House Financial Services Committee chairman Michael Oxley, R-Ohio, has directed the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study of kickbacks and other anti-competitive practices in the title insurance industry.In a letter to the congressional auditing agency, chairman Oxley noted that investigations have revealed payments of referral fees to mortgage lenders and real estate agents that violate the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act. "Other investigations have revealed abuses of reinsurance agreements that have forced title companies to pay millions of dollars in settlements," Rep Oxley says in the letter to GAO. The Financial Services Committee chairman expects GAO to look at the pricing and marketing of title insurance and to "examine the relationships between title insurers, realtors, lenders and home builders." The American Land Title Association executive vice president Jim Maher said a GAO study could help to clear up a lot of the "misinformation" about the title insurance business. "We see this as an opportunity to help clear up the confusion that exists, and to foster a better understanding about title insurance and the value it provides," Mr. Maher said.

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