SAN FRANCISCO (Aug. 22, 2002) -- City Attorney Dennis Herrera and District Attorney Terence Hallinan announced today that Old Republic Title Company, one of the largest title and escrow businesses in California, has paid over $5 million to satisfy a portion of a judgment in a consumer fraud case brought by their offices.
Specifically, Old Republic will pay approximately $3,776,000 into a fund for restitution to homebuyers who paid money into escrow bank accounts that earned interest that unlawfully went to Old Republic. California law requires all interest earned on these accounts to go to the depositing party, the homebuyer. Additionally, Old Republic has paid San Francisco $1,320,963 in penalties and costs ordered by a Superior Court Judge after a trial in the spring and summer of 2001.
Significant portions of the court's rulings remain to be decided on appeal. If San Francisco prevails, the City will recover more than $8,000,000 for other unlawful practices by the title company. Consumers stand to reap at least triple the amount recovered today as restitution.
Besides the interest issue, the City also was successful in arguing that Old Republic improperly passed on to consumers fees that Old Republic never had to pay, for wire transfers of money and reconveyances of deeds. The charges for the wire transfers were usually $25 and the reconveyance fees varied from $65 upward.
"We will continue to devote our resources to uncovering consumer fraud and ensuring that the perpetrators are held to account and the victims compensated," said City Attorney Dennis Herrera.
S.F. District Attorney Terence Hallinan pointed out that, even prior to today, Old Republic had paid the City and State several million dollars in principal and interest because of the City's allegations that they had illegally been seizing money from bank accounts which should have been sent to the State of California. "We have been in court on this case since 1998 and are pleased that consumers and the City are now benefiting financially from our efforts," Hallinan said.
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