SAN FRANCSICO- Old Republic Title Co. has been fined $1 million by the state Department of Insurance for providing illegal perks to California brokers for business referrals.

In the past, title insurance companies provided golf clubs, trips to Las Vegas and other lavish gifts to real estate brokers in return for business. Old Republic’s gifts were a little more educational.

Old Republic, which has several Bay Area, was fined for spending more than $540,000 on 4,086 computer training classes for real estate agents and printing and publishing $226,000 worth of real estate booklets that were given away for free to agents to pass on to clients.

Scott Edelen, deputy commissioner with the Department of Insurance, says the department began receiving numerous complaints in 1998 from consumers, other title insurance companies and real estate agents that were concerned about the business practices of Old Republic Title Co. A formal Department of Insurance complaint against the company was issued in October 2000 that culminated with one of the largest fines in the history of the department.

According to Department of Insurance, Old Republic Title Co. spent more than $135,000 on computer classes for agents in Santa Clara County, $48,000 on classes in Marin and Sonoma counties, more than $47,000 on classes in San Mateo County, $40,000 on classes in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties, more than $37,000 on classes in Contra Costa County and almost $29,000 on classes in Alameda County.

In addition, the department also said the company paid for free luncheons for agents in Pacifica, Redwood City, San Mateo, San Bruno and Half Moon Bay and spent $6,000 on continuing education classes for agents in Contra Costa County.

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