Monday, January 26, 2009

First American Title Insurance Company

First American Title Insurance Company, the largest title insurance company in the United States, is alleged in a Michigan lawsuit to be responsible for millions of dollars in losses sustained by Michigan businessman Isaiah Shafir. In a motion filed today in Oakland County Circuit Court, before the Hon. Wendy Potts, Mr. Shafir alleges that First American's agents participated in a fraudulent real estate scheme in an attempt to divest Mr. Shafir of title to 42 investment properties, with a value in the millions of dollars. Shafir seeks a ruling that First American is liable for its agents' conduct.

According to the motion, First American's agents, Simmons Title Company and Patriot Title Company, recorded a fraudulently obtained deed and issued false title policies concealing Mr. Shafir's interests in the properties. The suit alleges that Simmons Title and Patriot Title did this to assist a man named Randy Saylor to sell the properties, which did not belong to him, and to obtain fraudulent mortgages on the properties. Mr. Saylor is currently in the Kalamazoo County jail and when his deposition was taken in jail, he refused to answer pertinent questions and relied on the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.

The suit alleges that, in 2003, Saylor obtained a facsimile copy of a deed to the 42 properties. The suit further alleges that he then conspired with Simmons Title and Patriot Title to sell these properties fraudulently and obtain mortgages. These title agencies issued title commitments and policies that did not disclose Saylor's lack of ownership of the properties, or several previous mortgages on the properties belonging to Mr. Shafir. According to the motion, Patriot Title also assisted Saylor by recording with the register of deeds the facsimile deed. Shafir alleges that First American failed to investigate or monitor its agents' activities. The motion claims, "First American's reckless conduct has allowed its agents to defraud people in the midst of a nationwide real estate crisis."

The motion asserts that First American had an obligation to properly investigate and supervise its agents. Gerard Mantese, the attorney for Mr. Shafir, stated, "Our motion explains, it is untenable for First American to deny responsibility for its agents' conduct."

Stetson’s Wilson named Attorney’s Title Insurance Fund Professor

Darryl C. Wilson, professor and co-director of the Institute for Caribbean Law and Policy at Stetson University of Law, has been named the Attorney’s Title Insurance Fund Professor of Law.

The three-year appointment begins in August, a release said.

The appointment allows for further integration of the academic aspects of property with practical issues addressed by the Fund, Wilson said in a statement.

Professor James J. Brown, the first law professor named to the position, will become the Fund’s professor emeritus.

The Fund promotes and facilitates real estate practices of its members as they protect the public, a release said.