhedged, and can be a significant driver of net derivative gains (losses) and volatility in earnings, but does not have an economic impact on us.
Net Derivative Gains (Losses). Direct, assumed and ceded variable annuity embedded derivatives, as well as the associated freestanding derivative hedges, are referred to as “VA program derivatives.” All other embedded derivatives and all freestanding derivatives that are economic hedges of certain invested assets and insurance liabilities are referred to as “non-VA program derivatives.” The table below presents the impact on net derivative gains (losses) from non-VA program derivatives and VA program derivatives:
Years Ended December 31,
Non-VA program derivatives
Foreign currency exchange rate
Non-VA embedded derivatives
Total non-VA program derivatives
VA program derivatives
Embedded derivatives - direct and assumed guarantees:
Nonperformance risk adjustment
Embedded derivatives - ceded reinsurance:
Market and other risks
Freestanding derivatives hedging direct and assumed embedded derivatives
Total VA program derivatives
Net derivative gains (losses)
The favorable change in net derivative gains (losses) on non-VA program derivatives was $1.2 billion ($912 million, net of income tax). This was primarily due to the U.S. dollar strengthening relative to other key currencies in 2018 versus mostly weakening in 2017, favorably impacting foreign currency swaps that primarily hedge foreign currency-denominated bonds. Also, there was a change in the value of the underlying assets favorably impacting non-VA embedded derivatives related to funds withheld on a certain reinsurance agreement. These increases were partially offset by credit spreads widening in 2018 while narrowing in 2017, unfavorably impacting written credit default swaps used in replications and long-term interest rates increasing in 2018 while mostly decreasing in 2017, unfavorably impacting receive fixed interest rate swaps and interest rate total return swaps. Because certain of these hedging strategies are not designated or do not qualify as accounting hedges, the changes in the estimated fair value of these freestanding derivatives are recognized in net derivative gains (losses) without an offsetting gain or loss recognized in earnings for the item being hedged.
The unfavorable change in net derivative gains (losses) on VA program derivatives was $45 million ($36 million, net of income tax). This was due to an unfavorable change of $161 million ($127 million, net of income tax) in market and other risks on direct and assumed variable annuity embedded derivatives, net of the impact of market and other risks on the ceded reinsurance embedded derivatives and net of freestanding derivatives hedging those risks, partially offset by a favorable change of $116 million ($92 million, net of income tax) in the nonperformance risk adjustment on the direct and assumed variable annuity embedded derivatives. Other risks relate primarily to the impact of policyholder behavior and other non-market risks that generally cannot be hedged. The primary change in other risks was due to the impact of variable annuity reinsurance recaptures, which occurred in the first quarter of 2017.
The aforementioned unfavorable change of $161 million ($127 million, net of income tax) was primarily driven by changes in market factors and other risks.
The primary changes in market factors are summarized as follows:
Key equity index levels decreased in 2018 and increased in 2017, contributing to a favorable change in our freestanding derivatives and an unfavorable change in our embedded derivatives. For example, the S&P 500 Index decreased 6% in 2018 and increased 19% in 2017.
Long-term U.S. interest rates increased in 2018 and mostly decreased in 2017, contributing to a favorable change in our embedded derivatives and an unfavorable change in our freestanding interest rate derivatives, which was partially mitigated by the restructuring of the VA hedging strategy. For example, the 30-year U.S. swap rate increased 30 basis points in 2018 and decreased 5 basis points in 2017.
We calculate the nonperformance risk adjustment as the change in the embedded derivative discounted at the risk-adjusted rate (which includes our own credit spread to the extent that the embedded derivative is in-the-money) less the change in the embedded derivative discounted at the risk-free rate. The favorable change in the nonperformance risk adjustment on the direct and assumed variable annuity embedded derivatives of $116 million ($92 million, net of income tax) was primarily due to a favorable change of $96 million, before income tax, as a result of model changes and changes in capital market inputs, such as long-term interest rates and key equity index levels, on variable annuity guarantees, and a favorable change of $20 million, before income tax, related to changes in our own credit spread.
When equity index levels decrease in isolation, the direct and assumed variable annuity guarantees become more valuable to policyholders, which results in an increase in the undiscounted embedded derivative liability. Discounting this unfavorable change by the risk adjusted rate yields a smaller loss than by discounting at the risk-free rate, thus creating a gain from including an adjustment for nonperformance risk on the direct and assumed variable annuity embedded derivatives.
When the risk-free interest rate decreases in isolation, discounting the embedded derivative liability produces a higher valuation of the liability than if the risk-free interest rate had remained constant. Discounting this unfavorable change by the risk adjusted rate yields a smaller loss than by discounting at the risk-free interest rate, thus creating a gain from including an adjustment for nonperformance risk on the direct and assumed variable annuity embedded derivatives.
When our own credit spread increases in isolation, discounting the embedded derivative liability produces a lower valuation of the liability than if our own credit spread had remained constant. As a result, a gain is created from including an adjustment for nonperformance risk on the direct and assumed variable annuity embedded derivatives. For each of these primary market drivers, the opposite effect occurs when they move in the opposite direction.
Generally, a higher portion of the ceded reinsurance for GMIBs is accounted for as an embedded derivative as compared to the direct guarantees since the settlement provisions of the reinsurance agreements generally meet the accounting criteria of “net settlement.” This mismatch in accounting can lead to significant volatility in earnings, even though the risks inherent in these direct guarantees are fully covered by the ceded reinsurance.
Net Investment Gains (Losses). The unfavorable change in net investment gains (losses) of $181 million ($143 million, net of income tax) primarily reflects lower gains on sales of real estate joint ventures, partially offset by favorable foreign currency translation impacts on unhedged guaranteed investment contracts.
Actuarial Assumption Review and Certain Other Insurance Adjustments. Results for 2018 include a $120 million ($95 million, net of income tax) charge associated with our annual review of actuarial assumptions related to reserves and DAC, of which a $3 million gain ($2 million, net of income tax) was recognized in net derivative gains (losses).
Of the $120 million charge, $49 million ($39 million, net of income tax) was related to DAC and $71 million ($56 million, net of income tax) was associated with reserves. The portion of the $120 million charge that was included in adjusted earnings was a gain of $49 million ($39 million, net of income tax).
The $3 million gain recognized in net derivative gains (losses) associated with our annual review of actuarial assumptions was included within the other risks in embedded derivatives caption in the table above.
As a result of our annual review of actuarial assumptions, changes were made to economic, biometric, policyholder behavior, and operational assumptions. The most significant impacts were due to operational assumption updates related to the projection of closed block results in the MetLife Holdings segment, and are summarized as follows:
Economic assumption updates resulted in net favorable changes to reserves, partially offset by unfavorable changes to DAC for a net favorable impact of $60 million ($47 million, net of income tax).
Changes to biometric assumptions resulted in net favorable changes to DAC, partially offset by unfavorable changes in reserves for a net favorable impact of $33 million ($26 million, net of income tax).
Changes in policyholder behavior assumptions resulted in net unfavorable changes to reserves, partially offset by favorable changes to DAC for a net unfavorable impact of $116 million ($91 million, net of income tax).
Changes in operational assumptions resulted in a net charge of $97 million ($77 million, net of income tax).
Results for 2017 include a $39 million ($25 million, net of 2017 income tax) gain associated with our annual review of actuarial assumptions related to reserves and DAC, of which an $18 million ($12 million, net of 2017 income tax) gain was recognized in net derivative gains (losses). Of the $39 million gain, a $106 million ($69 million, net of 2017 income tax) gain was associated with DAC, offset by a $67 million ($44 million, net of 2017 income tax) loss related to reserves. The portion of the $39 million gain that was included in adjusted earnings was $105 million ($68 million, net of 2017 income tax).
Certain other insurance adjustments recorded in 2018 include a $74 million ($59 million, net of income tax) charge due to a 2018 increase in our incurred but not reported (“IBNR”) life reserves, reflecting enhancements to our processes related to potential claims in our MetLife Holdings segment, and a favorable net insurance adjustment of $47 million ($37 million, net of income tax) resulting from reserve and DAC modeling improvements in our individual disability insurance business in our U.S. segment. These adjustments were included in adjusted earnings.
Taxes and Other Tax-Related Items. Income tax expense for the year ended December 31, 2018 was $173 million, or 4% of income (loss) before provision for income tax, compared with an income tax benefit of $561 million, or 19% of income (loss) before provision for income tax, for the year ended December 31, 2017. The Company’s effective tax rates differ from the U.S. statutory rate of 21% typically due to nontaxable investment income and tax credits for investments in low income housing. Our 2018 results include the following tax items: (i) a net tax-related benefit of $359 million related to the settlement of tax audits, which includes a $349 million benefit related to the tax treatment of a wholly-owned U.K. investment subsidiary of Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (comprised of a $168 million tax benefit and a $181 million interest benefit), (ii) an adjusted earnings benefit of $93 million related to U.S. Tax Reform (comprised of a $139 million tax benefit and a $46 million, net of income tax, reduction in net investment income), and (iii) a benefit of $36 million related to a non-cash transfer of assets from a wholly-owned U.K. investment subsidiary to Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. Our 2017 results include the following tax items: (i) a net benefit of $1.0 billion related to the impact of U.S. Tax Reform which includes a $1.4 billion tax benefit and an adjusted earnings charge of $360 (comprised of a $316 million tax charge and a $44 million, net of income tax, reduction in net investment income), and (ii) a benefit of $36 million from the finalization of certain tax audits.
Adjusted Earnings. As more fully described in “— Non-GAAP and Other Financial Disclosures,” we use adjusted earnings, which does not equate to net income (loss), as determined in accordance with GAAP, to analyze our performance, evaluate segment performance and allocate resources. We believe that the presentation of adjusted earnings, 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 the business. Adjusted earnings allows analysis of our performance and facilitates comparisons to industry results. Adjusted earnings should not be viewed as a substitute for net income (loss). Adjusted earnings increased $1.4 billion, net of income tax, to $3.8 billion, net of income tax, for the year ended December 31, 2018 from $2.4 billion, net of income tax, for the year ended December 31, 2017.
Reconciliation of net income (loss) to adjusted earnings
Years Ended December 31,
Net income (loss)
Less: Net investment gains (losses)
Less: Net derivative gains (losses)
Less: Other adjustments to net income (1)
Less: Provision for income tax (expense) benefit
See definitions and components of adjusted revenues and adjusted expenses under “— Non-GAAP and Other Financial Disclosures.” Further, see “— Reconciliation of revenues to adjusted revenues and expenses to adjusted expenses” for additional details on these adjustments by financial statement line item.
Reconciliation of revenues to adjusted revenues and expenses to adjusted expenses
Years Ended December 31,
Less: Adjustments from total revenues to adjusted revenues, in the line items indicated:
Net investment gains (losses)
Net derivative gains (losses)
Universal life and investment-type product policy fees
Net investment income
Total adjusted revenues
Less: Adjustments from total expenses to adjusted expenses, in the line items indicated:
Policyholder benefits and claims and policyholder dividends
Interest credited to policyholder account balances
Year Ended December 31, 2018 Compared with the Year Ended December 31, 2017
Unless otherwise stated, all amounts discussed below are net of income tax.
Overview. The primary drivers of the increase in adjusted earnings were the favorable impact of U.S. Tax Reform, other favorable tax items, higher net investment income due to higher investment yields and a larger asset base, net favorable refinements to DAC and certain insurance-related liabilities and favorable underwriting, partially offset by higher interest credited expenses and the net unfavorable change from our annual actuarial assumption review.
U.S. Tax Reform. The changes from U.S. Tax Reform resulted in a net increase in adjusted earnings of $902 million for 2018 compared to 2017, which includes a slight reduction in net investment income related to tax credit partnership investments. Our 2018 results include a tax benefit of $449 million, primarily related to the lower tax rate, as well as a tax benefit of $139 million to reflect a revision to the estimated impact from the enactment of U.S. Tax Reform. Our 2017 results include a tax charge of $316 million to reflect the enactment of U.S. Tax Reform.
Business Growth. Net investment income improved as a result of higher average invested assets in our U.S. segment, partially offset by a reduced asset base in our MetLife Holdings segment. The higher asset base in our U.S. segment was due to the impact of increased premiums and deposits, primarily from pension risk transfer sales, partially offset by a decrease in net flows from funding agreements. Consistent with the growth in average invested assets from positive net flows in the U.S segment, interest credited on long-duration and deposit-type liabilities increased. In our MetLife Holdings segment, negative net flows in our deferred annuities business and a decrease in universal life sales resulted in lower asset-based fee income, partially offset by lower deferred annuities interest credited expense, decreasing adjusted earnings. Higher interest credited on insurance liabilities in our MetLife Holdings segment also decreased adjusted earnings. In our U.S. segment, higher volume-related, direct and premium tax expenses were partially offset by lower pension and post-retirement expenses. However, this net increase in expenses, coupled with the increase due to the 2018 reinstatement of the annual health insurer fee under the Patient Protection and Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, were more than offset by a corresponding increase in premiums, fees and other revenues. The combined impact of the items affecting our business growth, partially offset by lower DAC amortization, increased adjusted earnings by $11 million.
Market Factors. Market factors, including interest rate levels, variability in equity market returns, and foreign currency exchange rate fluctuations, continued to impact our results; however, certain impacts were mitigated by derivatives used to hedge these risks. Investment yields were positively impacted by higher yields on fixed income securities and mortgage loans, higher returns on fair value option securities (“FVO Securities”) and real estate investments, lower investment expenses and higher prepayment fees. The resulting increase in net investment income was partially offset by lower returns on private equities, driven by a decrease in partnership distributions, as well as lower earnings on our securities lending program, primarily resulting from lower margins due to the impact of a flatter yield curve. The net increase in investment yields was more than offset by higher average interest credited rates, which drove an increase in interest credited expenses, primarily in our U.S. segment. The changes in market factors discussed above resulted in a $70 million decrease in adjusted earnings.
Underwriting and Actuarial Assumption Review. Favorable underwriting increased adjusted earnings by $119 million due to favorable morbidity experience of $77 million and favorable mortality experience of $42 million, primarily in our U.S. segment. The favorable morbidity experience in our U.S. segment was due to favorable renewal results, as well as lower claim incidence and severity in our group disability business, coupled with growth and favorable claims experience in our accident & health business, partially offset by less favorable claims experience in our dental and vision businesses. Favorable morbidity experience in our MetLife Holdings segment was primarily due to the impact of favorable rate actions in our long-term care business. Favorable mortality results in our U.S. segment were mainly due to our specialized life insurance, pension risk transfer, structured settlements and universal life businesses, partially offset by less favorable claim experience in our term life business. This was partially offset by unfavorable mortality results in our MetLife Holdings segment as a result of higher life claim severity. Our annual actuarial assumption review resulted in a decrease of $46 million in adjusted earnings when compared to 2017, primarily due to less favorable changes in operational assumptions, including updates to closed block projections, maintenance and other expenses.
Other Insurance Adjustments. Refinements to DAC and certain insurance-related liabilities, which were recorded in both 2018 and 2017, resulted in a $171 million increase in adjusted earnings. This includes the following 2018 refinements: (i) a favorable insurance adjustment in our U.S. segment resulting from reserve and DAC modeling improvements in our individual disability insurance business; (ii) a favorable reserve adjustment in our MetLife Holdings segment resulting from modeling improvements in our life business; and (iii) a charge due to an increase in our IBNR life reserves, reflecting enhancements to our processes related to potential claims in our MetLife Holdings segment. This also includes the following 2017 refinements in our MetLife Holdings segment: (i) the net unfavorable impact from a life reinsurance recapture; (ii) the unfavorable impact from the recapture and novation of, as well as adjustments to, assumed and ceded agreements covering certain variable annuity business; (iii) an unfavorable DAC adjustment related to certain assumed participating whole life business; and (iv) a favorable reserve adjustment resulting from modeling improvements in our life business reserving process; as well as a 2017 charge related to an increase in certain RIS policy reserves in our U.S. segment.
Expenses. Our unit cost initiative contributed to an improvement in adjusted earnings of $19 million primarily due to lower (i) Separation-related expenses, (ii) employee-related expenses, including expenses related to pension and postretirement benefits, (iii) expenses for interest on certain tax positions, as well as expenses incurred in 2017 related to the guaranty fund assessment for Penn Treaty Network America Insurance Company. These decreases in expenses were partially offset by increases in (i) litigation accruals, (ii) costs associated with corporate initiatives and projects, and (iii) other corporate-related expenses. The increase in costs associated with corporate initiatives and projects was primarily due to expenses associated with the continued investment in our unit cost initiative, partially offset by lease impairments in 2017 and lower costs associated with certain other enterprise-wide initiatives in 2018.
Taxes and Other Tax-Related Items. The Company’s effective tax rates differ from the U.S. statutory rate of 21% typically due to nontaxable investment income and tax credits for investments in low income housing. This incremental tax benefit was lower in 2018 compared to 2017 which resulted in a $48 million decrease in adjusted earnings. Our results for 2018 include the following tax items: (i) a tax-related benefit of $359 million related to the settlement of tax audits, which included a $349 million benefit related to the tax treatment of a wholly-owned U.K. investment subsidiary of Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (comprised of a $168 million tax benefit and a $181 million interest benefit), and (ii) a benefit of $36 million related to a non-cash transfer of assets from a wholly-owned U.K. investment subsidiary to Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. Our results for 2017 include a tax benefit of $36 million from tax audit settlements.
Effects of Inflation
Management believes that inflation has not had a material effect on the Company’s consolidated results of operations, except insofar as inflation may affect interest rates.
An increase in inflation could affect our business in several ways. During inflationary periods, the value of fixed income investments falls which could increase realized and unrealized losses. Inflation also increases expenses for labor and other materials, potentially putting pressure on profitability if such costs cannot be passed through in our product prices. Prolonged and elevated inflation could adversely affect the financial markets and the economy generally, and dispelling it may require governments to pursue a restrictive fiscal and monetary policy, which could constrain overall economic activity, inhibit revenue growth and reduce the number of attractive investment opportunities.
Our primary investment objective is to optimize, net of income tax, risk-adjusted investment income and risk-adjusted total return while ensuring that assets and liabilities are managed on a cash flow and duration basis. The Investments Department, led by the Chief Investment Officer, manages investment risks using a risk control framework comprised of policies, procedures and limits, as discussed further below. The Investments Risk Committee, chaired by GRM, reviews and monitors investment risk limits and tolerances. We are exposed to the following primary sources of investment risks:
credit risk, relating to the uncertainty associated with the continued ability of a given obligor to make timely payments of principal and interest;
interest rate risk, relating to the market price and cash flow variability associated with changes in market interest rates. Changes in market interest rates will impact the net unrealized gain or loss position of our fixed income investment portfolio and the rates of return we receive on both new funds invested and reinvestment of existing funds;
liquidity risk, relating to the diminished ability to sell certain investments, in times of strained market conditions;
market valuation risk, relating to the variability in the estimated fair value of investments associated with changes in market factors such as credit spreads and equity market levels. A widening of credit spreads will adversely impact the net unrealized gain (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 credit spreads widen significantly or for an extended period of time, will likely result in higher OTTI. Credit spread tightening will reduce net investment income associated with purchases of fixed maturity securities AFS and will favorably impact the net unrealized gain (loss) position of the fixed income investment portfolio;
currency risk, relating to the variability in currency exchange rates for foreign denominated investments including with respect to the U.K.’s planned withdrawal from the European Union. This risk relates to potential decreases in estimated fair value and net investment income resulting from changes in currency 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 foreign denominated investments; and
real estate risk, relating to commercial, agricultural and residential real estate, and stemming from factors, which include, but are not limited to, market conditions, including the supply and demand of leasable commercial space, creditworthiness of borrowers and their tenants and joint venture partners, capital markets volatility, and changes in certain market factors: interest rates, commodity prices, farm incomes and U.S. housing market conditions.
We manage investment risk through in-house fundamental credit analysis of the underlying obligors, issuers, transaction structures and real estate properties. We also manage credit, market and liquidity risk through industry and issuer diversification and asset allocation. These risk limits, approved annually by a committee of directors that oversees our investment portfolio, promote diversification by asset sector, avoid concentrations in any single issuer and limit overall aggregate credit and equity risk exposure, as measured by our economic capital framework. For real estate assets, we manage credit and market risk through asset allocation and by diversifying by geography, property and product type. We manage interest rate risk as part of our ALM strategies. These strategies include maintaining an investment portfolio with diversified maturities that has a weighted average duration that reflects the duration of our estimated liability cash flow profile, and utilizing product design, such as the use of market value adjustment features and surrender charges, to manage interest rate risk. We also manage interest rate risk through proactive monitoring and management of certain NGEs of our products, such as the resetting of credited interest and dividend rates for policies that permit such adjustments. We hedge risk to foreign currency exchange rate fluctuation by hedging with foreign currency derivatives. We also use certain derivatives in the management of credit, interest rate, and market valuation risk.
We enter into market standard purchased and written credit default swap contracts. Payout under such contracts is triggered by certain credit events experienced by the referenced entities. For credit default swaps covering North American corporate issuers, credit events typically include bankruptcy and failure to pay on borrowed money. For European corporate issuers, credit events typically also include involuntary restructuring. With respect to credit default contracts on sovereign debt, credit events typically include failure to pay debt obligations, repudiation, moratorium, or involuntary restructuring. In each case, payout on a credit default swap is triggered only after the Credit Derivatives Determinations Committee of the International Swaps and Derivatives Association determines that a credit event has occurred.
We use purchased credit default swaps to mitigate credit risk in our investment portfolio. Generally, we purchase credit protection by entering into credit default swaps referencing the issuers of specific assets we own. In certain cases, basis risk exists between these credit default swaps and the specific assets we own. For example, we may purchase credit protection on a macro basis to reduce exposure to specific industries or other portfolio concentrations. In such instances, the referenced entities and obligations under the credit default swaps may not be identical to the individual obligors or securities in our investment portfolio. In addition, our purchased credit default swaps may have shorter tenors than the underlying investments they are hedging, which gives us more flexibility in managing credit exposures. We believe that our purchased credit default swaps serve as economic hedges which mitigate our credit exposure.
The global economy and markets continue to be affected by the changing financial and economic environment. As an insurance company with significant operations in the United States, we are affected by the monetary policy of the Federal Reserve Board in the United States, and also the monetary policy of central banks around the world due to the diversification of our investment portfolio. See “— Selected Country and Sector Investments.” Citing a strengthening economy, the Federal Reserve Board has continued along its stated path of balance sheet tapering and the Federal Reserve Board’s Federal Open Market Committee has continued to increase the federal funds rate, most recently in December 2018 and has since left interest rates unchanged. The Federal Reserve, as well as other central banks, may take further actions, including with respect to the level of interest rates, which may have an impact on the pricing levels of risk-bearing investments and may adversely impact our business operations, investment portfolio and derivatives. The current environment continues to impact our net investment income, net investment gains (losses), net derivative gains (losses), level of unrealized gains (losses) within the various asset classes in our investment portfolio, and our level of investment in lower yielding cash equivalents, short-term investments and government securities. See “Risk Factors — Economic Environment and Capital Markets Risks — Difficult Economic Conditions May Adversely Affect Our Business, Results of Operations and Financial Condition.”
We maintain general account investments in Europe in order to diversify our global portfolio. In Europe, we have proactively mitigated risk in both direct and indirect exposures by investing in a diversified portfolio of high quality investments with a focus on the higher-rated countries, including the U.K., France, the Netherlands and Germany. The sovereign and agency debt of these countries continues to maintain investment grade credit ratings from all major rating agencies. European sovereign and agency fixed maturity securities AFS, at estimated fair value, were $1.3 billion at December 31, 2018. Our European corporate securities (fixed maturity and perpetual hybrid securities classified as non-redeemable preferred stock) are invested in a diversified portfolio of primarily non-financial services securities, which comprised $12.6 billion, or 72% of European corporate securities, at estimated fair value, at December 31, 2018. Of these European fixed maturity securities AFS, 93% were investment grade and, for the 7% that were below investment grade, the majority were non-financial services corporate securities at December 31, 2018. European financial services corporate securities, at estimated fair value, were $4.9 billion (including $2.3 billion within the banking sector) with 98% investment grade, at December 31, 2018. Total European fixed maturity securities AFS, at estimated fair value, were $19.0 billion at December 31, 2018, including $285 million of Structured Securities (see “— Fixed Maturity Securities AFS and Equity Securities”).
Selected Country and Sector Investments
We have country specific exposure to volatility, as we maintain general account investments in the selected countries through our global portfolio diversification. In addition, we have sector specific exposure to volatility, including the impact of lower oil prices and variability in oil prices, on the energy sector.
Selected Country: The following table presents a summary of fixed maturity securities AFS in these countries. The information below is presented on a country of risk basis (e.g. the country where the issuer primarily conducts business). Sovereign includes government and agency.
Selected Country Fixed Maturity Securities AFS at December 31, 2018
(Dollars in millions)
Investment grade %
The par value and amortized cost of these selected country fixed maturity securities AFS were $8.4 billion and $9.3 billion, respectively, at December 31, 2018.
Selected Sector: Our exposure to energy sector fixed maturity securities AFS was $6.0 billion (comprised of fixed maturity securities AFS of $6.0 billion at estimated fair value and related net written credit default swaps of $48 million at notional value), of which 83% were investment grade, with unrealized losses of $33 million at December 31, 2018. We maintain a diversified energy sector fixed maturities securities AFS portfolio across sub-sectors and issuers. This portfolio comprised 2% of total investments at December 31, 2018.
We manage direct and indirect investment exposure in the selected countries and the energy sector through fundamental credit analysis and we continually monitor and adjust our level of investment exposure. We do not expect that our general account investments in these countries or the energy sector will have a material adverse effect on our results of operations or financial condition.
Investment Portfolio Results
The reconciliation of net investment income under GAAP to net investment income, as reported on an adjusted earnings basis, is presented below.
For the Years Ended December 31,
Net investment income — GAAP basis
Investment hedge adjustments
Net investment income, as reported on an adjusted basis (1)
See “— Non-GAAP and Other Financial Disclosures — Adjusted revenues and adjusted expenses — Net investment income” for a discussion of the adjustments made to net investment income under GAAP in calculating net investment income, as reported on an adjusted basis.
The following yield table presents our investment portfolio results for the periods indicated. We calculate yields on our investment portfolio using the non-GAAP performance metric of net investment income, as reported on an adjusted basis. Net investment income, as reported on an adjusted basis, includes the impact of changes in foreign currency exchange rates. This yield table presentation is consistent with how we measure our investment performance for management purposes, and we believe it enhances understanding of our investment portfolio results.
For the Years Ended December 31,
(Dollars in millions)
Fixed maturity securities AFS (2) (3)
Mortgage loans (3)
Real estate and real estate joint ventures
Other limited partnership interests
Cash and short-term investments
Other invested assets
Investment fees and expenses
Net investment income, as reported on an adjusted basis
Yields are calculated as investment income as a percent of average quarterly asset carrying values. Investment income excludes recognized gains and losses. Asset carrying values exclude unrealized gains (losses), collateral received in connection with our securities lending program, annuities funding structured settlement claims, freestanding derivative assets, collateral received from derivative counterparties, and the effects of consolidating certain variable interest entities (“VIEs”) under GAAP that are treated as consolidated securitization entities (“CSEs”). A yield is not presented for other invested assets, as it is not considered a meaningful measure of performance for this asset class.
Investment income from fixed maturity securities AFS includes amounts from FVO Securities of $22 million for the year ended December 31, 2018. There were no FVO Securities and related investment income as of and for the years ended December 31, 2017 and 2016.
Investment income from fixed maturity securities AFS and mortgage loans includes prepayment fees.
See “— Results of Operations — Consolidated Results — Adjusted Earnings” for an analysis of the period over period changes in investment portfolio results.
Fixed Maturity Securities AFS and Equity Securities
The following table presents fixed maturity securities AFS and equity securities by type (public or private) and information about perpetual and redeemable securities held at:
December 31, 2018
December 31, 2017
% of Total
% of Total
(Dollars in millions)
Fixed maturity securities AFS
Total fixed maturity securities AFS
Percentage of cash and invested assets
Total equity securities
Percentage of cash and invested assets
Perpetual and redeemable securities
Perpetual securities included within fixed maturity securities AFS and equity securities
Redeemable preferred stock with a stated maturity included within fixed maturity securities AFS
Included within fixed maturity securities AFS are structured securities including residential mortgage-backed securities (“RMBS”), asset-backed securities (“ABS”) and commercial mortgage-backed securities (“CMBS”) (collectively, “Structured Securities”).
Perpetual securities are included within fixed maturity securities AFS and equity securities. Upon acquisition, we classify perpetual securities that have attributes of both debt and equity as fixed maturity securities AFS if the securities have an interest rate step-up feature which, when combined with other qualitative factors, indicates that the securities have more debt-like characteristics; while those with more equity-like characteristics are classified as equity securities. Many of such securities, commonly referred to as “perpetual hybrid securities,” have been issued by non-U.S. financial institutions that are accorded the highest two capital treatment categories by their respective regulatory bodies (i.e. core capital, or “Tier 1 capital” and perpetual deferrable securities, or “Upper Tier 2 capital”).
Redeemable preferred stock with a stated maturity is included within fixed maturity securities AFS. These securities, which are commonly referred to as “capital securities,” primarily have cumulative interest deferral features and are primarily issued by U.S. financial institutions.
Valuation of Securities. We are responsible for the determination of the estimated fair value of our investments. We determine the estimated fair value of publicly-traded securities after considering one of three primary sources of information: quoted market prices in active markets, independent pricing services, or independent broker quotations. We determine the estimated fair value of privately-placed securities after considering one of three primary sources of information: market standard internal matrix pricing, market standard internal discounted cash flow techniques, or independent pricing services (after we determine the independent pricing services’ use of available observable market data). For publicly-traded securities, the number of quotations obtained varies by instrument and depends on the liquidity of the particular instrument. Generally, we obtain prices from multiple pricing services to cover all asset classes and obtain multiple prices for certain securities, but ultimately utilize the price with the highest placement in the fair value hierarchy. Independent pricing services that value these instruments use market standard valuation methodologies based on data about market transactions and inputs from multiple pricing sources that are market observable or can be derived principally from or corroborated by observable market data. See Note 10 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements for a discussion of the types of market standard valuation methodologies utilized and key assumptions and observable inputs used in applying these standard valuation methodologies. When a price is not available in the active market or through an independent pricing service, management values the security primarily using market standard internal matrix pricing or discounted cash flow techniques, and non-binding quotations from independent brokers who are knowledgeable about these securities. Independent non-binding broker quotations utilize inputs that may be difficult to corroborate with observable market data. As shown in the following section, less than 1% of our fixed maturity securities AFS were valued using non-binding quotations from independent brokers at December 31, 2018.
Senior management, independent of the trading and investing functions, is responsible for the oversight of control systems and valuation policies for securities, mortgage loans and derivatives. On a quarterly basis, new transaction types and markets are reviewed and approved to ensure that observable market prices and market-based parameters are used for valuation, wherever possible, and for determining that valuation adjustments, when applied, are based upon established policies and are applied consistently over time. Senior management oversees the selection of independent third-party pricing providers and the controls and procedures to evaluate third-party pricing.
We review our valuation methodologies on an ongoing basis and revise those methodologies when necessary based on changing market conditions. Assurance is gained on the overall reasonableness and consistent application of input assumptions, valuation methodologies and compliance with fair value accounting standards through controls designed to ensure valuations represent an exit price. Several controls are utilized, including certain monthly controls, which include, but are not limited to, analysis of portfolio returns to corresponding benchmark returns, comparing a sample of executed prices of securities sold to the fair value estimates, comparing fair value estimates to management’s knowledge of the current market, reviewing the bid/ask spreads to assess activity, comparing prices from multiple independent pricing services and ongoing due diligence to confirm that independent pricing services use market-based parameters. The process includes a determination of the observability of inputs used in estimated fair values received from independent pricing services or brokers by assessing whether these inputs can be corroborated by observable market data. We ensure that prices received from independent brokers, also referred to herein as “consensus pricing,” are representative of estimated fair value by considering such pricing relative to our knowledge of the current market dynamics and current pricing for similar financial instruments. While independent non-binding broker quotations are utilized, they are not used for a significant portion of the portfolio.
We also apply a formal process to challenge any prices received from independent pricing services that are not considered representative of estimated fair value. If prices received from independent pricing services are not considered reflective of market activity or representative of estimated fair value, independent non-binding broker quotations are obtained, or an internally developed valuation is prepared. Internally developed valuations of current estimated fair value, compared with pricing received from the independent pricing services, did not produce material differences in the estimated fair values for the majority of the portfolio; accordingly, overrides were not material. This is, in part, because internal estimates are generally based on available market evidence and estimates used by other market participants. In the absence of such market-based evidence, management’s best estimate is used.
We have reviewed the significance and observability of inputs used in the valuation methodologies to determine the appropriate fair value hierarchy level for each of our securities. Based on the results of this review and investment class analysis, each instrument is categorized as Level 1, 2 or 3 based on the lowest level significant input to its valuation. See Note 10 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements for information regarding the valuation techniques and inputs by level within the three-level fair value hierarchy by major classes of invested assets.
Fair Value of Fixed Maturity Securities AFS and Equity Securities
Fixed maturity securities AFS and equity securities measured at estimated fair value on a recurring basis and their corresponding fair value pricing sources are as follows:
December 31, 2018
(Dollars in millions)
Quoted prices in active markets for identical assets
Independent pricing sources
Internal matrix pricing or discounted cash flow techniques
Significant other observable inputs
Independent pricing sources
Internal matrix pricing or discounted cash flow techniques
Independent broker quotations
Significant unobservable inputs
Total estimated fair value
See Note 10 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements for the fixed maturity securities AFS and equity securities fair value hierarchy.
The majority of the Level 3 fixed maturity securities AFS and equity securities were concentrated in three sectors: U.S. and foreign corporate securities and RMBS at December 31, 2018. During the year ended December 31, 2018, Level 3 fixed maturity securities AFS decreased by $1.0 billion, or 9%. The decrease was driven by transfers out of Level 3 in excess of transfers into Level 3 and a decrease in estimated fair value recognized in other comprehensive income (loss), partially offset by purchases in excess of sales and an increase in estimated fair value recognized in net income.
See “— Fixed Maturity Securities AFS and Equity Securities — Valuation of Securities” for further information regarding the composition of fair value pricing sources for securities. See Note 10 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements for a rollforward of the fair value measurements for securities measured at estimated fair value on a recurring basis using significant unobservable (Level 3) inputs; transfers into and/or out of Level 3; and further information about the valuation approaches and inputs by level and by major classes of invested assets that affect the amounts reported above.
Fixed Maturity Securities AFS
See Notes 1 and 8 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements for information about fixed maturity securities AFS by sector, contractual maturities and continuous gross unrealized losses.
The Securities Valuation Office of the NAIC evaluates the fixed maturity security investments of insurers for regulatory reporting and capital assessment purposes and assigns securities to one of six credit quality categories called “NAIC designations.” If no designation is available from the NAIC, then, as permitted by the NAIC, an internally developed designation is used. The NAIC designations are generally similar to the credit quality ratings of the NRSRO for fixed maturity securities AFS, except for certain Structured Securities as described below. Rating agency ratings are based on availability of applicable ratings from rating agencies on the NAIC credit rating provider list, including Moody’s, S&P, Fitch, Dominion Bond Rating Service, A.M. Best, Kroll Bond Rating Agency, Egan Jones Ratings Company and Morningstar Credit Ratings, LLC (“Morningstar”). If no rating is available from a rating agency, then an internally developed rating is used.
The NAIC has adopted revised methodologies for certain Structured Securities comprised of non-agency RMBS, CMBS and ABS. The NAIC’s objective with the revised methodologies for these Structured Securities was to increase the accuracy in assessing expected losses, and to use the improved assessment to determine a more appropriate capital requirement for such Structured Securities. The revised methodologies reduce regulatory reliance on rating agencies and allow for greater regulatory input into the assumptions used to estimate expected losses from Structured Securities. We apply the revised NAIC methodologies to Structured Securities held by Metropolitan Life Insurance Company as it maintains the NAIC statutory basis of accounting. The NAIC’s present methodology is to evaluate Structured Securities held by insurers using the revised NAIC methodologies on an annual basis. If Metropolitan Life Insurance Company acquires Structured Securities that have not been previously evaluated by the NAIC, but are expected to be evaluated by the NAIC in the upcoming annual review, an internally developed designation is used until an NAIC designation becomes available. NAIC designations may not correspond to NRSRO ratings.
The following table presents total fixed maturity securities AFS by NRSRO rating and the applicable NAIC designation from the NAIC published comparison of NRSRO ratings to NAIC designations, except for certain Structured Securities, which are presented using the revised NAIC methodologies as described above, as well as the percentage, based on estimated fair value that each NAIC designation is comprised of at:
The following tables present total fixed maturity securities AFS, based on estimated fair value, by sector classification and by NRSRO rating and the applicable NAIC designations from the NAIC published comparison of NRSRO ratings to NAIC designations, except for certain Structured Securities, which are presented using the revised NAIC methodologies as described above: