Interlocking relationships between member bank and variable annuity insurance company.
(a) The Board has recently been asked to consider whether section 32 of the Banking Act of 1933 (12 U.S.C. 78) and this part prohibit interlocking service between member banks and (1) the board of managers of an accumulation fund, registered under the Investment Company Act of 1940 (15 U.S.C. 80 ), that sells variable annuities and (2) the board of directors of the insurance company, of which the accumulation fund is a “separate account,” but as to which the insurance company is the sponsor, investment advisor, underwriter, and distributor. Briefly, a variable annuity is one providing for annuity payment varying in accordance with the changing values of a portfolio of securities.
(b) Section 32 provides in relevant part that:
No officer, director, or employee of any corporation or unincorporated association, no partner or employee of any partnership, and no individual, primarily engaged in the issue, flotation, underwriting, public sale, or distribution, at wholesale or retail, or through syndicate participation, of stocks, bonds, or other similar securities, shall serve [at] the same time as an officer, director, or employee of any member bank * * *.
(c) For many years, the Board's position has been that an open-end investment company (or mutual fund) is “primarily engaged in the issue * * * public sale, or distribution * * * of securities” since the issuance and sale of its stock is essential to the maintenance of the company's size and to the continuance of its operations without substantial contraction, and that section 32 of the Banking Act of 1933 prohibits an officer, director, or employee of any such company from serving at the same time as an officer, director, or employee of any member bank. (1951 Federal Reserve Bulletin 645; § 218.101.)
(d) For reasons similar to those stated by the U.S. Supreme Court in Securities and Exchange Commission v. Variable Annuity Life Insurance Company of America, 359 U.S. 65 (1959), the Board concluded that there is no meaningful basis for distinguishing a variable annuity interest from a mutual fund share for section 32 purposes and that, therefore, variable annuity interests should also be regarded as “other similar securities” within the prohibition of the statute and regulation.
(e) The Board concluded also that, since the accumulation fund, like a mutual fund, must continually issue and sell its investment units in order to avoid the inevitable contraction of its activities as it makes annuity payments or redeems variable annuity units, the accumulation fund is “primarily engaged” for section 32 purposes. The Board further concluded that the insurance company was likewise “primarily engaged” for the purposes of the statute since it had no significant revenue producing operations other than as underwriter and distributor of the accumulation fund's units and investment advisor to the fund.
(f) Although it was clear, therefore, that section 32 prohibits any officers, directors, and employees of member banks from serving in any such capacity with the insurance company or accumulation fund, the Board also considered whether members of the board of managers of the accumulation fund are “officers, directors, or employees” within such prohibition. The functions of the board of managers, who are elected by the variable annuity contract owners, are, with the approval of the variable annuity contract owners, to select annually an independent public accountant, execute annually an agreement providing for investment advisory services, and recommend any changes in the fundamental investment policy of the accumulation fund. In addition, the Board of managers has sole authority to execute an agreement providing for sales and administrative services and to authorize all investments of the assets of the accumulation fund in accordance with its fundamental investment policy. In the opinion of the Board of Governors, the board of managers of the accumulation fund performs functions essentially the same as those performed by classes of persons as to whom the prohibition of section 32 was specifically directed and, accordingly, are within the prohibitions of the statute.