By complaint dated February 1, 2008, four named individuals commenced a class action lawsuit against fourteen (14) title insurance companies in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York alleging violations of antitrust laws. A copy of the complaint can be found here. The named defendants are as follows:
Fidelity National Title Insurance Company
Chicago Title Insurance Company
Ticor Title Insurance Company
Fidelity National Finance, Inc.
First American Title Insurance Company of New York
United General Title Insurance Company
First American Corporation
Commonwealth Land Title Insurance Company
Lawyers Title Insurance Corporation
Landamerica Financial Group, Inc.
Stewart Title Insurance Company
Monroe Title Insurance Company
Stewart Information Services Corporation
Title Insurance Rate Service Association, Inc.
The complaint seeks to challenge allegedly illegal price-fixing agreements between defendants to set rates that consumers pay for title insurance in New York. While New York Insurance Law allows for title insurance rates to be collectively set through a rate setting organization comprised of the state’s title insurers, the complaint alleges that the defendants’ manipulation of rates prevents the NY Insurance Department from properly reviewing the rate setting process. The complaint also alleges that the manner in which rates are set based on “agency commissions” (allegedly comprised of kickbacks and other costs unrelated to the issuance of title insurance, which account for approximately 85% of the rate calculation) strips the NY Insurance Department’s authority to review the rates.
Plaintiffs bring suit under Section 16 of the Clayton Act to prevent and restrain violations of Section 1 of the Sherman Act, and for damages under Section 4 of the Clayton Act. Accordingly, jurisdiction is based on 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1337.
By letter dated February 19, 2008, counsel for the Fidelity defendants sought leave to file a motion to dismiss the complaint and provided the Court with the basis for the motion. A copy of the letter can be found here. Pursuant to a stipulation filed February 27, 2008, defendants have 45 days from the date the Court decides whether to consolidate the action “with all other actions involving common questions of law and fact” to respond to the complaint. A copy of the stipulation can be found here.
By Order entered February 21, 2008, the case was reassigned to Senior Judge Thomas C. Platt and referred to Magistrate Judge William D. Wall.