2008 Convention Coverage for Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2008

October 16, 2008

This year's annual convention in Hawaii is off to a great start. More than 400 attendees are gathered at the Grand Hyatt Resort and Spa on the beautiful island of Kauai.

As per custom, the convention is preceded by meetings of the various ALTA committees, which were held throughout the day. Members grappled with current issues, identified potential threats, and began charting a course for the coming year.

The theme echoed throughout the day was that these are unprecedented times for the title industry. Responding to the challenges will require "all hands on deck" to navigate the turbulent waters ahead. If ever there was a time the association needed active participation by all of its members, that time is now. And if ever the association needed more people from the industry to join its ranks, now is that time.

"The tectonic plates are shifting, and we have to think about questions that were unthinkable a year ago," said ALTA CEO Kurt Pfotenhauer.

Indications are that there will be a major rewrite of the financial services regulatory regime next year. The collapse and federal takeover of AIG Insurance Company spurred renewed debate on whether the federal government should have a role in regulating the insurance industry. Proponents of federal regulation point to the economic crisis as reason to create such oversight, while opponents argue that insurance operations, which are state regulated, are still financially sound.

Currently on the table are H.R. 5840, a bill that would create an Office of Insurance Information; the Insurance Information Act of 2008, which would create a federal Office of Insurance Information within the Department of the Treasury to provide advice and expertise on insurance policy to the Administration and Congress, with authority to preempt state laws that are inconsistent with international insurance matters agreed on by the United States; The National Insurance Act of 2007, a reintroduction of legislation that seeks to modernize insurance industry regulation by providing an optional federal charter and includes a definition of title insurance and a monoline provision that would prohibit property and casualty companies from offering mortgage impairment products.

On the RESPA front, the financial bailout bill moved all other issues off the table during the final weeks of the Congressional session. In the coming year, RESPA reform will continue to be front and center on ALTA's federal advocacy agenda. The association will continue its efforts to lead other industry groups in a coalition strategy to either substantially reduce the contents and reach of the rule or prohibit its implementation. In the final days of the session, ALTA worked to add a prohibition amendment to an appropriations or continuing resolution in Congress. This provision would prohibit HUD from finalizing or implementing its current rule and instruct the Department to work with the Federal Reserve to jointly issue one standard set of Good Faith Estimate and HUD-1 forms. It also would require an additional public comment period on this amended proposal. Due to the attention the bailout bill required, Congressional leaders postponed action until Congress returns.

At the state level, ALTA is ramping up its state advocacy by strengthening the association's grassroots efforts and providing coordination and assistance to state affiliates. A "grasstops" advocacy effort is also underway to mobilize influential leaders in the title industry in reaching legislators at the state and federal level.

ALTA also is focusing on unification of the industry's message, with plans to launch a well-coordinated effort to explain the industry's value to federal policymakers, state regulators and legislators, the media, and consumers.

Thursday's General Session will be "What Our Industry Means for the Free Enterprise System," featuring Ambassador John Veroneau, Deputy U.S. Trade Representative; and Jolyne Sanjak, Managing Director, Implementation Support, Millennium Challenge Corporation.

So stay tuned for more from the convention . . .

Contact ALTA at 202-296-3671 or communications@alta.org.

North American Title Insurance Company (NATIC) is a seasoned title insurance underwriter, helping title agents to achieve their individual business goals for more than 50 years. Today, the company conducts real estate settlement services in 39 states and the District of Columbia through a network of experienced, independent agents.