Pricing exceptions are widespread in mortgage — and so are the regulatory risks

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First American Pays $10M to Settle Kickback Charges

Editor’s note: this article has been corrected, thanks to feedback from Inman News, who first broke this story. I left the mistake in the article for clarity’s sake. First American recently — and very quietly — agreed to pay more than $10 million in fines to settle charges that it had engaged in illegal kickbacks in exchange for referral of business. The California Department of Insurance, led by Commissioner John Garamendi, had charged the real estate information services provider in November 2006 with making cash payments to settlement service providers in exchange for the referral of business and engaging in providing other illegal gifts to more than 12,000 potential and existing business partners in the state. As part of the settlement agreement, First American agreed to pay a $10 million fine, in addition to other stipulations.

The Commissioner’s office had alleged that in addition to providing referral kickbacks, First American was illegally marketing its title services to real estate agents and mortgage brokers through two marketing solutions it co-marketed, and Realty DataLink. First American agreed to cease its marketing, operation and maintenance of both services as part of the settlement agreement with the department. The stipulations in the settlement also call attention to First American’s business arrangements with Frontier Homes, as well as its own National Homebuilders Division, which works with new home builders to supply and underwrite title policies. In both cases, an auditor will review and certify First American’s compliance with the anti-rebate provisions of the California Insurance Code on a bi-annual basis. First American did not admit any wrongdoing with respect to its implicated business activities as part of its agreement to settle. Download: Access the court filing by clicking here.

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