Hawaii probes real estate title insurers

June 8, 2005

Official says insurance companies cooperating

Inman News

Hawaii's insurance commissioner is conducting a probe into alleged anti-competitive abuses in the state's title insurance industry, according to media reports.

Commissioner J.P. Schmidt said Tuesday that all but two of the state's 14 title insurance companies met his June 3 deadline to provide records to the department, according to Pacific Business News.

The records will help insurance regulators detect whether any of those companies are paying real estate brokers and others to throw business their way, reports said.

Schmidt told Pacific Business News he extended the deadline for two companies that requested extra time to submit records that would help remove them from suspicion of offering financial incentives for real estate brokers to steer business to them.

"It looks like everybody is aware of the inquiry and that they are taking it seriously," Schmidt told the News. "We will begin our review of the ones we've received."

Schmidt's probe is one of a number of national investigations into alleged kickbacks sparked by a Colorado investigation of alleged kickbacks in the title industry that began in February.

California Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi is currently investigating the industry for illegal kickbacks paid to captive reinsurance companies controlled by developers, lenders, builders and real estate firms. In April, Garamendi fined Stewart Title of California $750,000 for involvement in the alleged schemes.

Title insurance probes are also ongoing in Colorado, Washington state and Florida, as well as other states.

Copyright 2005 Inman News

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