Illinois-based Underwriter, Member Attorneys Assist At-risk Homeowners

December 22, 2009

During 2009, one of the worst housing markets on record, Attorneys' Title Guaranty Fund Inc. (ATG) and its member attorneys, made a significant financial and time commitment to assist struggling and at-risk homeowners.

ATG forged a unique partnership in early 2009 with Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago (NHS) to co-sponsor several "Fix-Your-Mortgage" foreclosure-prevention events. ATG's other main effort to help those negatively impacted by the housing downturn included a considerable cash contribution to four different nonprofit organizations/foundations.

ATG, the only bar-related title insurance company based in Illinois, plans to continue devoting the majority of its charitable efforts in 2010 to helping at-risk homeowners.

"The downturn in the economy and housing market this year put a lot of people at risk for losing their homes to foreclosures," said Peter Birnbaum, ATG's president and a member of the American Land Title Association’s board of governors. "By donating money, and mobilizing and training hundreds of real estate attorneys to volunteer their weekends at these important, free outreach events, we feel ATG and its members were part of the solution."

Foreclosure-Prevention Events

Through their productive partnership, ATG and NHS sponsored and held three successful "Fix-Your-Mortgage" events in 2009 – two in Chicago and one in Cicero, Ill. The City of Chicago was also a co-sponsor of the two events in Chicago. NHS assisted ATG in helping to set up and execute similar events in Peoria, Ill. and in Madison, Wis.

ATG recruited, trained and volunteered hundreds of real estate attorneys to counsel at-risk homeowners at these events and help them apply for loan modifications to fixed-rate loans through the federal government's "Making Home Affordable" foreclosure-prevention program.

Approximately 3,000 at-risk homeowners attended and received foreclosure-prevention help at the five events ATG co-sponsored in 2009.

"Nearly 33 percent of attendees at the first two events in Chicago were approved for trial modifications by their banks, compared to the national average of 20 percent of loan-modification applicants receiving approval," explained Michael van Zalingen, director of homeownership services at NHS.

"Getting help from volunteer real estate attorneys proved to increase homeowners' chances of success," van Zalingen said. "We would never have been able to reach and help so many people without the outstanding support and partnering NHS received from ATG. This unique partnership brings together the best of the private and nonprofit sectors. We look forward to continuing our joint efforts in 2010."

Cash Donations / Partners in Giving

During 2009, ATG donated cash to four organizations committed to helping residents and homeowners hit hardest by the depressed housing market. These groups include:

  • Chicago Bar Foundation (CBF) - ATG's $50,000 donation is supporting not-for-profit foreclosure defense, mediation and counseling. Attorneys Denis Pierce (Pierce and Associates - and partners Ernie Codilis and Greg Moody (Codilis & Associates - matched this gift, making a total contribution of $100,000. The check was presented at CBF on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2009.

  • The Cara Program - ATG's donation is helping to provide job training for the homeless, ex-offenders and recovering addicts.

  • Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS) - Funds are supporting NHS's ongoing efforts to reach and help at-risk homeowners.
  • Good News Partners - ATG's contribution is helping fund homeless shelters throughout Chicago.

  • Denis Pierce, a long time member of ATG, also has a strong charitable focus. He established his family foundation in 2007, which supports many not-for-profit agencies dealing with housing and homelessness issues. As with ATG, the law firm of Pierce & Associates is also a major supporter of NHS and The Cara Program. Pierce helped build the relationship between NHS and ATG.

    In addition, representatives of ATG, Pierce and Associates, Codilis & Associates and NHS sit on the Cook County Chancery Court Foreclosure Advisory Panel. They are currently developing recommendations for the Court including how to deploy a $3.5 million appropriation from the County to help at-risk homeowners.

    Contact ALTA at 202-296-3671 or