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Judge Rules Against Old Republic

April 16, 2001

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Old Republic Title Co. unlawfully kept millions of dollars in interest-earning escrow accounts from home buyers, a judge ruled Monday.

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Stuart Pollak gave the company 10 days to try to persuade him to change his tentative ruling. An attorney for the Chicago-based title company, Jon Tigar, declined comment.

At issue is a class-action suit accusing the company of siphoning off interest in escrow accounts instead of giving it to the escrow account owners. Since 1994, regulators estimate the company illegally has made $30 million under the practice by taking the $50 or so individual accounts earned in interest.

If Pollak upholds his opinion, a trial will be set to determine damages.

Old Republic also is accused of keeping $17 million in unclaimed funds left in escrow accounts. The suit said the company should have returned the money to account holders or given it to the state.

San Francisco District Attorney Terence Hallinan, who was handling the case with city prosecutors, has agreed not to prosecute top executives in exchange for their testimony in the class-action suit. A trial date hasn’t been set.

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