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Title News - May/June, 2007

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May/June, 2007 - Volume 87 Number 3

ALTA® History
The Way We Were: 1969-1978

by William J. McAuliffe, Jr.

This decade in ALTA®’s history was particularly challenging. RESPA, the issue of Indian Land Claims, and savings and loan’s being allowed to engage in abstracting and title insuring tested ALTA® for years.

As the battle with the American Bar Association over the National Bar Related Assurance Corporation ended (you can read more on that in the March/April issue of Title News), a new threat arose, a possible congressional investigation of the title insurance business.

Senator Proxmire Attacks
Senator William Proxmire (D-WI) was the instigator in the Congressional investigation. In a letter dated February 5, 1969, to the vice chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, Senator Proxmire requested the Board undertake a study of title insurance premiums “to protect homebuyers against unreasonably high closing costs.” (Sound familiar to what’s happening today?) In his letter he compared closing costs based only on charges for a survey, title examination, and title insurance in Manchester, NH, and Buffalo, NY. The Federal Reserve Board denied his request.

Senator Proxmire then assigned the study to his staff. ALTA® wrote to Senator Proxmire indicating we would cooperate in this study and pointed out that title insurance was not used in the majority of single-family dwelling land transfers in Manchester and Buffalo, but it was available. Our letter also referred to a 1965 study published by the Housing and Home Finance Agency, which found that a substantial majority of borrowers had no complaint about closing costs.

ALTA® submitted cost information to the senator’s staff on: (1) Updating an abstract, (2) Surveys, (3) Title insurance, (4) Title examination, and (5) Fees of attorneys for supervising the closing in seven different cities - Providence, RI; Buffalo, NY; Boston, MA; Omaha, NE; and Madison, Milwaukee, and Eau Claire, WI. In addition several representatives from ALTA®, including the chairman of the Research Committee, a consultant to the Research Committee, our general counsel, and staff, met with Martin Lobel, legislative assistant to Senator Proxmire, and Kenneth McLean of the senator’s staff.

The direction of Senator Proxmire’s study seemed to change course as it progressed. In his initial letter to the Federal Reserve Board he called for an investigation of title insurance premiums “to protect homebuyers against unreasonably high closing costs.” In a letter four months later to an ALTA® member, he said that he found significant variation in title costs in different parts of the country, but that he had not found any basis for rate variations. Thereafter, in a meeting on July 28, Kenneth McLean discussed possible antitrust violations involving interlocking directors because customer representatives served on the Board of Directors of title companies; unreasonably high salaries of title company executives; and the reduction of closing costs if title companies spent less on perfecting titles and assumed more risks.

Congress Gets Involved
In March 1970 the Senate subcommittee on Housing and Urban Affairs was considering a bill, S. 3442, one section of which (Section 701) would allow the HUD secretary and administrator of the VA to set settlement costs.

In a letter to the members of the subcommittee, ALTA® President Thomas J. Holstein, president, LaCrosse County Title Company, LaCrosse, WI, urged that Section 701 not be adopted. He stated, in part:
“…we believe that empowering the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Veterans Administrator to determine fees for settlement-related services including charges for abstracting and title insurance is unnecessary, improper, and could inadvertently prove detrimental to the American homebuyer.”

Unfortunately, both the Senate and House passed the legislation, called the Emergency Home Finance Act of 1970. On July 24, President Nixon signed it into law. It directed the HUD Secretary and the Administrator of Veterans’ Affairs to prescribe standards governing the amount of settlement costs allowable in connection with financing of housing built, rehabilitated, or sold with assistance provided under the National Housing Act or under chapter 37 of the United States Code. (This act was the basis for settlement cost regulations issued by HUD and the VA in 1972. More on that later.)

Proxmire Not Through Yet
In March 1971, Martin Lobel advised ALTA® that the senator planned to mail a questionnaire to some, if not all, ALTA® member underwriters. He said that the Senator was concerned about closing costs and wanted to determine if title costs were too high or too low. He also said that the senator was interested in title insurance because of the low payout figure. He wondered if the payout was only 4.5 percent compared to 68.8 percent in liability insurance, why the title insurance rates were "so high."

One month later Senator Proxmire forwarded a questionnaire to the "leading title insurance companies in the United States." He sought data on their operations, including their relationship to other financial institutions.

In June he sent another questionnaire to the title insurers requesting a breakdown by category of information in the first questionnaire including personnel expenditures for both part-time and full-time staff; expenses for staff in researching titles and in sales; and costs attributed to maintaining a title plant.
After the senator’s staff studied the information, they announced that the title insurance industry came out better than anticipated. They acknowledged that title insurance was a risk-preventative business and losses should be low. They found title insurance underwriter personnel expenses to be 43 percent and commissions to be 18 percent, which they concluded, were not unjustified. But the staff raised objections to (1) interlocks in which officers and directors of other financial institutions serve title insurance companies in similar capacities and (2) variations between owner’s and lender’s title insurance coverage.

On October 29 Senator Proxmire introduced the Title Charge Reduction Act, S.2775. In his introductory speech he said S.2775 “will enable more people to buy homes by reducing the title charges they must pay.” He added, “The high cost of title search and title insurance have prevented many people from buying homes.” One basis for his bill was the alleged experience of his legislative assistant, Martin Lobel, when he bought a home. Senator Proxmire said that Mr. Lobel was required to purchase lender’s title insurance even though he was assuming the mortgage and there was no defect in title which could impair the lender’s interest.

In December the ALTA® executive vice president met with Mr. Lobel concerning S.2775 and his complaint about title services he received when purchasing a home in D.C. Mr. Lobel was certain that he had to purchase a lender’s policy. He was shown the settlement sheet in his transaction. It contained no charge for either a lender’s or owner’s policy. He bet five dollars that he had received a title insurance policy. Mr. Lobel and the ALTA® EVP then walked to Mr. Lobel’s home to look at his transaction documents. He did not have a title insurance policy. He had a binder and a title guarantee policy, which was evidence to him that a title search and examination had been made, that it was done for him and not for the benefit of the lender, and he had authorized the examination. He paid the five dollars.

Federal Regulation Proposed
Section 701 of the Emergency Home Finance Act of 1970 directed HUD and the VA to undertake a joint study of settlement costs and to make recommendations for legislative and administrative actions to reduce and standardize real estate settlement costs.

In February 1972 HUD Secretary Romney presented the long-awaited report to the House. The report’s recommendations were mostly in accord with ALTA®’s ideas. They included: requiring the use of a single uniform settlement statement; requiring that lenders give detailed estimates of settlement costs to borrowers in advance of settlement; the elimination of kickbacks; and stricter state regulation of title insurance. At about that same time, the Real Estate Settlement Cost Reform Act of 1972, H.R. 13337, was proposed by Congressman Wright Patman (D-TX). It would create a federal title insurance program. It was considered to be a serious threat to the land title industry. ALTA® Immediate Past President Alvin W. Long, president, Chicago Title Insurance Company, testified against this proposed legislation. ALTA® advocated state rather than federal regulation of land title services and that states should be given the opportunity to meet federal standards before they were put into place. ALTA® stated that where state regulation was ineffective, ALTA® would support HUD settlement cost standards.

This bill also called for lenders to pay for land title services that benefited them. ALTA® questioned the actual benefit of this provision to the homebuyer.

On March 2 the Senate passed S. 3248, a housing and urban development bill that would make kickbacks illegal and require HUD and VA to establish settlement cost standards for federally assisted housing and for home mortgages purchased by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

As a result of all of this congressional activity, James G. Schmidt, chairman of the ALTA® Federal Legislative Action Committee, chairman of the board and chief executive officer, Commonwealth Land Title Insurance Company, Philadelphia, PA, closed his remarks at the ALTA® Mid-Winter Conference as follows: "Members of the American Land Title Association®, we are fighting for our lives."

All attempts to enact federal settlement regulatory legislation in 1972 were unsuccessful.

However, on July 4, HUD and later the VA, issued regulations setting proposed maximum settlement charges for a credit report, field survey, title examination, title insurance, closing fee, and pest and fungus inspections in six locales: Cleveland, Newark, San Francisco-Oakland, Seattle-Everett, St. Louis, and the Washington, DC, area.

HUD received a record number of responses concerning these regulations. Most of them were critical of this action.

In its statements to HUD and the VA, ALTA® charged that they were proceeding in an unauthorized manner and urged them to refrain from establishing settlement cost standards until adequate investigation and hearings could be completed and that the agencies should not undertake to reduce charges for title examination, closing fees, attorneys, and other items below rates prevailing in the affected area as of July 4. ALTA® stated it favored "strong regulation of the land title industry at the state, rather than the federal level, so such regulation can best be adapted to local conditions and allow a fair profit without unreasonable restraints and impositions."

ALTA® hired Arthur D. Little, a nationally recognized research firm, to analyze the methodology used by HUD and the VA in formulating the charges for title services. In a report submitted to HUD and the VA, Arthur D. Little concluded: "The attempt by HUD to establish maximum allowable prices for the various title services by examining the pattern or prices charged in selected states, rather than by determining the actual costs and fair profit of providing the services in the specific areas being regulated, is without precedent and is a theoretically unsound basis for regulation." In 1972 the House Subcommittee on Conservation and Natural Resources studied the cost of title insurance. It generated a letter, dated November 22, 1972, from the General Accountability Office to the Attorney General, which was sent to House and Senate Committees. In that letter, the GAO stated: "Relatively few claims requiring payment by the insurer have been made in recent years for defects in government land titles. We believe that the government could realize substantial savings if it adhered to its general policy of self-insurance by using certificate of record title as an acceptable form of title evidence and by discontinuing the purchase of title insurance, except when a statute, such as the Military Construction Act of 1959, provides otherwise."

Still Trying for Federal Regulation
The title industry could not get a break in the scrutiny it faced. HUD and Congress were still gunning for federal regulation of title insurance. The number of bills introduced during this time was dizzying. On May 1, 1973, ALTA® President James O. Hickman, senior vice president, Pioneer National Title Insurance Company, Los Angeles, CA, filed a statement with HUD in opposition to HUD’s proposed federal regulation of settlement charges. He stated that such a regulation was not a proper or desirable response to the need for insuring that land could be readily transferred at reasonable costs.

In July Senator Proxmire attempted to extend federal authority to regulate settlement charges by introducing an amendment to the Fair Credit Billing Act, S.2101, on the floor of the Senate. An ad hoc committee of title insurers and the ALTA® legislative counsel were successful in their efforts to defeat this bill. The Senate turned down Senator Proxmire’s amendment by a vote of 53 to 38.

In late July two Senate bills were introduced. One, S.2228, eliminated federal authority to regulate settlement charges and the other, S.2288, further extended them. They set the stage for a significant Congressional battle.

On July 30 the Senate Subcommittee on Housing and Urban Affairs scheduled a hearing on S.2228. James G. Schmidt, chairman of ALTA®’s Federal Legislative Action Committee, testified in favor of this bill. He pointed out “contrary to the statement made by some who favor federal rate regulation of settlement charges, the HUD-VA report did not find that settlement costs were unreasonable in most areas of the country.” He said the following measures would effectively ensure reasonable charges for settlement services: greater advance disclosure of the cost of settlement services, elimination of kickbacks and referral fees; and helping local governments improve and modernize their system for recording and indexing land transactions.

By August, Congressman Robert Stephens (D-GA) and others introduced a third settlement regulatory bill, H.R. 9989. It contained anti-abuse and disclosure provisions and would eliminate all federal authority to regulate settlement charges.

Another bill, H.R.11183, was introduced in the House that was the same as Senator Proxmire’s bill in the Senate, S.2288.

A significant development occurred in the issue of federal regulation of settlement charges when, in testimony October 29 before the House Consumer Affairs Subcommittee, HUD assistant secretary-FHA commissioner Sheldon Lubar said the proposed FHA-VA home loan settlement maximums, published two years prior for the six locales, were determined without information on what it cost to provide related settlement services in those areas. To determine those costs, he said, would require a new, extensive, and inordinately expensive federal bureaucracy.

On November 9 Congressman Stephens (D-GA), in a speech at the convention of the Dixie Land Title Association, made some noteworthy comments concerning the settlement charge issue. He said that Congress was considering federal rate regulation of settlement services because those who perform these services had failed to develop understanding among public officials and the public regarding the services and the reason for the related charges. He said: "It is not difficult to see why a congressman or senator, who doesn’t understand how title insurance operates or why title insurance differs from casualty or life insurance, would react to the claim that title insurance charges are too high by supporting a bill that would have the federal government place an artificial limit on what these charges should be. It is the same lack of understanding that has resulted in frequently unfair criticism of the title industry by the press and by consumer advocates."

In testimony on December 4, 1973, before the House Subcommittee on Housing, Sheldon Lubar said HUD faced a congressional conflict with regard to Section 701 (the section that would allow the HUD secretary and administrator of the VA to set settlement costs) since bills were pending to both extend and eliminate its 1970 settlement charge regulatory authority. He also said that effective federal regulation of settlement charges would be impossible and that administrative cost of attempting to do so would far outweigh any benefit to the public.

In ALTA®’s testimony before the committee, we called for elimination of federal authority to regulate settlement charges through repeal of Section 701 of the Emergency Home Finance Act of 1970.

Also ALTA® opposed provisions that would direct the HUD secretary to establish maximum settlement charges for transactions involving federally related home loans; would prohibit any attorney performing legal services incident to a settlement from receiving a commission in connection with the issuance of title insurance in that settlement; and would authorize any title company and its agents to perform all title services in connection with a federally related mortgage transaction, regardless of state law.

The Senate did not vote on either S.2228 or S.2288 in 1973.

More Bills in 1973
In January 1974, House hearings on H.R.12066, the Real Estate Settlement and Escrow Account Act of 1973, were held. A majority of consumer advocates at those hearings agreed that federal regulation of settlement charges would not effectively stabilize or reduce these costs for the homebuyer. They recommended a federal requirement that settlement charges be paid by the lender rather than the buyer, as they believed the lender would be in a better position to bargain for lower charges and apply pressure to bring efficiencies.
In March Senator Brock introduced S.3164, which brought the approach of his prior bill, S.2228, more in line with that of H.R.9989. Senator Proxmire introduced S.3232, a bill that provided for the mortgage lender to pay all settlement charges in connection with a federally related mortgage loan. It was in line with H.R.12066. The Senate and House Banking Committees considered legislation that included eliminating the HUD and VA authority to regulate FHA and VA home loan settlement charges through repeal of Section 701 of the Emergency Home Finance Act of 1970.
Senator Proxmire worked vigorously to obtain a final Senate bill that did not repeal Section 701. He was successful. The Senate voted 55 to 37 not to repeal the section.
In the House a floor amendment to remove a repealer of Section 701 lost on a vote of 202 to 199. Thus the final House bill, H.R.9989, repealed Section 701.

The Birth of RESPA
Conferees of the Senate and House were appointed to work out the differences. During the week of December 9, 1974, Congress approved a compromise settlement bill, the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act of 1974 - RESPA - recommended by the conferees. On December 22, 1974, President Ford signed this Act.

RESPA, generally, was in accord with provisions supported by ALTA® and others in the real estate industry with one major exception. The bill did not repeal Section 701 of the Emergency Home Finance Act of 1970, which ALTA® had sought. The conferees had considered it but rejected repealing it.

Specific provisions of RESPA called for:
  • a uniform settlement statement
  • advance disclosure of settlement cost information to homebuyers
  • disclosure of previous selling price of residential real estate
  • prohibition of kickbacks
  • prohibition that homebuyers be required to purchase title insurance from a particular company
  • limitation of advance tax and insurance deposits in escrow accounts
  • disclosure of beneficial interest in real estate transactions
  • prohibition of fee for preparing truth-in-lending statements, and
  • HUD establishment of demonstration land parcel recording systems to help improve local public record systems
  • At about this same time ALTA® staff was contacted by HUD staff to assist a federal interagency task force in the development of disclosure and settlement costs statements. The ALTA® Research Committee, Arthur D. Little, and DC-area title men were pressed into service to assist the task force. ALTA® submitted a proposed settlement statement. In February 1975 HUD published a proposed rule on real estate settlement procedures in the Federal Register, including a Uniform Disclosure /Settlement Statement. The statement incorporated many of the suggestions made by ALTA®.

    On June 20, 1975, RESPA went into effect. The title industry was concerned about Section 8 of RESPA, the kickback section, since it was difficult to determine exactly what activities were prohibited or permitted. Realtors and lenders had concerns about other sections of RESPA. As a result the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee held hearings at which these concerns were raised. ALTA® President Robert Jay, president, Land Title Abstract Company, Detroit, Michigan, testified before the committee. He urged that RESPA be amended so as to provide statutory authority for HUD, in conjunction with the Department of Justice, to provide explanatory opinions interpreting Section 8.

    In July of that year ALTA® President Robert Jay was a speaker at a National Association of Realtors emergency meeting on RESPA. He stated in part:

  • RESPA came into being as a compromise to avoid federal regulation of settlement charges.
  • The burden is on the real estate industry to prove that RESPA is an effective settlement reform for the consumer.
  • If this is done, a strong argument could be made against more objectionable settlement legislation, such as the calling for federal rate regulation or lender payment of settlement charges.

    Proxmire Still a Pill
    Senator Proxmire was not pleased with RESPA. In a letter dated August 12, 1975, he said: "Since the passage of RESPA, I and other members of the Congress have received numerous complaints about the excessive paperwork burden which the Act imposes on lenders. Those who criticize RESPA argue that the disclosures required are complicated, costly and of little practical benefit to consumers. On the other hand, those who support these disclosers have argued they will help to reduce excessive settlement charges by encouraging consumers to comparison shop for settlement services."

    As a result, as chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, Senator Proxmire called for three days of hearings in September 1975 on whether RESPA was achieving its objectives. ALTA® President Robert Jay testified that complex and radical alternatives like lender pay should be carefully studied for their impact after related national statistics on closing costs were developed by HUD and that RESPA, with certain changes, should be given a fair opportunity to work before Congress considered settlement reform.

    During the course of these hearings Senator Proxmire said that he was opposed to RESPA, that he favored lender payment of homebuyer closing costs as an alternative to the settlement cost disclosure approach of RESPA, and that it might be better to repeal RESPA rather than retain the act for limited benefit while it resulted in costly problems and delays for lenders and homebuyers.

    On October 30, 1975, the House Subcommittee on Housing and Community Development held RESPA hearings. ALTA® President Richard Howlett, senior vice president, Title Insurance and Trust Company, Los Angeles, testified. He called for prompt approval of H.R.10283, which contained a number of changes in RESPA. President Howlett said:
    "ALTA® strongly supports the retention of the uniform settlement statement provision of RESPA as it would be modified by H.R.10283. The nationwide use of a uniform settlement statement is not only beneficial in that it clearly itemizes, in a rational, comprehensive manner, closing costs for homebuyers and provides these buyers with a basis for comparing past charges with those in future transactions."

    RESPA Amended
    After Senate and House Banking conferees worked out a compromise on this legislation, on December 19, Congress passed S.2327, which amended RESPA. In January 1976 President Ford signed it into law.
    RESPA, as amended, required that effective July 1, 1976, homebuyers receive "a Good Faith Estimate of the amount or range of charges for specific settlement services the borrower is likely to incur in connection with the settlement."

    ALTA® filed a statement in response to HUD’s request for comments on how to compile estimates of buyer settlement charges. We suggested that it could best be done by HUD field offices working closely under broad guidelines of the department with local land title companies, local lenders, and other local sources of settlement charges.

    In response to a request from the director of the HUD Division of Housing Research, ALTA® furnished suggestions on implementing Section 13 of RESPA, which called for HUD to establish demonstration land parcel recording systems in selected locales to help improve public record systems. ALTA® pointed out that knowledgeable persons could develop a better records system in theoretical terms if expense was no object. ALTA® cautioned: "However, the expense of converting from existing systems, cumbersome as they are, could far outweigh the value of any public benefit that may be realized. Perhaps the basic result would be transferring a huge expense burden to all taxpayers in return for a very small reduction in service fees for those who buy homes a few times during their lives." ALTA® emphasized that it would support development of a uniform, efficient nationwide land recording system at reasonable cost to the public. ALTA® stated that the best approach might well be that of continued evolutionary improvement of existing local systems.

    In March 1976 HUD issued its proposed RESPA regulations in the Federal Register. On April 28, ALTA® submitted a statement to HUD recommending improvements in applicability, disclosure, and antikickback guidance. ALTA® recommended many changes in regulations pertaining to Section 8 of RESPA and proposed a number of suggestions concerning the questions and answers for offering guidance on Section 8. HUD published newly revised regulations and a revised settlement information booklet that were effective June 30, 1976. Significant changes were made that strengthened the antikickback guidelines. Also, HUD expanded its definition of allowable activities under Section 8 of RESPA.

    RESPA laws and regulations continued to be enacted after 1976.

    Savings & Loans Wanted In

    In yet another issue to threaten the title industry, in May 1970, the Federal Home Loan Bank Board (FHLBB) issued proposed regulations that would allow savings and loan service corporations to engage in abstracting and title insuring.

    ALTA® submitted a letter to the FHLBB urging changes in the proposed regulations so as to not authorize this activity.

    The ALTA® revisions were not adopted by the FHLBB; thus it was possible for service corporations to engage in abstracting and title insuring. This was a matter of great concern to the ALTA®.

    The FHLBB adopted a regulation providing that no insured institution may grant a loan or extend service on the prior condition that the borrower contract for title examination, escrow, or abstract services. At the 1971 ALTA® Mid-Winter Conference members adopted a resolution opposing the FHLBB regulations that permitted the entry of service corporations into the areas of abstracting, land title insurance agency operations, and land title insuring. It was forwarded to the FHLBB. A few months later, the FHLBB announced that service corporations, without prior approval, could engage in certain activity including abstracting but had to first obtain FHLBB permission before beginning title insurance broker or agency business. On January 5, 1973, the FHLBB published proposed regulations to allow service corporations of federally chartered savings and loan associations to engage in the title insurance business as title insurance underwriters or agents.

    ALTA® advised the FHLBB that by so operating, service corporations would be acting contrary to state and federal antitrust law, would be in a position to violate state-controlled business statutes, would be in a conflict of interest situation, and might be proceeding without proper statutory authority.
    The FHLBB asked ALTA® to expand on its antitrust concern. ALTA® submitted a statement contending that the proposals were in clear conflict with the antitrust policy against market foreclosure. ALTA® believed that the proposals would create a closed market in which outside competitors could, and probably would, be effectively foreclosed from competition for business and transactions in which a savings and loan that has a title company is the lender.

    There will be more on service corporations in future articles on ALTA®’s history.

    Indian Claims
    Beginning in 1977 Indian claims became a big issue for the title industry. ALTA® was deeply involved with the issue.

    In a series of lawsuits, Indian tribes sought the return of property located in New England. The two largest suits were brought against the state of Maine and the municipality of Mashpee, Massachusetts.
    Two tribes in Maine claimed ownership of 58 percent of the state, some 12½ million acres. They sought $25 billion in back rents and damages. The tribe in Mashpee claimed the entire town, 17,000 acres.
    These cases were based on alleged violations of the Federal Non-Intercourse Act of 1970. This act provided that land transactions between an Indian tribe and a non-Indian party must be supervised and ratified by Congress on behalf of the sovereign United States. An unratified transaction, under the act, was null and void. The tribes contended that the federal government had not approved the sale of lands as required under the act.

    ALTA® formed a Special Committee on Indian Land Claims to keep abreast of such claims, to work with law firms capable of researching Indian history and law, and to be a source for ALTA® members for factual and legal information on Indian claims.

    ALTA® staff met with the New England Land Title Association and planned to provide extensive help with respect to these claims through this newly created committee.
    As a result of the Indian claim involving the entire town of Mashpee, banks and mortgage lenders were reluctant to make mortgage money available in that area. On March 21, ALTA® representatives met with Senator Edward Brooke (R-MA) at his request to discuss this matter. He urged title companies to get “the economy moving again” in Mashpee and to issue title insurance policies on Mashpee properties. The title company representatives said each would have to make an independent underwriting judgment on providing title insurance in Mashpee.

    President Jimmy Carter appointed Judge Gunter to review the Indian Claim disputes in Maine and Mashpee and to recommend a solution.

    In May ALTA® met with Judge Gunter and recommended that any federal solution include the following two ingredients:

    1. Landowners, purchasers, lenders, and local tax authorities must be assured that existing titles were marketable and insurable; and
    2. Landowners must not be subject to financial liability for trespass damages or any other forms of damage.

    ALTA® representatives believed that their input to Judge Gunter had a positive impact on the recommendations concerning the Maine claim he made to President Carter on July 15.

    But the tribes did not accept Judge Gunter’s recommendations.
    In October House and Senate committees held hearings on proposed legislation to alleviate some of the economic problems posed by the claims of the Mashpee Tribe. ALTA® submitted a written statement pointing out a number of substantive and technical problems with the legislation and several reasons why the measure might not make title to residential property marketable in Mashpee. This legislation was voted down during markup proceedings.

    However, a federal court jury decided that the Indians, who filed a land claim against the town of Mashpee, did not meet the legal definition of a tribe and thus in effect rejected their claim.
    On February 13, 1979, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit unanimously affirmed this decision.

    Other Highlights This Decade
    Torrens System
    When adoption of the Torrens System was advocated at the local level, ALTA® responded to requests for help from affiliated associations. The Torrens System was a system wherein public officials by statute promulgate a system of land registration and title certification. Assistance was given to the District of Columbia Metropolitan Area Land Title Association, in its efforts to oppose a proposal by our old friend Martin Lobel from Senator Proxmire’s office, to have the District of Columbia adopt a compulsory Torrens system.

    ALTA® representatives also assisted the Maryland State Title Insurance Association, Inc. in connection with proposed legislation to bring a compulsory Torrens system to Montgomery County, MD. Mark Winter, ALTA®’s director of government affairs and William McAuliffe, ALTA® executive vice president attended meetings of a Montgomery County Task Force Committee considering this proposed legislation. Subsequently the proposal to establish a Torrens system in Montgomery County was voted down.

    ALTA® assisted the Washington Land Title Association in connection with a discussion of ideas for expanding the Torrens system in Washington during a public conference on housing in Seattle.

    ALTA® Conventions
    Up until 1976, ALTA® conventions were held in cities where ALTA® was invited by the local state association. The state association bore some of the costs of the convention. When one local association declined to issue an invitation because of the costs it would incur, the ALTA® Executive Committee decided that beginning in 1977, ALTA® would pay for all the costs and not be dependent upon an invitation by a state association. This action allowed ALTA® to select the convention site, a practice which still continues today.

    In 1973 the Board of Governors created the Title Industry Political Action Committee, TIPAC. Its purpose was to provide individuals in the title industry with a voice in federal politics through campaign contributions. Francis E. O’Connor, the first TIPAC Chairman, Senior Vice President, Chicago Title and Trust Company, Chicago, Il, in his report at the 1973 ALTA® Annual Convention, said: "At this very moment, matters crucial to the future of our industry are pending in the Congress and in state legislative bodies throughout the country. This demands that we organize our efforts so that our voice may be heard by those having a vote on issues affecting us so vitally. TIPAC is designed to do just that for us."

    In 2007, TIPAC is one of the most effective tools available to make sure that ALTA® concerns are heard in Washington.

    The Next Decade: 1979-1989
    Look for the article on the next decade of our history in the July/August issue of Title News. If you missed a decade during the year, you can find all of the history on ALTA®’s Web site under the special 100th Anniversary Section.

    William J. McAuliffe, Jr. was executive vice president of ALTA® from 1965-1984. He is serving as historian and advisor to ALTA® during the 100th anniversary celebration. He can be reached at

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