CFO Sink Announces $5 Million Title Insurance Settlement
CONTACT: Tara Klimek or Nina Banister
TALLAHASSEE– Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink today announced that First American Title Insurance Company (First American) has agreed to pay $5 million in penalties and costs after allegedly paying “kickbacks” to builders, bankers, real estate agents and brokers for the referral of business in violation of the Florida Insurance Code and federal law.
Following a year-long investigation by the Department of Financial Services (DFS), both the U.S. Department of House and Urban Development (HUD) and the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) were invited to join DFS in obtaining sanctions against First American. The three regulatory agencies reached an agreement with First American this week after concluding settlement negotiations.
“I’m proud of the hard work of our title insurance investigators and lawyers, which resulted in today’s settlement,” said CFO Sink, who oversees DFS. “We will not tolerate anyone who violates insurance laws designed to protect the public in order to gain an unfair advantage over their competitors.”
The investigation looked into whether First American had created and utilized limited partnership entities to act as sham title insurance agencies as a means of funneling prohibited payments for the referral of business. The entities enlisted real estate agents, mortgage brokers, banks and homebuilders who referred business to First American's sham title insurance agencies, resulting in unfair financial gains to First American and its affiliated title insurance agencies.
Under terms of the agreement, First American is required to sever its business relationships with 87 of its limited partnership title insurance agencies in Florida, and to conduct future business activities under strict requirements subject to review of a monitor who will report inspection results on a monthly basis for a period of one year.
As a statewide elected officer of the Florida Cabinet, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink oversees the Department of Financial Services, a multi-division state agency responsible for management of state funds and unclaimed property, assisting consumers who request information and help related to financial services, and investigating financial fraud. CFO Sink also serves as the State Fire Marshal.