Fidelity National Title Co. has agreed to pay $365,000 in penalties and reimbursement to California regulators to settle allegations that the company’s Orange County office provided printing, gifts, travel and entertainment to Realtors and lenders in a position to refer the company business.

The California Department of Insurance announced the Feb. 17 agreement Monday, saying it related to illegal rebating activities that allegedly took place from 2000-02. The department said it opened an investigation in September 2002.

Fidelity stipulated that it was waiving its right to a hearing in the matter without admitting liability or wrongdoing "to avoid the expense, uncertainty and distractions of litigation."

Fidelity will pay a $345,000 penalty in three installments, plus $20,000 to reimburse the state for attorneys’ fees and costs.

In a press release, Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner said Fidelity had "brought the questionable practices to a halt" and supported legislation aimed at curbing illegal rebates.

The legislation, SB 133, became effective Jan. 1. It requires that title insurance marketing representatives be certified, and allows the Department of Insurance to bring administrative actions against individual title marketing and sales representatives, not just their employers.

A Fidelity spokeswoman said the company worked closely with the Department of Insurance to obtain approval of the "landmark legislation."

"We have long since put this matter behind us and remain focused on complying with the marketing requirements as set forth in this legislation," said Lloyd Osgood, senior vice president of marketing and communications of parent company Fidelity National Financial Inc.


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