2009 ALTA Annual Full Speed Ahead

October 22, 2009

The 102nd Annual American Land Title Association opened in grand fashion at The Breakers in Palm Beach, Fla., on Wednesday evening as a day full of committee meetings concluded with a first-time ALTA Convention Attendee and New Member Mixer, and the Ice Breaker Reception held in the Exhibit Showcase.

Many ALTA members kept busy Wednesday with committee meetings for education, title insurance forms, SLRAC and state association leaders, public relations, state officers, state executives, technology, government affairs, membership and organization, and the TIPAC trustees.

One of the most widely attended meetings, the Government Affairs Committee discussed many important issues including the RESPA Implementation Taskforce's efforts in working with HUD to get answers to industry questions surrounding the new GFE/HUD-1 forms that become mandatory Jan. 1, 2010, and a Borrower Right of Inspection bill that is being developed by ALTA that would require lenders provide all information needed to produce a HUD-1 24 hours in advance of the three-day TILA requirement of lenders to provide the documents to consumers.

Kurt Pfotenhauer, ALTA's CEO, said the bi-partisan proposal has the support of 10 consumer groups and the Obama Administration, and is hopeful to introduce the bill in the House sometime in 2010.

"It's important that we be perceived as the captains and guardians of the closing space on behalf of the integrity of the transaction," he said. "This bill does this and raises the industry's profile of pushing consumer advocacy."

Lloyd Ogle, director of the Iowa Finance Authority, which is the state's title insurance provider, offered a presentation of the Iowa system to the more than 60 people in attendance of the Government Affairs Committee meeting. Ogle said that while many regulators point to the Iowa system when discussing rates, it can't be easily replicated in other jurisdictions because the history of the Iowa system is unique. Ogle also offered a breakdown of the other charges beyond the typical $110 average title policy charge. Other charges include on average a $200 abstract fee and a $190 attorney opinion. Closing costs also must be factored in.

The committee also discussed a major victory for the title insurance industry as an amendment proposed to scale back the Consumer Finance Protection Agency's oversight of the title insurance industry passed by a voice vote in the House of Representatives Financial Services Committee on Tuesday. An amendment proposed to scale back the Consumer Financial Protection Agency's oversight of the title insurance industry passed by a voice vote in the House of Representatives Financial Services Committee on Wednesday.

Introduced during Monday's markup session of H.R. 3126 by U.S. Reps. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) and Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.), the amendment was passed with little discussion. Title insurance providers will continue to be subject to existing federal consumer laws – primarily RESPA – as they are today. Authority to regulate title insurance under RESPA will be transferred from HUD to the CFPA.

Excluding title insurance from the CFPA definition of "financial activities" ensures that title insurers will not be subject to the new regulatory regimes intended to be applied to bank and non-bank financial institutions under Subtitle C of the bill. Defining the business of insurance, the amendment strikes credit, mortgage and title insurance from the CFPA and excludes persons regulated by state insurance regulators from CFPA oversight.

"ALTA has worked closely with committee staff and insurance industry leaders to limit the very broad powers of the CFPA and ensure the passage of this very important amendment as Treasury fought hard to prevent the exclusion of title, mortgage and credit from CFPA. Tuesday afternoon, ALTA committee staff and other insurance industry representatives sat down to finalize the amendment language," said Kurt Pfotenhauer, CEO of ALTA.

John Vosso, chairman of the Title Industry Political Action Committee, shared information on the PAC's goal of collecting $250,000 for 2009. As of Tuesday, the PAC had collected $205,000, and Vosso expected to eclipse $215,000 by the conclusion of the conference. Last year, the PAC had collected $140,000 coming into ALTA's Annual Convention.

"ALTA's effort to limit the scope of the CFPA is a perfect example of PAC money hard at work," Vosso said.

TIPAC will hold the Michael F. Wille Memorial TIPAC Golf Tournament on Friday at the Rees Jones Golf Course. TIPAC also will host a croquet tournament on Saturday.

Don't miss Friday's coverage of the convention as we provide you details of the general session and several professional development sessions.

Additional Coverage From Wednesday:

Famed Economist, Underwriter Panel Headline Friday General Session

New RESPA Implementation CD provides Line-By-Line GFE/HUD-1 Guidance

Contact ALTA at 202-296-3671 or communications@alta.org.

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