by John Darer CLU ChFC MSSC RSP CLTC
Richard G. Halpern, a passionate and pioneering advocate for tort victims in the United States has passed away from cancer at age 64. Although I've known Rich Halpern for almost 20 years, I've only really got to know him well over the last three. People either loved Rich or hated him. Many in the structured settlement industry never knew the Rich Halpern that I came to know, the father and grandfather, friend, mentor and innovator. I also remember the man who was proud sports car enthusiast who loved to tell the story of how his prized Porsche turned Michael Jordan's head.
Rich told me recently that he was particularly touched by a call he received from one of his grand daughters after her mother flew up to New Jersey to be by Rich's side. Rich felt guilty about temporarily taking her mother away from her and the grand daughter assured him "It's OK grandpa because Mommy is good at making people better".
Those too timid or angry to approach Halpern simply missed out on the opportunity to tap one of the most brilliant minds in the history of the industry
From time to time I have received calls from others in the industry about how to deal with Rich Halpern. My advice was always been simply pick up the phone and call him. I certainly did.Those too timid or angry to approach Halpern simply missed out on the opportunity to tap one of the most brilliant minds in the history of the industry. Whether or not you agreed with him, the man was simply a wealth of information and experience and simply was not afraid to share it with his friends. I didn't always agree with Rich but always appreciated his point of view.
Halpern held a number of United States patents, including number 7149714, the Proportional Reactive Investment Management System (PRIMS), a system and method to automatically control investments by forcing liquidations when the investment value exceeds a target amount, and forcing additional investment when the investment value falls below the target amount. The amount of the additional investment or liquidation depends upon the difference between the value and the investment target.
Some too young in the industry may not remember that Halpern was, at one time, a member of the National Structured Settlement Trade Association (NSSTA) at a time when the association was not too accommodating to plaintiff advocates. He developed competing products and recovery management solutions to serve the needs of his clients and their profession. For example, Halpern also earned a Private Letter Ruling on United States Treasury Bond Structured Settlement Trusts and developed alternative vehicles as "qualified funding assets" to annuities. Some of the leading plaintiff attorneys in the country relied on or consulted with Rich for help in negotiating their cases. He also founded the Academy of Trial Advocacy.
At a time when the industry has experienced contraction The Halpern Group's business has continued to grow and many of my industry brethren could well have learned lessons from the business model. The production would put many settlement consulting firms to shame.
Rich fought a gallant fight, only learning that he had a type of cancer with a 10% survival rate on his birthday this June. At the end of September 2009 we all thought he'd beaten the odds. This "tough SOB" ( believe me he'd appreciate the reference) even went to a mediation in St. Louis in October 2009! Rich took the time to speak with me for some advice only a week and a half ago, although he must have been in terrible pain. He did that sort of thing for his friends.
I suspect that some in the structured settlement industry will be firing Kalashnikovs into the air with this news. Be that as it may, while Rich lost this final battle on earth, his legacy lives on. I have long been aware that a succession plan is in place. Last month Rich remarked to me how proud he was that The Halpern Group was able to run without him. More details to come.
A memorial service for Richard Halpern will be held 230pm Friday December 18, 2009 at Bradley Smith & Smith Funeral Home 415 Morris Avenue Springfield, New Jersey