Today, the Fourth Judicial District Court granted the Commissioner of Securities and Insurance’s (CSI) motion to place Western Title & Escrow (WTE) under the control of a court appointed receiver, Martin S. King of Worden Thane P.C. WTE is owned and operated by Julie Leary (Leary) and was authorized to sell title insurance policies through subsidiaries of Fidelity National Financial (Fidelity).
In September 2021, the CSI received a complaint alleging multiple acts of misconduct on the part of Leary including accepting premium for title insurance policies and subsequently failing to issue the corresponding policy as well as not disbursing escrow in accordance with escrow instructions. As the result of the CSI investigation, in November 2021, the agency filed and published an agency action seeking to revoke Leary’s Title Producer License. Leary initially indicated she would cooperate to issue the policies and reconcile escrow accounts. Fidelity instructed Leary on November 10, 2021, not to open any new title insurance orders and to only work on outstanding policies and gave Leary approximately a month before it shut off access to its production system. Fidelity terminated its agency agreement with WTE effective February 25, 2022.
Leary was initially cooperative with CSI investigators and expressed an interest in resolving the case working towards a resolution. However, communications broke down in late spring 2022. On May 23, 2022, the CSI formally requested Leary turn over detailed records of escrow and title commitments and policies, explaining that Leary could face discovery sanctions if she failed to cooperate. Leary has not responded to CSI’s requests.
As of June 2022, the agency action against WTE was still pending. On June 28, 2022, Fidelity informed the CSI that Leary had issued two unauthorized Commitments for Title Insurance in the name of a Fidelity subsidiary without the authority to do so.
The CSI took immediate action and on June 30, 2022, executed a search warrant on WTE with the assistance of the Missoula Police Department. Information ascertained during the execution of the search warrant prompted the CSI to summarily suspend the license of WTE and Leary the following day on July 1, 2022. The investigation is ongoing.
The Notices of Proposed Agency Action as well as the Notice of Immediate License Suspension can be found via the following links:
The CSI encourages anyone who has escrow accounts or title policies with WTE to contact the WTE Receiver at 406.721.3400, attention Angela McCullough, for information on the status of those polices or accounts. If anyone has information regarding any fraudulent or suspected fraudulent activity regarding WTE, they should please contact CSI Chief Insurance Investigator, Ted Bidon at email@example.com or by calling 444-2040.
PRESS RELEASE PROVIDED BY COMMISSIONER TROY DOWNING