Industry News

Stewart Title ordered to halt alleged incentives

Washington state says desk fees, co-advertising costs were illegal

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Desk fees and co-advertising costs Stewart Title Guaranty Co. paid to real estate brokers amounted to illegal incentives for business referrals, Washington state officials allege in ordering the company to stop such practices. Washington state limits the use of inducements, payments or rewards for title insurance business referrals to $25 per person per year. An Aug. 6 cease-and-desist order issued by Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler alleges Stewart Title of Snohomish County violated the rule more than 100 times between Dec. 1 and March 30, spending thousands of dollars a month on alleged incentives, including gifts, refreshments, event sponsorships, advertising and desk fees. Desk fees -- payments to brokers to rent space in their offices that can exceed $1,000 a month -- amounted to illegal incentives because the desks are rarely used by Stewart Title staff, the commissioner said in a press release. In some cases, Stewart Title paid more than its fair share of ...