A U.S. House Financial Services subcommittee is holding a hearing Wednesday on competition, pricing and recent probes of illegal activity in the title insurance marketplace, the committee said Monday.

Thomas M. Stevens, president of the National Association of Realtors, will testify before the Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity, chaired by Rep. Robert W. Ney, D-Ohio, along with Erin Toll, Colorado’s deputy insurance commissioner, who helped uncover a national title insurance scandal last year when she investigated title insurance in Colorado.

The title insurance industry came under an intense spotlight after Toll’s February 2005 investigation of nine Colorado title insurers for alleged kickback schemes. The probe sparked dozens of investigations nationwide, in Florida, Washington, Hawaii, California, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Washington and other states.

In March, New York’s attorney general and insurance department revealed that they were investigating national title insurance companies for suspected illegal kickbacks.

In January, Michael Oxley, R-Ohio, chair of the House Financial Services Committee, asked that watchdog agency the Government Accountability Office investigate the title insurance industry.

“In today’s dynamic real estate market, title insurance plays an important role in the home-buying process. For this hearing, we have brought together a balanced panel of witnesses that will focus on the title insurance marketplace and the need to create more competition and efficiency for consumers,” said Ney.

Along with Stevens and Toll, the following officials and industry professionals will testify:

Gary M. Cunningham of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; Orice Williams, of the Government Accountability Office; J. Robert Hunter of the Consumer Federation of America; Douglas Miller, CEO, Title One, Bloomington, Minn.; Arthur Sterbcow, president, Latter & Blum Realtors, New Orleans, La.; and Rande K. Yeager, president, American Land Title Association 2006.

***

Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to janis@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 140.

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