Matthias Hildebrandt, et al v. Fidelity National Financial, Inc., et al

Court: United States District Court, Central District of California
Case Number: 12-cv-00874-DSF-AGR
Judge: Hon. Dale S. Fischer
Class Period: October 1, 2002 to present (the “RESPA Class Period”); November 23, 2007 to present (the “California UCL Class Period”)
Case Contacts: Blair A. Nicholas, Benjamin Galdston, David Kaplan

This is a class action against Fidelity National Financial, Inc. and certain of its subsidiaries – including Fidelity Title, Commonwealth Title, Chicago Title, Ticor Title, Lawyers Title, Disclosure Source, and Fidelity National Home Warranty) – for violation of federal and state laws in connection with the payment of unlawful kickbacks to real estate agents and brokers in exchange for the referral of real estate settlement service business.

The Class Action Complaint was filed on June 1, 2012.  The Complaint alleges that Defendants violated the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (“RESPA”) by engaging in a scheme to provide real estate agents and brokers with fees, kickbacks, and other valuable consideration for the referral of real estate settlement service business via TransactionPoint, Fidelity’s web-based transaction management software.  Through the TransactionPoint software platform, real estate agents and brokers selected settlement service providers for given real estate transactions and, in turn, real estate brokers and agents entered into standard form sublicensing agreements with vendors, including Defendants, to enable them to be listed and selected through TransactionPoint as service providers for such transactions.  Under the guise of “sublicense fees” or “access fees,” Defendants paid real estate agents and brokers predetermined fees or kickbacks for each referral.  This scheme allowed Defendants and participating real estate agents and brokers to camouflage illegal kickbacks and referral fees as sublicense payments.  In July 2011, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) announced that it had entered into a settlement agreement with Defendants Fidelity National Financial in which the company was required to pay a $4.5 million fine to settle HUD’s charges that defendants’ payments under the TransactionPoint sublicensing agreements constituted unlawful kickbacks and improper referral fees in violation of RESPA.

In addition, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants violated California’s Unfair Competition Law, California Business & Professions Code Sections 17200, et seq. (“UCL”), by paying commissions to real estate agents and brokers as an inducement or compensation for the sale of home protection contracts, title insurance policies, and other real estate settlement service business. 

The Complaint asserts claims on behalf of Plaintiffs and all other persons and entities who purchased any real estate settlement service from any of the Defendants in connection with the purchase or sale of a home financed by a federally related mortgage during the time period from October 1, 2002 to the present (the “RESPA Class Period”), where any portion of the fees or premiums for such settlement services was paid to any real estate broker or agent under a TransactionPoint sublicense agreement; and all persons and entities who, during the time period from November 23, 2007 through the present (the “California UCL Class Period”), purchased in the State of California a home protection contract issued by Defendant Fidelity National Home Warranty or purchased any real estate settlement service from any Defendant.

On July 27, 2012, Defendants filed three motions to dismiss certain claims and allegations in the Complaint.  Plaintiffs’ oppositions to Defendants’ motions are due September 17, 2012.