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State lowers fine for Stewart TItle

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Herald Staff
Stewart Title of Snohomish County, earlier fined nearly $2 million for repeatedly violating a law against providing real estate agents with excessive gifts and incentives, has agreed to pay $250,000 to resolve the issue, Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler said Wednesday.
Kreidler said the agreement calls for a $400,000 fine, with the suspension of $150,000 of that amount with the successful completion of a compliance plan.
Stewart was fined in August 2007 for what Kreidler called "blatant disregard" of the ban on gifts and incentives designed to convince real estate agents to steer title insurance businesses to Stewart.
By law, such gifts are limited to $25 per year per person.
Kreidler cited 195 violations that he said his office had discovered in an investigation, fining Stewart $10,000 for each one. Among the violations were what Kreidler described as desk fees -- payments of as much as $1,000 from Stewart to real estate agencies for desks in their offices that were largely or entirely unused.
Kreidler issue a cease and desist order against the company, which has declined to comment about the allegations other than to say it was cooperating with Kreidler's office.
In the settlement document, Stewart agreed to pay $250,000 within 30 days. The other $150,000 will be suspended as long as the company complies with state law for the next two years.
The settlement notes that Stewart's agreement to the fine is not an admission of guilt or liability.
Story tags » Locally Based Company



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