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First American’s stake in local title agencies sparks lawsuit

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An appeals court has ruled that attorneys for an Ohio woman have a right to probe whether First American Corp. violated anti-kickback regulations by allegedly buying ownership stakes in local title insurance agencies around the nation and then requiring the companies to refer all future business to First American.The lawsuit, by Cleveland resident Denise P. Edwards, claims First American paid $2 million in cash and securities for a 17.5 percent interest in Tower City Title Agency, and then required the agency to refer all future business "exclusively" to First American.Edwards' lawsuit claims First American has similar agreements in place with thousands of other local title insurance agencies, and seeks class-action status to represent homeowners nationwide who purchased title insurance policies from those agencies.First American maintains that few of its "exclusive" agency agreements are completely exclusive, and that Edwards paid no more for her title insurance on...