ALTA® Hosts Regional Seminar
ALTA®’s Land Title Institute and the Illinois Land Title Association are jointly sponsoring a regional seminar on Tuesday, May 13, in Lisle, IL (suburban Chicago). Topics and speakers include: “Claims Prevention in Underwriting and Closing Situations” with co-presenters Bert Rush (First American Title, Santa Ana, CA) and Patrick Thesing (Stewart Title, Houston, TX); “Commercial Transaction 101 with Bob Bozarth (LandAmerica, Richmond, VA); “Fraud and Forgery” with Nancy Gusman (United General Title, Rockville, MD); and “U.S. Patriot Act” with a speaker not yet confirmed. Further details will be announced in late February and also will be posted on the ALTA® Web site.
Public Relations Campaign Update
There are many activities taking place under the ALTA® public awareness campaign that you might not know of. One of the short-term goals of the campaign is to counter the misper-ceptions about the differences between true title insurance protection and that of mortgage impairment products (specifically Radian’s Lien Protection product) by focusing on the appropriate requirements of current insurance regulations. To make this happen, ALTA® members made personal visits to a variety of state departments of insurance, arguing that Radian’s product was in fact title insurance and they were not licensed to sell it. Many states agreed with ALTA®’s position and asked Radian to stop selling its product in those states. Then in June 2002 the California Department of Insurance issued a cease and desist order against Radian saying they could not offer its product in California. This also translated into an order not to sell the product in any other state since the DOI said that if Radian wanted to continue to offers its regular mortgage insurance product in CA, it may be violating the monoline statue by offering both. Consequently, Radian pulled its product from the market.
In addition, with the help of several ALTA® members, Ervin Bell, ALTA®’s public relations firm, developed a press kit explaining the differences between traditional title insurance and Radian’s product and delivered it to a list of consumer and real estate trade media. The press kit contained a white paper on title insurance vs. mortgage impairment insurance; some case histories about title insurance saving the day; a fact sheet on ALTA®; and a personalized letter to the reporter summarizing the issue. The biggest news hook was that Radian was appealing the cease and desist order. In addition, when newspaper articles appeared in favor of the Radian product, Ervin Bell drafted letters for ALTA® to send with our response. Ervin Bell also developed op-eds and letters to the editor for members of the California Land Title Association to send to local media before the DOI hearing took place. Several articles appeared afterward stating our position on the Radian product. A few weeks ago California Administrative Law Judge, Leonard. L. Scott, upheld the cease and desist order. Scott’s Proposed Decision is now public record, and the Commissioner of the California Dept. of Insurance has until April 16 in which to adopt, reject, or refer the matter back to the Administrative Law Judge to take additional evidence. This is a victory for the title industry. ALJ Scott’s analysis, though necessarily based on California statutes, is nonetheless an excellent logical discussion of how to approach other MI products, which often attempt to pass regulatory scrutiny veiled as some other form of insurance. We will keep you posted on further action.
Ervin Bell will now shift its attention to developing a “tool kit” that ALTA® members can use to promote the campaign to their local clients, media, and consumers. That kit might contain op-eds, letters to the editor, radio and televison ads, and a brochure to use with consumers. Look for more on the public relations campaign in the next issue of Title News.
Maryland Land Title Issues Challenge
The Maryland Land Title Association has contributed $5,000 toward ALTA®’s public awareness campaign, and is challenging other land title associations to do the same. Ted Rogers, secretary for the association and chair of ALTA®’s Membership and Organization Committee said that every state land title association has a responsibility to financially assist ALTA® with this campaign, no matter the amount of the contribution. “We feel strongly at MLTA that this campaign is very important for the title industry and comes at an important time if we are to battle recent negative publicity that has been hounding our business,” said Rogers. “ALTA® cannot fund this important campaign by itself, we all need to help. We hope that other state associations will accept this challenge and contribute to the campaign for every member’s benefit.” Other land title associations can get in touch with Lorri Ragan, the campaign liaison, to discuss their contributions. She can be reached at 1-800-787-2582 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
How Does Your Salary Stack Up?
Find out in the fifth annual Abstracter and Title Agent Operations Survey. Each year ALTA® works with the research firm Fetzer-Kraus to obtain information describing the operating statistics and other characteristics of abstracter and title agent members. Members are surveyed on subjects including: gross revenue, revenue by orders received, number of employees, and a host of employee benefit information, such as number of holidays, disability and health-care benefits, and availability of life insurance. The most recent survey has a special focus on compensation by position. Survey participants have received a complimentary copy of the results. Others may purchase a copy online at www.alta.org under “Publications,” or by calling 1-800-787-2582 for an order form. Look for an article on the survey results in the next issue of Title News.
E-Mortgages Closer to Reality
The Mortgage Industry Standards Maintenance Organization (MISMO) eMortgage Workgroup announced the release of eMortgage Guidelines and Recommendations version 1.0. The release contains several specifications and supporting documents that provide a framework for implementing paperless mortgages with electronic signatures. The framework centers on the SMART Document concept —Securable, Manageable, Archivable, Retrievable, Transferable—which binds data, presentation, and signatures into one single electronic file. Specifications and guidelines are also provided for e-packaging, which allows multiple electronic documents or even hierarchical e-packages to be bundled together, and e-vaulting for storage and retrieval of e-notes and other supporting documents. “E-mortgages are here—the industry can agree on data formats and infrastructure while still competing on processes, customer service and ease of use,” said Mike Petri, vice chairman of the Mortgage Bankers Association of America, which sponsors the MISMO group. Mark Oliphant, a work group member from Fannie Mae said, “We believe that SMART Documents are the key to unlocking the potential that electronic mortgages hold for the industry. This is a big step forward to broader adoption of e-mortgages.” For more information, contact Kelly Romeo, ALTA®’s rep-resentative on the MISMO workgroup at email@example.com.
Special Sale on Escrow Accounting Procedures CD
We’ve upgraded and you save! The software on the Land Title Institute’s Escrow Accounting Procedures CD-ROM was recently upgraded to allow the program to run on newer Windows® platforms. This new upgrade is being offered at a special discount price - good only until June 30, 2003. The price for ALTA® members is $70; non-members’, $120, including postage and handling. To place an online order go to ALTA®’s Web site, www.alta.org; click on “Educ/Land Title Institute;” then “LTI Videos & CD- ROMs”; and finally, scroll down to Escrow Accounting Procedures CD-ROM Employee Training Kit. Or contact LTI’s Education project manager Melissa Kleeman, at 202-331-7431.
New Board Game Tests Your Title Knowledge
A new board game is under development by the ALTA® Education Committee designed to help new employees and others learn about the title industry in a fun way. “Title Triumph™, The Game of Land Title Knowledge,” is a board game of questions and answers specific to real estate, and settlement and land title terminology, concepts, and practices.
The game is still in development, but will most likely include oral, true/false and multiple choice questions in the general categories of title search and examination, title definitions and terminology, closing and escrow, commitments and policies, and related industry issues. The Education Committee will select a logo design and a prototype board at the time of Tech Forum 2003, March 9-11 in Las Vegas. Samples of this work in progress may be viewed at the LTI Exhibit Booth at Tech Forum 2003. The board game is due to be completed by October 2003.
92% of Counties Do Not Accept Electronic Recordings
This according to a recent survey of county recorders, title agents and escrow officers conducted by ALTA®, the American Escrow Association, the National Association of Clerks, Election Officials and County Recorders, and the International Association of County Recorders, Election Officials and Treasurers. The survey was conducted to determine what issues were of interest to these groups and how we can develop joint educational offerings to keep the groups up-to-date on changes in their respective industries. Other interesting findings: close to 90% are interested in adopting national or state standards for document recording; 92% think a work group among title, escrow and recorders would be a benefit in their area; and 64% of respondents are satisfied with the working relationship among title, escrow and county recorders in their area. For more results from this study, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.