The “Mortgagegate” Scandal: Congratulations America, You’re Now in the Title-Insurance Business

The “Mortgagegate” Scandal: Congratulations America, You’re Now in the Title-Insurance Business

[Editor’s Note: On Wednesday, in the latest development in the “Mortgagegate” scandal, Fidelity National Financial Inc., the largest U.S. title-insurance firm, reversed course and said it wouldn’t require an indemnity agreement before insuring individual foreclosed properties. Money Morning’s Shah Gilani, a retired hedge-fund manager, warns that there’s a deep game being played, and provides investors with detailed insights, and advice on the steps to take.]

U.S. taxpayers already own pieces of such problem-plagued companies as General Motors Corp., Chrysler LLC, American International Group Inc. (NYSE: AIG), Fannie Mae (OTC: FNMA) and Freddie Mac (OTC: FMCC). Now the increasingly problematic “Mortgagegate” saga could land American taxpayers in the trouble-ridden title-insurance business.

On Oct. 8, Bank of America Corp. (NYSE: BAC) indemnified Fidelity National Financial Inc. (NYSE: FNF) against any losses that Fidelity might sustain in litigation over title insurance it writes on foreclosed homes – the same homes, coincidentally, that Bank of America wants to sell to new buyers.

This arrangement amounts to U.S. taxpayers, who are the ultimate backers of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC), backstopping a giant, publicly held title-insurance company, which is backstopping a huge commercial bank, so that the bank can sell properties that it might not have proper title to.

It sounds like a Wall Street version of the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,” but it’s no game – it’s a daisy-chain scheme that once again sets American households up as the biggest losers.

Click throught to the original article on this one. This guy got some interesting feedback

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Continuing Ed for Title Agents

A.M. Best Special Report: Title Results Rebound in 2009 and 2010, but Challenges Remain

OLDWICK, N.J.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–After the real estate market freefall in 2008—when title insurance revenues fell sharply and most major title insurance underwriters posted net losses—operating results rebounded in 2009, although total industry written premiums declined from 2008 levels. During the first quarter of 2010, however, title insurance revenues—helped partly by federal policy and tax incentives—improved compared with the similar period in 2009.

While revenues were down in the second quarter of 2010, most major underwriters posted positive operating margins through the first six months of the year. Despite economic uncertainties and housing market challenges—particularly given recent foreclosure processing issues—A.M. Best Co. has revised its rating outlook for the title sector to stable from negative, given strengthened capitalization and improved operating performance trends.

In 2009, the industry reported:

  • An approximate 22% increase in surplus, due to improved operating performance as well as capital contributions.
  • Title insurance direct premiums written were down about 9%, year over year; a smaller decline compared with that of 2008.
  • A yearly net income of $429 million, compared with a net loss of $416 million in 2008, driven by a pretax operating gain of $418 million.
  • The net underwriting loss of $96 million was far smaller compared with 2008’s relatively large underwriting loss of $688 million. As a result, the industry’s combined ratio (known as composite ratio) improved to 102.9% from 109.1% in 2008.
  • Investment income improved to $552 million from $380 million in 2008, which more than offset the modest underwriting loss resulting in an operating gain.

Access a copy of this special report. BestWeek subscribers can download a PDF copy of all special reports as well as the associated spreadsheet data. Non-subscribers can access an excerpt of each special report and purchase individual reports and spreadsheet data.

Founded in 1899, A.M. Best Company is a global full-service credit rating organization dedicated to serving the financial and health care service industries, including insurance companies, banks, hospitals and health care system providers. For more information, visit www.ambest.com.

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Continuing Ed for Title Agents

American Land Title Association Names Anastasi as President

WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The American Land Title Association (ALTA) announced that veteran land title insurance industry professional Anne L. Anastasi has been named president for the 2010-2011 year.

“Anne is as passionate and articulate a spokesperson for the title industry as you could ever hope to find, but she also has other qualities such as the ability to listen and great judgment, that will distinguish her leadership”

Anastasi is president of Hatboro, Pa.-based Genesis Abstract, LLC. Prior to opening her own company in 1994, she served as vice president of a regional land title insurance underwriter. In 1999, Anastasi served as the first female president in the 80-year history of the Pennsylvania Land Title Association.

“I am honored to serve ALTA as its president, especially at this time,” Anastasi said. “The importance of title insurance in assuring property rights has been amplified with the recent foreclosure issues stemming from lending processing errors. This has afforded us a great teaching opportunity to explain the repairing and closing process so that people purchasing a home or those refinancing their mortgages will understand that title insurance is not just a product but a valuable process that protects their investment.”

Anastasi is a renowned national speaker, covering topics such as title insurance, customer service, sales and motivation. She has been the keynote speaker at 46 title industry state conventions and has addressed audiences for ALTA, Real Estate Services Providers Council (RESPRO), bar associations and mortgage bankers.

“Anne is as passionate and articulate a spokesperson for the title industry as you could ever hope to find, but she also has other qualities such as the ability to listen and great judgment, that will distinguish her leadership,” said Kurt Pfotenhauer, chief executive officer of ALTA. “Given the challenges facing the title industry, we are blessed to have a leader of such quality.”

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Continuing Ed for Title Agents