Judge’s ruling highlights concerns about arbitrary decisions

Federal judges are not in the habit of going off half-cocked. But according to one of them, the government’s financial institution regulators are.

More than two years ago, the Financial Stability Oversight Council labeled insurance giant MetLife as “systemically important” – and thus, requiring closer federal oversight than most other companies.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer ordered the FSOC to remove the “systemically important” designation. After reviewing the situation, Collyer decided the government’s action was “arbitrary and capricious.”

Specifically, federal regulators failed to consider the cost of their decision to MetLife, the judge ruled. And, she added, the FSOC did not follow its own guidelines in deciding to place MetLife on its list for special attention.

Finally, commented the judge, the FSOC did not bother to explain why it failed to follow its own criteria. That certainly does sound like “arbitrary and capricious” – though from the current administration, such action should come as no surprise.

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew has vowed to appeal Collyer’s ruling, so it may take some time to determine whether the FSOC will be required to follow its own rules. In the meantime, however, Americans will have to wonder how many other arbitrary and capricious actions are costing financial institutions – and thus, their customers – money unnecessarily.