NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James announced a settlement with one of the largest title insurance underwriters, Stewart Title Guaranty Corporation (Stewart), ending harmful no-poach agreements between Stewart and its competitors and requiring Stewart to pay $2.5 million for its wrongdoing. The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) discovered that Stewart and its competitors agreed not to take each other’s workers, an illegal practice that reduces workers’ earning potential. As a result of today’s agreement, Stewart will terminate any existing no-poach agreements, pay the state $2.5 million, and cooperate with OAG’s ongoing investigations in the industry.
“No-poach agreements harm New York workers and break New York laws,” said Attorney General James. “When business owners collude to stifle workers’ abilities to earn higher salaries and grow within their career fields, it hurts hardworking New Yorkers. Businesses that try to hold workers hostage will face the consequences of their illegal actions.”
Stewart issues title insurance policies either directly through its own agency or indirectly through independent title insurance agencies. Direct agents and independent agencies are competitors in the labor market and should be able to compete for employees on the basis of salaries, benefits, and career opportunities. Stewart’s no-poach policies with other companies prevented that from happening.
A no-poach policy is an agreement between two or more companies not to solicit, recruit, or hire each other’s employees. In a well-functioning labor market, employers don’t need no-poach agreements and instead compete by offering higher wages or enhanced benefits to attract the most valuable talent for their needs. These agreements reduce competition for employees and disrupt the normal compensation-setting mechanisms which in turn harm the interests of employees. The OAG’s investigation concluded that Stewart entered into no-poach agreements with other title insurance companies, and that these agreements effectively reduced career opportunities and wages for workers.
Today’s agreement ends Stewart’s no-poach agreements and requires the company to pay $2.5 million to the state and cooperate with OAG’s ongoing investigations in the industry.
This agreement builds on Attorney General James’ past efforts to protect workers and stop these harmful no-poach agreements. In July 2022, Attorney General James ended the use of “no-poach” agreements by two top title insurance companies, AmTrust and First Nationwide. In September 2021, Attorney General James ended the use of “no-poach” agreements by another top national title insurer, Old Republic National Title. In March 2019, Attorney General James and a coalition of attorneys general from around the nation entered into an agreement with four national fast food franchisors — Dunkin’, Arby’s, Five Guys, and Little Caesars — that ended their use of “no-poach” agreements. Additionally, in July 2019, Attorney General James and a coalition of attorneys general submitted comments to the Federal Trade Commission, urging collaboration between regulators to protect workers from anticompetitive labor practices, including no-poach agreements, that depress wages, restrict job mobility, and limit opportunities for advancement.
This matter was handled by Senior Enforcement Counsel Bryan Bloom, Assistant Attorney General Michael Schwartz, and Deputy Bureau Chief Amy McFarlane, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Elinor Hoffmann — all of the Antitrust Bureau. The Antitrust Bureau is a part of the Division for Economic Justice, which is overseen by Chief Deputy Attorney General Chris D’Angelo and First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.