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Source of Title Blog

Ethically Challenged First American
by Robert Franco | 2007/09/11 |

I received an email last night that almost left me speechless. I say almost because after a few minutes, I realized that I had plenty to say. Unfortunately, its difficult to convey in terms that are "suitable for all audiences." I guarantee that anyone with even a little integrity and self-respect will be equally outraged. If you read this and have no reaction - check you pulse, hold a mirror under your nose and check it for fog, or see a licensed physician immediately!

One last thing before I share the contents of the email... TransContinental Title Company and First American Lenders Advantage should be absolutely ashamed! Heck... really, anyone that works for First American should be embarrassed to be associated with the ethically challenged company. The company that is laying off thousands of Americans while sending thousands of jobs to India, promoting "instant title" products while asking abstractors to reduce their fees on the orders their "computers" cannot complete, paying millions of dollars in fines for allegedly paying illegal kickbacks, etc...

Now... here is the email (and, further down you can find it with my translations included):
 

Source of Title Blog ::


 

To Our Valued Abstractor/Search Vendors:

Please accept my apologies for the "informality" of a generated-email to all of you - my desire was to call each of you personally to discuss the following; however, time is of the strictest essence and I have hundreds of vendors to reach.

Most of you are aware that TransContinental Title was purchased by First American Lenders Advantage last year; and as such, we have been slowly but surely integrating ourselves into the family of First American and its on-going goal to be the lowest cost provider of title insurance needs. To that end, we are trying to be proactive by reducing our costs for our outsourced title placement and production so that we are able to retain the authority to continue to produce our own title products. Therefore, we are looking to our vendors to reduce their fees to enable us to reach our efficiency goal.

We are hoping that you will remain in a continued-working relationship with us and agreeable to reducing your fees by ten (10%) percent.

If this is agreeable to you, you need not respond to this email. Our records will reflect your approval as well as the effectuated 10% reduction in abstractor/search fees.

If this reduction is NOT agreeable to you, please respond to Andrea Somers by email at asomers@tctitle.com, or by fax (866)845-4330 WITHIN 48 HOURS of receipt of this email so that we may follow-up with you.

Each of you are important to us and to the success of our respective companies. We are striving for excellence in our customer-service goals and hope each of you will continue to be a part of that process.

Kindest regards,
[signature]
Andrea Somers



If you are speechless at this point don't worry... it will pass shortly. If you need a little help getting started, please let me provide you with the following copy of the email with my translations included.

 

To Our Valued Abstractor/Search Vendors:
(DEAR SUCKERS:)

Please accept my apologies for the "informality" of a generated-email to all of you - my desire was to call each of you personally to discuss the following; however, time is of the strictest essence and I have hundreds of vendors to reach.
(I WAS TOO EMBARRASED TO TALK TO ANY OF YOU DIRECTLY ABOUT THIS ISSUE BECAUSE I HAVE READ THE SOURCE OF TITLE FORUMS AND I KNOW HOW YOU ALL FEEL ABOUT BEING ASKED TO REDUCE YOUR FEES.)

Most of you are aware that TransContinental Title was purchased by First American Lenders Advantage last year;
(KA-CHING!! WE GOT OUR MONEY, YEAH WE GOT PAID, OH YEA, IT'S MY BIRTHDAY, IT'S MY BIRTHDAY!)

and as such, we have been slowly but surely integrating ourselves into the family of First American and its on-going goal to be the lowest cost provider of title insurance needs.
(UNFORTUNATELY FOR YOU, TO KEEP ALL THAT DOUGH WE HAVE TO BEGIN SCREWING YOU... AND HARD.)

To that end, we are trying to be proactive by reducing our costs for our outsourced title placement and production so that we are able to retain the authority to continue to produce our own title products. Therefore, we are looking to our vendors to reduce their fees to enable us to reach our efficiency goal.
(WE WANT TO KEEP THE MONEY TRAIN ROLLING SO WE NEED TO CUT YOUR FEES.)

We are hoping that you will remain in a continued-working relationship with us and agreeable to reducing your fees by ten (10%) percent.
(WE DON'T CARE THAT YOU HAVE BILLS TO PAY AND A FAMILY TO FEED... YOU NEED THE WORK... WE GOT YOU BY THE BALLS AND WE KNOW IT.)

If this is agreeable to you, you need not respond to this email. Our records will reflect your approval as well as the effectuated 10% reduction in abstractor/search fees.
(WE AREN'T EVEN GOING TO BOTHER ASKING YOU IF YOU ARE WILLING TO REDUCE YOUR FEES. WE ARE JUST GOING TO DO IT AND WE REALLY HOPE YOU DON'T EVEN NOTICE THAT YOU ACTUALLY HAVE TO LET US KNOW IF THAT'S NOT ACCEPTABLE!)

If this reduction is NOT agreeable to you, please respond to Andrea Somers by email at asomers@tctitle.com, or by fax (866)845-4330 WITHIN 48 HOURS of receipt of this email so that we may follow-up with you.
(BUT IF YOU DO NOTICE, PLEASE LET US KNOW SO THAT WE CAN CALL YOU WITH A SOB STORY ABOUT THE NECESSITY OF CUTTING COSTS TO BE ABLE TO SEND YOU MORE WORK.)

Each of you are important to us and to the success of our respective companies. We are striving for excellence in our customer-service goals and hope each of you will continue to be a part of that process.
(BOY ITS A GOOD THING I'M DOING THIS BY EMAIL... I COULD NEVER SAY THIS WITHOUT LAUGHING OUT LOUD.)

Kindest regards,
[signature]
Andrea Somers



My reply was simple:
 

HELL NO, HELL NO, and HELL NO.

In fact... remove us from your database. If we ever see an order from you we will require payment in advance and we will charge double our normal rate.

Best,
Robert A. Franco



The gall is absolutely shocking! I cannot believe that they would be arrogant enough to unilaterally reduce your fees by ten percent if you don't reply to an email. What if the email doesn't get received? What if it gets rejected by a spam filter? Would you find out that you got screwed when you called to ask why your check was ten percent short? Its so unbelievably unethical that I just can't express my outrage with sufficient emphasis.

Of course that seems to be the corporate culture at First American. And, I have decide that my company is going to have a surcharge for the ethically challenged. Tomorrow I am going to go through our list of abstract clients and if we are doing work for any of the First American companies we are raising our search fees for their orders. We will not accept work until they sign and return our fee sheet agreeing to the increase.

Notice that I have more integrity than to send them an email and increase their fees if they fail to respond. That would be wrong... a lesson someone should share with First American and their family of companies.

If you are as outraged as I am... do something about it. Start by sending an email (asomers@tctitle.com) or fax ((866)845-4330) to Andrea Somers at TransContinental and let her know what you think of this shady con-job. And, tell her I said "congratulations on the buyout... Transcontinental and First American deserve each other."

Robert A. Franco
SOURCE OF TITLE
rfranco@sourceoftitle.com




Rating: 

Categories: Abstractors, Billing Issues, Ethics

1743 words | 3623 views | 26 comments | log in or register to post a comment


Rob:

This sort of thin...
Rob:

This sort of thing just bolsters my argument in favor of having a written agreement in place. It keeps clients from unilaterally changing the terms of our arrangement.

Regards,
Scott Perry
 
by Scott Perry | 2007/09/12 | log in or register to post a reply

I don't think it's unethical so muc...
I don't think it's unethical so much as it's the WalMart approach to title. I've been assured by those in a position to know that this is our future.

Although I say this is not unethical, it does put a spotlight on the issue that is the source of an enormous amount of unethical behavior in our business (and probably every other business) - that those who have customers believe they deserve more reward than those who produce a product. It's the classic sales vs. operations conflict. WalMart, for example, says to its suppliers, "we have 125 million people in our stores every week. If you want access to them to have your product sold, here are the rules, not least of which is a 10% reduction in wholesale price every year."

I have often non-concurred with the consensus at SOT against on-line public records. A major reason why I have done so is that it is my experience, belief, and prediction that access to on-line records (with adequate protection) is the only way that smaller title operators have a chance in surviving the consolidation of private title plants and the big 5. I believe that the SOT consensus is mistaken - that resisting internet public records availability plays into the hands of the huge companies.
 
by | 2007/09/12 | log in or register to post a reply

The only outsourcing we do is for o...
The only outsourcing we do is for our website. Our Web Company is located in Nepal and to keep our costs low so that we can pass the lower costs on to the borrowers, we decided to outsource.
We know your value – the good abstractors and search vendors - and appreciate your services.
Please don't call me though asking us to add you as a partner. I just wanted to post that a nationwide title company understands the strain that this current market has placed on all parties involved in the closing process. Know that there are still good nationwide title companies out there. Remember - a public company must appease the shareholders and to do so they must cut costs…

I am just wondering why there isn’t an abstractor union (as much as I oppose unions)…or maybe there already is one.
 
by Joseph Longobardi | 2007/09/12 | log in or register to post a reply

You don't think its unethical to se...
You don't think its unethical to send am email stating that if you don't reply they are going to reduce your fees by 10%?? What kind of "agreement" is that? The ethical thing to do would be to require some kind of affirmative response if you are willing to accept a 10% fee reduction.

I would agree that attempting to get lower prices from vendors is not in itself unethical - though I would say that it is damn rude for the "Fat Cats" to be asking the already underpaid abstractors to absorb their losses. My problem is the approach taken by reducing the fees automatically UNLESS you respond to an email, which by the way is NOT the email address that they sent their absurd request from.

I'm still blown away by the arrogance of the company... and, in my book its still unethical!
 
by Robert Franco | 2007/09/12 | log in or register to post a reply

Let's call opt-out what it really i...
Let's call opt-out what it really is, "sleazy."

Maybe, even probably, unethical. But definitely sleazy.
 
by | 2007/09/12 | log in or register to post a reply

Wow....
Wow. 
by Diane Cipa, General Manager, The Closing Specialists® | 2007/09/12 | log in or register to post a reply

Just as a point of clarification, t...
Just as a point of clarification, the letter/email written by TransContinental Title Company is not reflective of the services that my firm contracts abstractors to perform. We have Vendors Forms outlining fees for each service and we honeor those fees unless otherwise negotiated. We value your service and appreciate your support.

Should anyone need to discuss matter in further details, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Regards,
Ron Rooney
General Manager 803-941-1212
First American CoreLogic fka/First American Real Estate Solutions fka/ Infinity Information Solutions
 
by Ron Rooney | 2007/09/13 | log in or register to post a reply

Thank you Ron. The line we usually...
Thank you Ron. The line we usually hear from these companies is that "this comes from the higher-ups at First American." Perhpas if they are just using that as an excuse to pass the blame, someone at First American should step in and ensure that their "family of companies" is treating their abstractors a little bit better. 
by Robert Franco | 2007/09/13 | log in or register to post a reply

http://www.facorelogic.com/datacoverage/coveragereport.jsp

Robert - Here's their service map of Ohio. What do you think?
 
by Diane Cipa | 2007/09/14 | log in or register to post a reply

I have been a mobile closing agent ...
I have been a mobile closing agent for 9 yrs, and in about 2005, we as closers, were asked to "reduce" our fees from 100's of companies. It has gotten progressively worse! I'm surprised the fee reduction didn't hit abstractors long before now. Like abstractors, we have to DRIVE to meet our clients, and so often, we get the email documents late, and the therein lies another problem. We accept the fee, not knowing if the document package is going to be 65 pages or over 200. (And we have to print a copy for the borrower, too).
I love my job, but this is the first line of work where I have been asked to lower my fee but not my work load. Kinda sounds like the Big 3 asking for concessions from employees, huh?
 
by Pamela M | 2007/09/17 | log in or register to post a reply

WE TRIED TO GET AN ABSTRACTORS ORGA...
WE TRIED TO GET AN ABSTRACTORS ORGANIZATION STARTED HERE IN GEORGIA OVER 10 YEARS AGO, BUT NO ONE WAS INTERESTED. NOT ONLY WOULD IT HAVE BEEN AN EXELLENT VEHICLE FOR GETTING CERTIFICATION AND STANDARDS SET UP WITH THE STATE, WE COULD HAVE SAVED ON MEDICAL WITH A SIZEABLE GROUP. BUT ALAS,VERY FEW WANTED TO PUT FORTH ANY EFFORT OR $25.00 FOR A MEMBERSHIP. WE'VE ALL BEEN REAPING THE BENEFITS SINCE. JON  
by JON A SARVER | 2007/09/17 | log in or register to post a reply

Pamela: The fee reductions DID hit...
Pamela: The fee reductions DID hit the abstractors long before now. By my estimation, it began to become a problem about 3 years ago. Unfortunately, many abstractors complied with the ridiculous requests to drop their fees and the cycle is CONTINUING! After all, if it worked once, it will work again... and again, and again. The vendor managers do not care about their abstractors. In many cases, they get insane bonuses based on how much they can save they company by negotiating lower fees.

As this letter from TransContinental shows, they are beyond asking now. They just assume you will comply and if you don't want to, you have to let them know. Shame on them!
 
by Robert Franco | 2007/09/17 | log in or register to post a reply

These changes have come about due t...
These changes have come about due to new people who do not really understand the time abstractors has to commit to each search. Then on top of that, abstractors has to proofread the search for accuracy. However, I also feel jealousy has surfaced because of the money abstractors make which is definitely due abstractors. If all abstractors stand adamant on their fees, title companies will have to pay the price, time is money to abstractors. Would you believe I checked an abstractor's fees here in Maryland and their fee was $85.00 for a full search. My mouth is still hanging open. This could be one of the problems as well, new abstractors trying to get into the business with fees that are so low any title company would probably give them a chance to see what their work is like. Plus, computers will never due because it is to much information to collaborate for a search. WE ARE HERE TO STAY!  
by SaundraF. Scott | 2007/09/17 | log in or register to post a reply

"If you are as outraged as I am... ...
"If you are as outraged as I am... do something about it. Start by sending an email (asomers@tctitle.com) or fax ((866)845-4330) to Andrea Somers at TransContinental and let her know what you think of this shady con-job. And, tell her I said "congratulations on the buyout... Transcontinental and First American deserve each other." "
...........................WOW ,do you really think that is the kind of action to take against a woman with an amazing track record with all of us that have worked with her, and on these very forums. After all , you said the email did not come from her email....right , sounds first american to me, not like the young lady I have known.
 
by TOM | 2007/09/17 | log in or register to post a reply

The email did not come from her e-m...
The email did not come from her e-mail address, BUT the attachment did have her signature. I was surprised to see that and apparently, whether or not it was directed from the "higher-ups" at First American, she has chosen to go along with it. If you are willing to put your name on something you should be willing to accept responsibility for it.

Personally, I would have refused to go along with something as offensive as this. We each have to decide for ourselves what our integrity is worth. I would not work for a company that would have me compromise my ethics for a corrupt corporate culture.
 
by Robert Franco | 2007/09/17 | log in or register to post a reply

This is Andrea Somers. I would like...
This is Andrea Somers. I would like to reply to this email in two parts.

1) I am aware that the mass email has hit a “sore spot” with so many of you, and I apologize for the emotions it has stirred up. The market has been tough for everyone in our field. Many thanks to all of those who handled the situation with grace and professionalism, whether you agreed with the request or not.

2) I would like to resolve any and all concerns, and am free to discuss anything you would like in detail. If anyone has questions, matters or issues as a result of this mass email, please feel free to contact me. I am aggressively interested in making this right by whatever means I have leverage of.

Sincerely,

Andrea Somers
Phone (866) 688-8659
Fax (866) 845-4330
asomers@tctitle.com
 
by Andrea Somers | 2007/09/17 | log in or register to post a reply

Very commendable, Andrea. I hope y...
Very commendable, Andrea. I hope you are able to "make this right." I would imagine that would have to entail abandoning the "opt-out" method chosen for the fee reduction and begin over with an "opt-in" approach for all of those who want (or are at least willing) to reduce their fees.

However you choose to smooth things over with your abstractors it would be welcome, I'm sure. If you are able to work something out, please let me know. I would gladly give credit where credit is due (and maybe even apologize for my harsh criticism) once things are "made right." I would like nothing more than to be forced to eat my words.
 
by Robert Franco | 2007/09/17 | log in or register to post a reply

The examiners here in Massachusetts...
The examiners here in Massachusetts have used "The Evil Empire" moniker for F.A. for some time now, ever since their feeble attempt at starting a "Title examination compay" that failed miserably. 
by Paul Miller | 2007/09/18 | log in or register to post a reply

Transcon was one of our local "Mike...
Transcon was one of our local "Mikey" companies for the months they stayed in business here. (Mikey from the Life Ceralal commercial as in give it to Mikey, he'll eat (insure) anything) The Borg aka fatco bought several local agencies and now are no 1 in market share. I don't think fatco is any sleazier than any of the other big boys. Of course that is damning with very faint praise. At any rate for the last 15 years every single aggregator has made money by overcharging customers and screwing providers and I'm puzzled and wondering why anybody would expect anything different from these guys. Check out the HUD the next time you do a "courtesy" closing. The customers are getting absolutely hammered by aggregators compared to what me and the locals charge here for the same services. I only do "courtesy" closings under extreme duress and never do searches for aggregators and haven't for 15 years. The people that started doing local closings for $75 or $100 are now complaining because your price is being beat down to $25 to $50 or that $75 you charged for a search 5 years ago is now $10 or $20 or maybe free if the underwriter feels like it? You just now figured out pou have families to feed? I sincerely wish you'd have thought of this 15 or 20 years ago when this crap started. I guess it was OK then because you were the rebel fighting "The Man" now, that would be your old boss/owner. But now you're The Man and you're the one that has to make payroll competing with Indian abstractors . Hate to break it to ya bro but you were exactly the same threat searching and examining and closing out of your car trunk or off your kitchen table back then. Long story short? Get over it and deal, we did. 
by Scott Parsons | 2007/09/24 | log in or register to post a reply

I was following along nicely, "bro,...
I was following along nicely, "bro," up until the last few sentences. There you just kinda went of the deep-end ranting about "the man." I don't ever remember a rebellion... at least not one that I was a part of. If your point is that independent abstractors/signing agents have hurt the industry by lowering their prices, then I would agree.

But one point of clarification, I'm not anyone's "bro" and I am not now, nor have I ever been "the man." I'm a licensed title agent and I worked my way up as a title examiner. I learned to do things "the right way" and that is how I still like to conduct my business. I expect the same from others, which is usually the source of my frustrations.
 
by Robert Franco | 2007/09/24 | log in or register to post a reply

Andrea is one of the most professio...
Andrea is one of the most professional relationship builders I know.

Spamming her email box is a cute protest - but I chose to call her.

Price reductions are a part of life unless we are discussing taxes. :^)
 
by Rob Robinson | 2007/09/26 | log in or register to post a reply

I No Longer do closings for Nationw...
I No Longer do closings for Nationwide Co's as I was tired of getting calls from later title Co's for cleanup work. Additionally the Doc's rarely included Copies, etc. Clients were not informed of necessity for witnesses, copies of ID, etc. and as many were set for afterhours no one to contact when a problem., etc.
Regarding fees when I began working for myself the first thing I did was to ask other Independent abstractors what they charged and then charged the same. There is a local Abstract Co. who undercut everyones fees when they started here in the New Orleans area by placing a letter in all the attorneys files at the courthouse, now of course they charge $80 more than I do for the same thing. I can tell you from experience FirstAM just mails out checks for $57. imagine my dissapointment after running the surname of Williams back to a hard Sale after Successions, Donations, etc. I suppose I should have stopped at the most recent conveyance instead of giving them what they really needed. Last time they sent me work I sent them a reply with my fees and notice to accept or Cancel, They Cancelled. Oh well I can't do the work for what amounted to $27.00 after copies. I have a suggestion have The Presidents and CEO's of these Companies take a paycut.
 
by Peggy Pond | 2007/10/06 | log in or register to post a reply

if you think this is bad you should...
if you think this is bad you should see the way they treat their employees.the company has a double standard on everything.and i'm supprised it was only 10%.after 15 years of hell with this place was like a prison sentance.they brainwash their management into "the first american way".they are the nazis of today! 
by rbelinski ex fatco employee | 2007/10/08 | log in or register to post a reply

rbelinski: If you have time, pleas...
rbelinski: If you have time, please pop over to Radical Title Talk and read the posts since Saturday. I'd be very interested in your comments which you may feel free to leave anonymously or otherwise.

 
by Diane Cipa | 2007/10/08 | log in or register to post a reply

if you think thats bad,when they go...
if you think thats bad,when they got the 10m. fine the weeks after they told all san bernardino county employees that they had to take off two weeks without pay.then when you put in the notice for the days off they made you fill out and sign a form stating that you the employee was requesting voulentary time off without pay for personal reasons.talk about chikenshit business practices.and i will gladly go to your site diane. 
by rbelinski | 2007/10/11 | log in or register to post a reply

Ethically Challenged ! Masterfully ...
Ethically Challenged ! Masterfully Crafted Naming Kudo's to whomever came up with it. I am so sick and tired of hearing about them competing against them. I should have been a lifeguard, but I am afraid of sharks, so I became a closer now I say closer just drop the "c" as an independent Agent & Agency owner I find all I can do is laugh out loud :) 
by patty | 2007/11/12 | log in or register to post a reply
Source of Title Blog

Robert A. FrancoThe focus of this blog will be on sharing my thoughts and concerns related to the small title agents and abstractors. The industry has changed dramatically over the past ten years and I believe that we are just seeing the beginning. As the evolution continues, what will become of the many small independent title professionals who have long been the cornerstone of the industry?

Robert A. Franco
SOURCE OF TITLE

 

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