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This Week's OAITA Conference
by Robert Franco | 2010/04/21 |

I had the opportunity to attend the Ohio Association of Independent Title Agents (OAITA) Conference in Columbus, Ohio on Monday.  It was a great event with nearly 60 in attendance at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in the Arena District. If the independent agents have a future in the title industry, it lies with the OAITA and similar organizations.

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Robert B. Holman, OAITA founder and organizational counsel, opened the conference with a presentation aptly entitled "Making the case for independence in Ohio."  He briefly ran through the history of the OAITA and spoke about their fight with the Ohio Department of Insurance.  If you don't remember my earlier blogs about the situation, they filed a mandamus action in the Ohio Supreme Court to try to force the ODI to enforce certain state laws, which it (and I) believe prohibit AfBAs in Ohio.  It was ultimately dismissed, but the action was refiled in another form in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. This action is still pending.

The OAITA has also publicly commented on several ODI proposed rules that impact the independent agents differently than the AfBA's that are operating in the state.  The association been advocating for legislative changes, as well.  The OAITA has even made the case that the ODI should have a separate title insurance division.  And, the submitted a letter to the Ohio Senate Judiciary-Civil Justice Committee is support of the proposed legislation to ban private transfer fee covenants in the state.  So, as you can see... the OAITA has been very active.

The idea of meaningful representation for truly independent agents got so much attention after the launch of the OAITA that it spawned a national association - The National Association of Independent Land Title Agents (NAILTA).  Charles Proctor, President of NAILTA, was at yesterday's conference to tell us all about their efforts.  NAILTA has issued responses to proposed rate increases in New Mexico, New York's proposed legislation to create a state-run title company, the Pennsylvania Attorney General's comments that "ABA’s create tremendous opportunities for illegal rebating and referrals," and many other issues.  Charles has also been actively engaged in discussions with legislators and regulators in his home state of Pennsylvania.  NAILTA has also filed an amicus brief in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, in Denise Edwards v. First American Title Insurance Company, et al., Appellate Case No. 08-56536. 

Despite the protests of First American, the Ninth Circuit determined that NAILTA has a "unique perspective, or information, that can assist the appellate court." NAILTA had argued that its organization was uniquely situated to provide the appellate court with pertinent information concerning the title insurance industry. The Court granted NAILTA's motion for leave to file and has now received the Amicus Brief.

If you have an interest in the future of independent title agents, you can find a wealth of information on the Web sites of the OAITA and the NAILTA.  Getting involved with these organizations could go a long way to ensuring that YOU, and all of the truly independent agents, have a voice in our industry.

The conference also included 3 hours of CE and CLE credits.  Paula Knodel, Agency Auditor for General Title Insurance Company, spoke about "Understanding Escrow."  Her presentation explained the reconciliation process for escrow accounts and many of the sneaky ways people can steal your escrow monies.  Attorney Christopher Flowers, Ohio Title Corporation, gave us a "Title Industry Case Law Update," which included topics such as RESPA, foreclosures, equitable subrogation, defective notary acknowledgments, escrow, and more.  Kim Himmel, President of Netwide Title Agency, presented "Understanding the Short Sale Process."  Specializing in short sales has helped Kim keep her agency alive in these difficult times.  As she mentioned, it takes a lot of patience to handle short sales!

There was also a presentation on "Title Industry Class Actions from the Plaintiff's Perspective," by Attorney Richard S. Gordon from Quinn, Gordon & Wolf, Chtd in Baltimore, Maryland. He spoke about the various forms of class actions and warned the next big thing could be RICO class action against AfBA's by independent competitors.  It is my understanding that because RESPA is a consumer protection statute, competitors have no standing to bring suit under RESPA.  But if a RICO case can be made... ooooh... watch out.  It will be interesting to see what happens in such a case.

There were also two panel discussions - one of independent agent, who shared their experiences about how to survive in this market and what they would like to see change in the industry, and a second of title abstractors who shared their perspective on how the industry has changed and where it was headed.

It was a very good conference and it is nice to see people talking about issues that are important to independence in the title industry.  It is clear that the OAITA and the NAILTA both have been actively advocating for their members.  They may have a uphill battle to fight, but they are making progress.  If you are an independent agent (or abstractor or closer), you might want to look into supporting them in their efforts.



Categories: Abstractors, Land Title Associations, Opportunities, Small Agents, Title Standards

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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



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