MetLife General Counsel to Step Down After Beating U.S. in Court

  • He will retire at the end of June, serve as an adviser to CEO
  • Anzaldua designed, carried out FSOC challenge, Kandarian says

MetLife Inc. General Counsel Ricardo Anzaldua is stepping down after he helped win a court battle that reversed the government’s designation of the insurer as too big to fail.

Anzaldua’s last day in the post will be June 30, and he’ll continue to advise Chief Executive Officer Steve Kandarian through the end of the year, the CEO said Thursday in a memo to staff. Stephen Gauster, who is senior vice president and chief counsel, will become interim general counsel while the New York-based company searches for Anzaldua’s replacement.

Under Anzaldua, MetLife was the only company to go to court to fight the designation by a government panel as a non-bank systemically important financial institution. General Electric Co. sold assets to shed its finance unit’s SIFI status. And American International Group Inc. said that the label, which can bring increased regulation and tighter capital rules, wasn’t a big deal.

Anzaldua “designed and carried out our successful strategy” to challenge the SIFI tag, Kandarian said in the memo. “Our victory has preserved our ability to remain on a level playing field with others in the industry.”

The government has sought to overturn the decision. But MetLife requested that a court delay ruling on the appeal after President Donald Trump instructed the Treasury Department to evaluate how the Financial Stability Oversight Council designates companies.

Anzadula joined MetLife, the largest U.S. life insurer, in 2012 from Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. He previously worked at Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton LLP and is a graduate of Harvard Law School, according to MetLife’s biography page.

‘Transformation’ Plan

MetLife in recent years has settled legal reviews by regulators. The company agreed in 2016 to pay $25 million to resolve a probe of abuses tied to variable annuities. In 2014, the company reached a deal to pay $60 million after New York watchdogs found that subsidiaries obtained from AIG solicited business in the state without a license and made misrepresentations to regulators.

Anzaldua also worked on the sale of a network of advisers to Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. And he won praise from Kandarian for helping to craft MetLife’s plan to spin off a U.S. retail unit, which has more than $220 billion of assets and is called Brighthouse Financial.

That plan “is the centerpiece of our transformation into a company with less market sensitivity and stronger free cash flow,” the CEO said in the memo.

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