MetLife Inc. sued the U.S. government over a panel’s decision to label it critical to the economy, arguing that imposing higher regulatory standards will drive up the cost of financial protection for consumers.

The label would subject the company to more oversight, even though insurers already fall under a comprehensive state-level “regime that supervises every aspect of MetLife’s U.S. insurance business,” its lawyer Eugene Scalia wrote in a complaint filed today in Washington.

The U.S. Financial Stability Oversight Council relied on “vague standards and assertions, unsubstantiated speculation and unreasonable assumptions” in tagging MetLife with the SIFI label and denied the company an opportunity for rebuttal in violation of its due process rights, according to the complaint.

The company said it isn’t a systemically important financial institution, or SIFI, because it “is not predominantly engaged in financial activities” as defined by the Dodd-Frank law behind the designation.

It asked the court to set aside the decision.

MetLife doesn’t even qualify as a “U.S. nonbank financial company” eligible for designation because it derives more than 15 percent of its revenues from, and more than 15 percent of its assets are related to, insurance activities in foreign markets, Scalia wrote.

Company’s Lawyer

If the court agrees, “everything else does become irrelevant,” H. Rodgin Cohen, senior chairman of the Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, one of two law firms advising MetLife on the matter, said today on a conference call. The company also hired Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP, Scalia’s firm.

MetLife was the fourth nonbank to receive the SIFI label from the council, a panel of government officials led by Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew.

The council has 10 voting members including the heads of the Federal Reserve, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

The designation is the result of “a thorough analysis and extensive engagement with the company,” Suzanne Elio, a spokeswoman for the Treasury Department, said in an e-mailed statement. “We are confident in the council’s work.”