First American Title Co. has agreed to pay $1 million after a California Department of Insurance investigation alleged that one of its title marketing representatives violated state law protecting consumers from conflicts of interest that can inflate the cost of real estate transactions. First American agreed to pay $50,000 to settle similar allegations against another employee in January.
The CDI’s investigation concluded that Eugene Bleecker, a former First American marketing representative in northern Los Angeles County, consistently violated anti-inducement laws by providing illegal benefits to real estate agents, including custom video marketing, a tour bus caravan to bring agents to view and promote listings, social media training, and sales coaching.
The investigation found that Bleecker managed a roughly 600-member strong real estate networking group called the Advisory Group Real Estate Network, with chapters in the Santa Clarita, Antelope, and San Fernando Valleys. He was the only title marketing representative in the group, and decided when and where to start new chapters, and who could join or remain in the group, according to the CDI.
First American encouraged Bleecker’s involvement with the Advisory Group despite internal guidelines for complying with anti-inducement laws, such as avoiding assisting others with marketing services or methods of growing their business, according to CDI. Interviews of Bleecker’s managers and review of internal communications reportedly showed that the company advocated a hands-off approach to supervising his activities because of the amount of business that Bleecker brought to the company.
The agreement with First American includes $185,000 for reimbursement of the CDI’s investigative and legal costs. The department’s action against Bleecker’s individual license to act as a title marketing representative remains pending.
In a separate case in January 2021, First American agreed to pay $50,000 to resolve allegations against a different employee who also violated anti-inducement laws.
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