Insurer Probe, Bitcoin Technology, Wal-Mart: Compliance

U.K. insurers slid in London trading after regulators said they plan a probe into policies stretching back to the 1970s, the second government threat to the industry’s earnings in as many weeks.

The Financial Conduct Authority today will publish a plan of its priorities for the year that will include an examination of how long-standing customers in the life insurance market have been treated, a spokeswoman for the London-based regulator said in a statement.

The Daily Telegraph reported March 28 that the FCA will review 30 million policies, citing Director of Supervision Clive Adamson. The FCA said most policies examined will be more recent than the 1970s and it has no plans to review 30 million policies individually.

The FCA said it will be talking to companies and no conclusions have been reached. The Telegraph said the review will include pensions, endowments, investment bonds and life insurance sold by door-to-door salesmen on commission, and will consider whether policyholders may be allowed to exit or move to better deals.

Compliance Policy

Bitcoin’s Underlying Technology Seen as Having a Bright Future

Investor-backed entrepreneurs are betting that the technology behind Bitcoin can be used for a range of financial tasks now handled by banks, exchanges, e-commerce providers and other middlemen.

Invictus Innovations Inc., Ripple Labs Inc. and other startups are harnessing Bitcoin’s underlying code for such tasks as authentication, which means making sure that a buyer isn’t posing as someone else, and verification of payments. If successful, the new tools might reduce the fees shouldered by buyers and sellers in the $1.22 trillion global electronic-commerce market, as well in financial services, cloud computing and other areas.

In a report this month, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) said while Bitcoins probably won’t be viable as a currency, the basic technology “could hold promise.”

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Courts

Wal-Mart Sues Visa Claiming Card Transaction Fee Conspiracy

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) sued Visa Inc. (V) in federal court in Fayetteville, Arkansas, accusing the card payment network company of conspiring with banks to fix transaction fees.

The March 25 suit is the action in a multiyear legal fight between retailers and card issuers.

Wal-Mart, the world’s biggest retailer, claims antitrust violations and seeks at least $5 billion in damages. It is one of dozens of large merchants that dropped out of a nationwide settlement with Visa and MasterCard Inc. (MA) to pursue their own lawsuits.

A Visa spokesman declined to comment on the Wal-Mart complaint.

The case is Wal-Mart Stores Inc. v. Visa USA Inc., 14-cv-05101, U.S. District Court, Western District of Arkansas (Fayetteville).

Interviews/Commentary

Tarullo Defends Fed’s Move to Supervise Foreign Bank Units

Federal Reserve Governor Daniel Tarullo defended the central bank’s rules requiring stricter supervision of foreign banking companies operating in the U.S., saying the global financial crisis made it clear that regulation needed to be expanded.

Foreign banking organizations with U.S. assets of $50 billion or more must now establish U.S. holding companies subject to Fed oversight, according to a rule published in February.

Accusing the U.S. of “Balkanization” in regulation is “curious,” given that foreign banks needed large amounts of Fed assistance during the crisis and that the Fed is working with other national regulators to assure financial stability in host countries, Tarullo said.

Banks subject to the rule issued in February must hold their subsidiaries in holding companies that are subject to capital and liquidity standards applied to U.S. banks and meet special risk-management standards.

To contact the reporter on this story: Carla Main in New Jersey at cmain2@bloomberg.net,

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net. Stephen Farr, Charles Carter

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