Hack at nation’s largest title company stalls closings
Fidelity National Financial, parent company of Chicago Title and more, is blocking access to title and escrow services while it investigates a security breach.
- Fidelity National Financial said it will “restore normal operations as quickly as possible.”
- A broker with clients who expected to close Wednesday said she was told systems would be down until at least Sunday.
- The company told the SEC that “an unauthorized third party accessed certain FNF systems and acquired certain credentials.”
A hack at the nation's largest title insurance company, Fidelity National Financial, has stopped scheduled closings, leaving agents and homebuyers scrambling for solutions.
In a report filed Nov. 21 with the SEC, Fidelity National Financial said it was blocking access to systems related to "services we provide related to title insurance, escrow and other title-related services, mortgage transaction services, and technology to the real estate and mortgage industries."
FNF, based in Jacksonville, Florida, is the parent company of Fidelity National Title, Chicago Title, Commonwealth Land Title, Alamo Title, and National Title of New York.
The company said it has launched an investigation, hired outside cybersecurity experts, and notified law enforcement authorities.
"Based on our investigation to date, FNF has determined that an unauthorized third party accessed certain FNF systems and acquired certain credentials," the report to the SEC said. "We are working diligently to address the incident and to restore normal operations as quickly and safely as possible."
By Nov. 28, it appeared that systems were coming back "office by office," but still not fully restored. The company has not yet responded to requests for additional comment.
Some buyers hoping to close this week will have to wait
Meanwhile, buyers expecting to close on homes this week through Fidelity and its companies have been told the systems to complete their transactions won't be available until Sunday.
San Francisco broker Kate Fomina, owner of Crypton Realty, told Real Estate News that she has clients who expected to close Wednesday. "I got a call from the escrow company, Chicago Title," she said. "They told me there was a security breach and because of that they have to shut down the whole system, all over the country," she said. "The closing system is down at least until Sunday. They can't send any wires, can't release for recording."
In the case of her buyers ready to close, "The bank already funded the loan," Fomina said. "So my buyers are paying a mortgage already on a home they don't own."
She spoke with the escrow officer who assured her they would find a way to make it right for her clients. "She told me that if we cannot close for another week, escrow will assume all the mortgage payments that my buyers have to make," Fomina said. To avoid that, "they might try to do it old school," Fomina said. "I just don't know, we'll have to figure that out."
Fomina's buyers aren't planning to move in immediately, so "thankfully that is working out." But she said other buyers planning to close Thanksgiving week are in worse shape. "What about people doing a 1031 exchange or who need money in order to buy something?" Fomina asked. "Dates really matter."