13 posts categorized "Advocacy"


ALTA CEO Talks with NPR About FinCEN Order for Title Insurers to Provide Info About Suspicious All-cash Deals in Miami, Manhattan

The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) has issued Geographic Targeting Orders requiring several title insurance underwriters to identify the names of individuals involved in shell companies and other legal entities that make all-cash purchases for high-end residential real estate in Manhattan, N.Y., and Miami-Dade County, Fla.

FinCEN is concerned that all-cash transactions in these areas are being used by individuals to hide their assets and identity by purchasing residential properties through limited liability companies or other opaque structures. To help mitigate this potential money-laundering vulnerability, FinCEN will require certain underwriters to identify and report the true “beneficial owner” behind a legal entity involved in certain high-end deals in these two areas. The reporting requirement also pertains to the underwriters’ subsidiaries and agents.

NPR interviewed ALTA CEO Michelle Korsmo about the order. Below is audio of NPR's article, which includes a portion of the interview with Korsmo. She can be heard at the 2:17 mark.

Transaction Requirements to File Report with FinCEN

Any underwriters that received the order must file a currency transaction report with FinCEN if these things occur:

  • Location (deal occurs in Manhattan or Miami-Dade County)
  • All-cash deal (no financing)
  • Purchase price in Manhattan is $3 million or more and purchase price in Miami-Dade County is above $1 million
  • There’s a corporate buyer
  • Purchase price paid via monetary instrument

The report must include:

  • Information about the identity of the individual primarily responsible for representing the buyer. The title company must obtain a record of the individual’s driver’s license, passport of other similar identification
  • Date of closing of the covered transaction
  • Total amount transferred in the form of a monetary instrument
  • Total purchase price of the covered transaction
  • Address of real property involved

If the purchase involved in the covered transaction is a limited liability company, the underwriter must provide the name, address and taxpayer identification number of all its members.

Additionally, covered title companies must retain all records relating to compliance with the order for five years, store the records so they are accessible with a reasonable period of time and make the data available to FinCEN or other law enforcement or regulatory agency, upon request.

The term of this order expires in 180 days, but FinCEN may indefinitely renew the order for another six months and for additional areas.

FinCEN said title insurance companies play a central role in real estate transactions and can provide valuable information about potential illegal activities.

“FinCEN appreciates the assistance and cooperation of the title insurance companies and the American Land Title Association in protecting the real estate markets from abuse by illicit actors,” FinCEN said in a release.

ALTA is actively assisting our members to comply with these reporting requirements. Korsmo said "ALTA looks forward to continuing its work with FinCEN as members implement the order to help prevent money laundering schemes and the illegal purchase of real estate in the United States. As the independent third-party at the closing table, ALTA members work to safeguard the real estate transaction for millions of Americans every year. Our work with FinCEN underscores ALTA members’ commitment to providing a compliant real estate settlement experience.”

ALTA has already submitted a letter to FinCEN’s director asking for several clarifications to promote consistency in reporting and help the industry better understand which transactions are covered by the order.


ALTA Seeks Clarification of Orders from FinCEN

ALTA proposes FinCEN adopt RESPA’s definition for “residential.” Industry familiarity with definitions and regulatory scheme provided by RESPA will help title companies identify transactions covered by the order.

ALTA recommends that the definition of “Legal Entity” exclude trusts. The order defines the term “Legal Entity” as a corporation, limited liability company, partnership or other similar business entity.” According to the letter, ALTA said that unlike a corporation, a trust is not considered a separate legal entity under the common law of various states. Adopting this recommendation will provide a definition consistent with those used by the industry for purposes of determining how to effectively transfer title.

ALTA also suggests that the definition of “agents” refer only to people or entities with a contractual relationship with the covered title company. State insurance laws require insurers to appoint agents via a specific written contract or authorization. This will help the insurers consistently determine which business partners they must educate and supervise to comply with the order.

“We urge FinCEN to use a reasonable and good-faith test for determining insurers’ compliance with this order,” ALTA wrote in its letter. “We believe the clarifications requested and joint education with the insurer and FinCEN, should ensure that all covered transactions that the insurer is aware of will be reported; however, even with the best efforts of title insurers, there may be transactions of which the insurer is not made aware.”

To aid compliance, title professionals are encouraged to have a better understanding of the types of customers they do business with. Real estate agents and attorneys should be resources to help gather information about corporate entities purchasing real estate.



Tell the Senate We Need Their Help

With the CFPB's TRID rules set to go into effect Oct. 3, we need your help to encourage Congress to pass bipartisan legislation that mandates the bureau observe a hold-harmless period for enforcement of the new TILA-RESPA Disclosure (TRID) rule until January 1, 2016.

Click here to take action today and ask your senators to cosponsor S. 1711 today. 

On Aug. 29, the House Financial Services Committee voted 45-13 to advance H.R. 3192. The bill, sponsored by Reps. French Hill (R-Ark.) and Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), would provide a temporary legal safe harbor  for lenders and title professionals who make a good-faith effort to comply with the TRID through February 1, 2016.

H.R. 3192 moves to the full House of Representatives where ALTA and its coalition partners are pushing for it to be voted on under suspension of the rules (a mechanism for non controversial bills) in early Sept. This will require getting more co-sponsors on the bill especially from the Democratic side.  


Title Action Network on the Front Line Advocating for the Industry’s Future

The real estate and mortgage finance industries continue to be under intense scrutiny. From the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to state regulators, business practices are being examined. This is why active participation is needed in the Title Action Network (TAN), the title industry’s grassroots organization. Launched in 2012, TAN promotes the value of the land title industry at the state and federal level. Over the past two years, TAN members have sent more than 4,400 communications to 380 policymakers in response to the network’s calls to action. Members have weighed in on the CFPB, RESPA/TILA reform, mortgage interest deduction, GSE reform, flood insurance and many other topics.

On the national front, TAN members have been crucial in building support for a bill that would create an advisory board for small businesses at the CFPB. Because of alerts sent by TAN members to their representatives, this important bill now has 37 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives.

TAN members have been just as active and successful at the state level as well. State victories are just as important. In my home state of Minnesota, our governor had proposed a budget that would have created an additional sales tax on real estate services. This would have included closing services and other professional services provided by the land title industry, as well as brokers’ commissions and appraisal services. In conjunction with the Minnesota Land Title Association, TAN members convinced the governor to drop his pursuit of taxes on most additional services, including real estate service taxes.

Earlier this year, our colleagues in Michigan partnered with the state land title association to drum up support for legislation to address recording issues. Most recently, members in New York worked with the New York State Land Title Association to convince legislators to pass an agent licensing bill. Meanwhile, members in Colorado used TAN to encourage regulators to hit the pause button on amending industry regulations.

As you can see, TAN is an essential piece in ALTA’s advocacy efforts to connect title professionals with members of Congress. The ability to systematize and fuse participation on federal and state issues makes TAN an effective tool for everyone involved. Through August, TAN had more than 8,000 members. We are pushing to eclipse 10,000 by the 2014 Annual Convention.

Now more than ever, it is critical to showcase a cohesive and energized voice when advocating for the value of the land title industry. Joining TAN is simple. Please go to www.titleactionnetwork.com to enroll. Membership is free. The more people involved, the stronger our voice. What’s holding you back? Get involved today!



In Case You Missed It: ALTA's President Testifies Before Congress

On May 21, ALTA President Rob Chapman testified at the hearing titled “Legislative Proposals to Improve Transparency and Accountability at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).” The hearing was held before the House Financial Services subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit.

The hearing focused on legislative ideas to improve how the CFPB regulates providers of financial services. One such proposal is H.R. 4383, which would create a small business advisory board at the CFPB. ALTA members asked members of Congress to co-sponsor the bill during the Federal Conference & Lobby Day earlier this month.

“When the Bureau operates in a transparent, open, and iterative manner, the results are generally positive,” Rob told the subcommittee. “However, when the Bureau makes unilateral decisions, rolls out initiatives, rules or processes in a more closed deliberation, the results are far more likely to be problematic.”

In addition, you can read his spoken testimony or check out the longer written testimony.

Rob represented the industry well, walking the committee through our interactions with the Bureau and how more transparent processes led to better outcomes for both our industry and consumers. Specifically, Rob focused on the uncertainty caused by the April 2012 service provider bulletin saying that the lack of outreach left many companies “shooting in the dark as they attempt to invest in systems and processes to protect consumers.” He continued: “Many of our members see different requirements, vetting procedures and are concerned that they will no longer be allowed to compete for business when a mortgage is financed by certain lenders.”

In contrast, “had the Bureau consulted with mortgage originators and the real estate settlement industry, we would all have a better understanding of what is expected from the person conducting the settlement of real estate transactions, and the response to the CFPB bulletin would be less disruptive, more consistent and efficient,” Rob told the committee.

The hearing also allowed us to encourage Congress to pass H.R. 4383, bipartisan legislation sponsored by Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC) and Rep. Denny Heck (D-WA) that would create a small business advisory panel at the CFPB. When asked by Rep. Pittenger if ALTA had a good relationship with the CFPB, Chapman said yes, but that it could be “better with the creation of a small business panel.” During one part of the hearing, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) showed her support for the bill saying “everyone should have an advisory committee.”

Rob also encouraged the subcommittee to authorize the CFPB to issue advisory opinions. “The Bureau takes its enforcement role seriously and should take its ability to promote good practices just as seriously,” he said. “An advisory opinion provides certainty to those of us who comply with federal consumer financial law in real-life situations. Consumers will see better outcomes if the Bureau spends more time advising people in the industry how to best follow the law.” Finally, Rob suggested that the CFPB encourage public feedback on policy statements, bulletins and other guidance documents. He said public comments ensure documents are useful and understandable to industry and provide a safety valve to reduce unintended consequences.

Please join me in congratulating Rob on a job well done by tweeting to @titlerob. If you have any questions please contact please contact ALTA’s vice president of government and regulatory affairs, Justin Ailes, at justin@alta.org or 202-261-2937.


A Great Story About Title Insurance in Honor of Presidents' Day

I hope everyone had a great Presidents’ Day, or as it is legally known, Washington’s Birthday. We have come to regard the holiday as a celebration of all of our presidents and before we get into the goings-on at ALTA, please indulge me in this industry-relevant story about our 13th president, Millard Fillmore.

President Fillmore was born January 7, 1800, in Cayuga Country, New York. Just a year before his birth, the future president’s father, Nathaniel, and uncle, Calvin, purchased a farm in Locke Township sight unseen. The land was part of the central New York military tract set aside for sale to soldiers who had fought in the Revolutionary War. Faulty surveys, fraud and ignorance left title to land in the military tract uncertain, prompting the state of New York to send a team of commissioners to review and settle all land titles in the area. Unfortunately for the Fillmore brothers, they were unable to defend their title against the commissioners’ findings.

Following the complete failure of their title, the Fillmores took up a perpetual lease for a farm in Sempronius, NY. However, the poor soil, forest cover and rugged terrain of the plot led to rough times for the Fillmores. This experience led Nathaniel Fillmore to push his children into professions other than farming. For his son Millard (a good student and avid reader), Nathaniel secured a clerkship studying law with Judge Walter Wood. Wood was the richest person in the country, having earned his money and reputation on title litigation. It was this experience that led the future president to become an attorney.

We can assume that his experience clerking for Judge Wood led to one of President Fillmore’s most astute and important acts, promoting a law to perfect title in the new state of California. In 1850, Fillmore became president on the passing of President Zachary Taylor. In his first State of the Union, Fillmore addressed one of the most pressing issues of the day, the status of land ownership in the newly acquired states of California, Texas and New Mexico. In that message to Congress, Fillmore stated:

The uncertainty which exists in regard to the validity of land titles in California is a subject which demands your early consideration. Large bodies of land in that State are claimed under grants said to have been made by authority of the Spanish and Mexican governments. Many of these have not been perfected, others have been revoked, and some are believed to be fraudulent. But until they shall have been judicially investigated they will continue to retard the settlement and improvement of the country. I therefore respectfully recommend that provision be made by law for the appointment of commissioners to examine all such claims with a view to their final adjustment.

This is a great statement about what the land title industry does every day and how that work is important to our country and the free flow of capital. Can you imagine if there was an entire paragraph in a modern day State of the Union about the importance of clear title? Join me in celebrating the achievements of an oft overlooked President Millard Fillmore.


What’s on Tap in 2014 for Congress

As we begin the second session of the 113th Congress, many pundits in Washington are hoping that 2014 will be a more productive legislative year than 2013. Given the number of priorities on the to-do list and the limited amount of time to get them done (29 weeks because it is an election year), let’s hope last December’s budget deal is a good omen of things to come.

While the year will start with a discussion on extending unemployment benefits, probably the most pressing task for returning lawmakers will be to pass a Congressional spending plan (also called appropriations) for the 2014 fiscal year and avoiding another shutdown. The deadline is January 15th and should be made easier thanks to the recent budget agreement. The big issues will be cuts to defense spending and whether efforts will be made to defund the Affordable Care Act.

Closely following on the heels of the appropriations bill will be the need to raise the country’s debt ceiling. The temporary suspension of the debt limit will expire on February 7 and it is expected that Republicans will demand some concessions in exchange for raising the debt limit and avoiding default.

Reforming the tax code already faced long odds, but the effort suffered a serious blow when President Obama named Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) as the new ambassador to China. Incoming chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) may not share the zeal for the topic as his House counterpart, Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp.

While tax reform might be dead, what is likely is that lawmakers may push to retroactively extend some or all of the 55 tax breaks that expired at the end of last year. Some of these tax breaks (also known as “extenders,” in DC speak) include deductions for mortgage debt cancellation, state and local sales taxes, research and development, hiring veterans, wind power development, mass transit benefits and racetrack construction.

Momentum on immigration reform has slowed since the Senate passed its bipartisan bill in June 2013. House Republicans have taken a piecemeal approach that should reach the House floor this year. The main difference is that the House bill will likely only provide a path to a legal resident status (“green card”) instead of citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

One topic that does seem to have momentum is patent reform. Last December the House passed legislation making it more difficult for so-called “patent trolls” to sue companies and extract large settlements. The Senate is expected to pass a more limited version of the bill, but odds are good that these differences can get worked out in a conference committee.

Another issue that ALTA is watching closely is flood insurance reform. Recently Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told reporters they had assurances that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid would file a cloture motion in “early January” to advance legislation, S. 1846, to delay scheduled rate changes for homeowners residing in flood zones in revised maps. In the House of Representatives, Bill Cassidy (R-LA) has introduced a related measure.

Other topics that should get some consideration in Congress include a new multi-year farm bill, trade and customs legislation, cybersecurity and reforming the NSA’s data collection program.

If you have any questions about the congressional agenda, please contact Ben Lincoln, ALTA’s director of government affairs, at benjamin@alta.org or 202- 261-0308.

To get involved with legislative issues impacting the industry, I encourage you and your staff to join the Title Action Network, which is a free, energrized grasssroots movement consisting of  title insurance professionals promoting the industry's avlue and protecting consumer rights.


Copy of presentation from webinar titled "A New Era in Closings"

We had more than 1,400 people register for today’s webinar "A New Era in Closings," which addressed the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's final rule for integrated mortgage disclosures. Our provider, however, has a limit of 1,000 attendees. If you could not access the webinar, please know that is was recorded. After it’s edited, you will be able to watch the prese
ntation on our YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/altavideos or on our blog.

The webinar focused on top-level analysis of the final rule, which is 1,888 pages long. This was only the first of many educational opportunities we will provide about the integrated mortgage disclosures.

Integrated_disclosures_112113 1


CFPB Provides Seven-page Summary of Mortgage Disclosure Rule

201311_cfpb_tila-respa_detailed-summary_Page_1If you don't have time to read all 1,888 pages of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's final rule for integrated mortgage disclosures, the Bureau has provided this great summary document, which addresses the scope of the rule, highlights the new Loan Estimate and Closing Disclosure, limits on closing cost increases and proposals not adopted in the final rule.

The CFPB listened to ALTA concerns and gave the industry plenty of time to implement the new forms as the final rule becomes effective Aug. 1, 2015.

You can download a PDF of the summary here.

Submit Your Questions/Comments About the CFPB's Integrated Mortgage Disclosures

Please send your questions or comments about the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's final rule for integrated mortgage disclosures to respacomments@alta.org. We will post answers and analysis to the final rule and forms here on our blog. We encourage title professionals to follow the blog as we will continue to provide analysis and information about implementing the new mortgage disclosures. The CFPB set an effective date of Aug. 1, 2015 for the industry to begin using the new disclosures.

Here are links to the final rule, Loan Estimate and Closing Disclosure:

The CFPB also has provided some additional information, including a factsheet about the integrated mortgage disclosures and information about the testing process used to arrive at the final rule.


Title Action Network Adds New State Partners, Launches New Membership Contest

The Title Action Network (TAN) welcomed the state land title associations of Washington, Arizona, Michigan, and Pennsylvania as official partners last week.

The new states bring TAN’s total number of state land title association partners to 29. If your state would like information on becoming an official state land title association partner, please e-mail Madeleine Nagy at mnagy@alta.org or call 202-261-2949.

TAN’s membership is now at 4,500! To capture some of the TAN excitement heading into ALTA’s Annual Convention, the Title Action Network has launched a new contest today. Any individual that recruits a new TAN member between today and September 30 will be entered to win a FREE Apple iPad! Click here for more information.

It’s simple—just ask anyone you know in the land title industry to join the Title Action Network at www.titleactionnetwork.com and make sure they list your name in the “referred by” line. 

If you have any questions about starting a TAN membership drive in your state or company, please e-mail Wayne Stanley at wstanley@alta.org or call 202-261-2932.

If you'r wondering how TAN can help, check out this video: