MetLife CEO to feds: We're not too big to fail

Strong regulation but no label please: MetLife CEO
Strong regulation but no label please: MetLife CEO

MetLife plans to file an appeal in federal court on Tuesday against regulators' decision that the insurer is a too big too fail.

Ahead of the legal action, Chairman and CEO Steven Kandarian told CNBC that regulators "got this one wrong." He said there's compelling evidence the company is not a "nonbank systemically important financial institution" under the Dodd-Frank Act Wall Street oversight law, which was signed by President Barack Obama in 2010 and designed to prevent another financial crisis like the one in 2008.

In a "Squawk Box" interview, Kandarian said MetLife has never engaged in the kind of risky financial behavior that got companies in trouble in the lead-up to the financial crisis. Kandarian added that he supports regulation but said the insurance industry is already regulated enough.

He said setting a new federal standard for just the largest life insurers would drive up the costs for consumers. "This action could lead and is likely to lead to higher costs for middle class consumers of insurance products without any additional safety being provided to the system."

"We want a level playing field for everyone to compete on," he continued. "But here you're singling out a couple of large life insurers and ... putting them on an unlevel playing field."

Kandarian, a former regulator himself, said there's a better way to handle insurers, "using an activities-based approach" like asset managers rather than singling out a couple of companies.