The American Title Insurance Industry
How a Cartel Fleeces the American Consumer
Published by: NYU Press
287 pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
- ISBN: 9780814722404
- Published: August 2007
After World War II, banks and other mortgage lenders began requiring insurance to protect them against flawed or defective real estate titles. Over the past sixty years, the title insurance industry has grown steadily in size, power, and secrecy: policies are available for both lenders and property owners and many title insurers offer an array of other real estate services, such as escrow and appraisal. Yet details about the industry’s operational procedures remain closely guarded from public exposure.
In The American Title Insurance Industry, Joseph and David Eaton present evidence that improvements in recordkeeping over the last sixty years—particularly the advent of computers—have reduced the likelihood of a defective title going unnoticed in a property transaction. But the industry’s flaws run deeper than mere obsolescence: in most states, title insurers are allowed to engage in anticompetitive business practices, including price-fixing. Among the findings in this meticulously researched study are instances of insurers charging premiums well above the amount necessary to compensate them for assuming the risk of defect and identical policies with identical risk that vary in price by hundreds of percentage points for different geographic locations.
“[A] work that provides newly detailed history and analysis of title insurance, a little-studied industry.”