A former marketing representative for First American Title Company in Southern California has agreed to surrender his license to authorities and agree to a lifetime ban after regulators accused him of offering illegal benefits to realtors as an incentive for business.
Eugene “Gene” Paul Bleecker will surrender his license to the California Department of Insurance on April 1, 2022, without admitting the allegations of the prosecution. In July, First American agreed to pay a fine of $ 1 million and costs of $ 185,000 without admitting liability or any wrongdoing.
In one April 5 accusation, the department said Bleecker was one of the founders of a real estate networking group in northern Los Angeles County called the Advisory Group Real Estate Network. Services offered by the group to around 600 members reportedly included incentives such as video marketing and ad drone footage with placement on social media sites, bus trailers to promote the ads, and sales coaching. .
According to the prosecution, Bleecker, a marketing representative for First American from 2012 to January 2020, was so successful in doing business that First American exercised little control over its activities.
Under Section 12404 of the California Insurance Code, illegal inducement occurs when a real estate agent or lender receives, or is able to receive, things of direct or indirect value in return for directing the business to a securities company. Such incentives “inflate title insurance premium rates for all consumers,” regulators said.
A federal law, the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, or RESPA, also prohibits bribes for businesses and requires that any business relationship between mortgage lenders and settlement service providers be clearly disclosed to consumers.
“This action against one of the industry’s most well-known headline marketers should serve as a warning to anyone engaging in practices that violate California laws and may raise prices for consumers,” said the insurance commissioner Ricardo Lara, in a press release. declaration. “My ministry is committed to vigorously investigating allegations of unlawful inducements to dismiss a securities firm that undermine fair competition. “
Receive the Inman Extra Credit newsletter straight to your inbox. A weekly summary of all of the biggest news in the mortgage world and fences delivered every Wednesday. Click here to subscribe.
Email Matt Carter