James R. Mumford, 78, the retired Iowa insurance regulator widely known for supporting and helping advance numerous “balanced” annuity regulations and compliance initiatives, has died.
Mumford died Monday from injuries suffered in an accident while he was working on his Winterset, Iowa home. A memorial service will be held at 10:30 a.m., Thursday at the Jackson Building on the Madison County Fairgrounds in Winterset. Memorials may be made to Habitat for Humanity or the National Great Pyrenees Rescue.
Online condolences may be left for the family with Mumford's obituary.
Mumford was first deputy insurance commissioner in the Iowa Insurance Division from 2005 until 2015. In addition, he had served as administrator of the Iowa Securities Industry & Regulated Industries Bureau for six of those years, this following the bureau’s combination with the insurance department.
Much of Mumford’s regulatory work in Iowa took on a national scope, to the point that he became a household name in annuity circles nationwide.
He worked continuously with various committees of National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) to support and improve NAIC regulations on annuity suitability. For many months, he met regularly with the NAIC task force that ultimately revised the NAIC’s Annuity Disclosure and Annuity Buyers Guides. He supported efforts to adopt annuity illustration rules that apply to carriers that opt to offer such illustrations but not to those who don’t use illustrations.
He was also active on an NAIC working group coordinating with federal agencies on Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) retirement lifetime income issues.
Mumford was known for his collaborative style of regulation. In joint sessions with the industry, he often would introduce discussion with a reminder that “we (the regulators) are still at the listening stage” on the issue under discussion. Then he would sit back and listen attentively.
When Iowa started receiving complaints about insurance and securities advisors speaking with customers about topics outside their field of licensure, he checked around with other regulators. That led to a friendly collaboration with Minnesota, and the outcome was development of separate bulletins for the insurance and securities industries that delineate the advisory boundaries. (The Iowa versions are Insurance Bulletin 11-4 and Securities Bulletin 11-S-1.) Mumford then began urging other states to do something similar — an effort that continued through the end of 2014.
A graduate of Harvard Law School, Mumford started his career in private practice in 1965, later moving over to Equitable Life of Iowa, and next starting a law firm specializing in insurance, including matters involving variable and indexed annuity products. In 1997, he joined ING Americas as chief counsel-corporate affairs, then joined another law firm in 2003, and two years later, joined the Iowa Insurance Division.
Along the way, he became active in the National Organization of Life and Health Guaranty Association (NOLHGA). In his stints in legal practice, he represented member companies of the American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI). As recently as this January, he provided input to the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC). He told InsuranceNewsNet that he often went to Washington, or had phone conferences with people there, to foster better understanding of state regulation among federal regulators.
In June, though officially retired, Mumford became a member of the board of directors for the Americans for Annuity Protection, a newly-formed annuity advocacy group based in Phoenix, Ariz.
Kim O’Brien, CEO of Americans for Annuity Protection, said that Mumford had just started to slow down “a bit” this year. She had known and worked with Mumford in various capacities for many years.
“We all agree that the insurance and specifically annuity world lost a significant and irreplaceable force,” O’Brien wrote in an email.
“Jim was entirely focused on the consumer and always protected their rights to a comprehensive, competitive and safe marketplace with a healthy balance of regulation, oversight and enforcement. Jim was also an incredible mentor to all of us in the industry and patiently guided us to that same balance.”
As for his service to Americans for Annuity Protection, Mumford was “forward thinking and disciplined to always focus on consumers first,” O’Brien said.
InsuranceNewsNet Editor-at-Large Linda Koco, MBA, specializes in life insurance, annuities and income planning. Linda can be reached at [email protected].
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