Washington, D.C. — Consumer Federation of America announced today that J. Robert “Bob” Hunter, the organization’s Director of Insurance since 1995, will be retiring from CFA effective immediately. He will continue to serve in an advisory role as CFA’s Insurance Director Emeritus. Prior to joining CFA, Bob created and ran the National Insurance Consumer Organization (NICO) for 13 years, served as Texas Insurance Commissioner, and as United States Federal Insurance Administrator.
“Bob built the consumer advocacy presence in the American insurance industry from scratch, and anyone who has purchased insurance owes him tremendous gratitude,” said Jack Gillis, CFA’s Executive Director. “By virtue of the problems he exposed, the reforms he spurred, and the changes to industry practices that came from his work, we calculate that his research and advocacy have saved American consumers hundreds of billions of dollars.”
“Continuing in the advocacy tradition of Bob Hunter, I’m thrilled to announce that CFA’s Insurance Advocate, Doug Heller, will take on the role of Director of Insurance,” added Gillis.
The Remarkable Career of J. Robert “Bob” Hunter
After 10 years as an insurance actuary in the private sector, Hunter was hired by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in 1971 as the Chief Actuary of the Federal Insurance Administration, an agency he would lead under Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. His work was instrumental in achieving the flood insurance program’s early goals, creating the Liability Risk Retention Act, and making insurance available in the inner cities through the implementation of the Riot Reinsurance Program and the Federal Crime Insurance Program. He received the Award for Excellent Service from the Secretary of HUD. Hunter was later appointed by Governor Ann Richards to serve as Texas Insurance Commissioner.
As Hunter recalls, “When I got my first paycheck, it said ‘The people of the United States Pay to: J. Robert Hunter…’ When I read that, it was a deeply moving, life-changing moment. I thought to myself, ‘now I have to think about insurance from the people’s perspective.’”
In 1980, with financial support and encouragement from Ralph Nader, Hunter founded and led the National Insurance Consumer Organization, a nonprofit insurance consumer advocacy organization, for 13 years prior to joining CFA in 1995 as Director of Insurance. He viewed his role as his contribution to improving society and therefore never sought any compensation for his 40 years of work with NICO and Consumer Federation of America.
During his career, Hunter won several significant legislative and regulatory reforms of the insurance industry and led the way to changes in the way the industry operates; the trade magazine National Underwriter named him among the “25 Living Legends of Insurance.”
- In the 1980s he successfully pushed for a significant change to insurance ratemaking – getting insurers to include their projected investment income in ratemaking – saving policyholders an estimated $500 billion since that time.
- In one twelve-month period, Hunter testified in every state in the Union to combat the industry’s effort to use the macro-economic insurance cycle as an excuse to spike rates and diminish consumer legal rights.
- In 1986, under contract with the California Legislature, he wrote a seminal paper on California’s insurance market, which served as the basis for 1988’s historic “Voter Revolt” that enacted Proposition 103. The nation’s strongest insurance consumer protection law, CFA calculates that Prop 103 has saved California drivers alone over $150 billion since enactment.
- When Hurricane Andrew devastated Florida in 1992, he proposed the moratorium on cancellations and rate hikes and a series of other reforms the state adopted to protect policyholders in the storm’s wake.
- Hunter helped uncover and reform abusive claims handling practices associated with the Colossus computer software program used to calculate the amount the insurer would offer for car crash injury claims.
- He uncovered, in the early 2010s, the practice of price optimization, where insurers charge certain customers higher premiums based on their shopping habits, particularly harming the most loyal customers. His work spurred action against the practice in twenty states and at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC).
Over his career, Hunter has been at the forefront of efforts to eliminate unfair and discriminatory pricing in the insurance markets, especially where those practices punish lower-income consumers. During the pandemic he has continued his fight for consumers, with calls for insurance refunds to auto insurance customers as companies reaped windfall profits while Americans were stuck at home.
Hunter also encouraged other consumer advocates to focus on insurance consumer protections, creating connections and campaigns that have expanded the reach of many of the reforms Hunter first developed. Among those advocates are Harvey Rosenfield, author of California’s Prop 103, Birny Birnbaum of The Center for Economic Justice, Amy Bach of United Policyholders, Joanne Doroshow of The Center for Justice & Democracy, and Doug Heller of Consumer Federation of America.
“Bob has been an unrelenting advocate for four decades, whose work has dramatically changed the way insurance in America is priced and how claims are paid,” said Doug Heller, who has worked with Hunter at CFA since 2013. “For the past forty years, the insurance industry has always had to ask themselves ‘what’s Bob going to say?’ whenever a consumer issue was on the table. It is impossible to quantify fully the impact Bob Hunter has had on the insurance market, its regulation, and its public policy. We are deeply grateful for his work and thankful that he will continue to provide his insights and expertise even in his retirement.”
Contact: Doug Heller, 310-480-4170