Gov. Rick Perry has appointed Julia J. Rathgeber of Austin as the commissioner of Insurance to replace former Texas Insurance Commissioner Eleanor Kitzman. Rathgeber’s term expires Feb. 1, 2015.
Rathgeber is a lawyer with an undergraduate and law degree from University of Texas at Austin and political figure, serving until today as the deputy chief of staff for Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.
Her experience is not insurance-related but instead in environmental and conservation roles. Rathgeber was director of research for the Texas General Land Office and a past director of the strategic assessment division for the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission — now the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
However, she does have soem insurance-related experience, Texas say.
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The Texas online directory now has Rathgeber listed as insurance commissioner, but a spokesman was not sure if she was in the office today.
Kitzman (right) was forced to resign because she could not get confirmed by the state legislature, which, according to press reports, wanted a formal appointment letter from Gov. Perry supporting her confirmation amid criticism from both chambers for being either too close to industry or too anti-industry depending up on the partisanship of the members.
Rathgeber will not need to undergo the same process of confirmation until the state legislature meets again in two years.
“Julia is an experienced public servant with a strong grasp of regulatory issues,” R Street Texas Director Julie Drenner said. “We look forward to working with her on reform of the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association, and particularly to our proposals to increase the agency’s transparency and limit its subsidies to the wealthiest property owners.”
The American Council of Life Insurers shared the sentiment. “We look forward to working with Commissioner Rathgeber. The life insurance industry has a significant presence in Texas. 556 life insurers are licensed to do business in Texas and 121 are domiciled in the state. In 2011 alone, life insurers paid $5.3 billion in death benefits and $4 billion in annuity benefits.”
A spokesperson for the department said Kitzman’s last day in the office was May 27. The spokesman was not aware of her future plans although she has made clear to National Underwriter’s property casualty edition earlier this month she would get another job.
Kitzman was known for her international regulatory involvement and her work shepherding the rancorous debate over Actuarial Guideline 38, (AG38) from a regulatory food-fight into an NAIC-industry-agreeable solution. Kitzman led a joint working group of the Life Insurance and Annuities, and the Financial Condition Committee.
This commissioner-level working group was created under then-NAIC President Kevin McCarty’s leadership.
The work involved reviewing and realigning reserving methodologies for certain universal life products with secondary guarantees (ULSG) and creating a unified approach. It also involved hiring outside consulting actuaries.
As chair of the working group, Kitzman made it clear after listening to industry concerns that “many things are to be worked out but a level playing field is at the top of the list.”
The NAIC’s Joint Committee took a bifurcated approach between old business and prospective business that created revisiting reserves for prior years for some companies.
Kitzman was appointed in August 2011 and her term was set to expire, requiring state Senate confirmation, in February of this year.