October 11, 2002
Six large title companies have agreed to pay $50 million to settle lawsuits brought by the California attorney general, San Francisco district attorney and other California officials. The companies have also agreed to stop the alleged deceptive business practices that were at issue.

Of the settlement, $40 million will go to customers who bought, sold or refinanced residential property in California between May 19, 1995 and Oct. 8, 2002. Checks will be mailed within six months. Most eligible consumers will get between $25 and $165, the attorney general's office said.

Named in the suits were

  • Fidelity National Title Insurance Co.
  • Chicago Title Insurance Co.
  • First American Title Insurance Co.
  • Commonwealth Land Title Insurance Co.
  • Lawyers Title Insurance Corp.
  • Stewart Title Co. of California

The companies were accused of deceiving consumers with hidden fees and costs during such routine transactions as escrow and title services. They were also accused of failing to pass on to their customers the benefits that were provided to the title companies by banks and other financial institutions.

The companies control about 80 percent of the real estate market in California. About 2 million customers are expected to be eligible for refunds.