In name at least, Ticor Mortgage Insurance is no more.
Officials at the troubled home insurer last week quietly got permission from state insurance regulators to change the company's name to TMIC Insurance Co.
The change is the latest in a series of moves by officials at the company to separate the unit in the public's mind from the healthy units of its corporate parent, Los Angeles-based Ticor.
TMIC's troubles began in August when Equity Programs Investments of Falls Church, Va., defaulted on payments on $1.4 billion in home loans and mortgage-backed securities. Soon after, TMIC announced that it faced potential loses of $166 million--and possible insolvency--stemming from loans and securities that it had insured for EPIC.
In September, Ticor spun its mortgage and insurance businesses into separate subsidiaries of the parent with the intent of protecting its healthy title unit from potential lawsuits against the mortgage insurance unit.
Then, in October, California insurance regulators banned TMIC, the nation's third-largest mortgage insurer, from issuing new policies.
Ticor officials think that the state's ban will shield it and its subsidiaries from breach-of-contract suits. Policyholders and several regulators disagree, however, and the matter will probably be settled in court.
William J. Fitzpatrick, chairman and chief executive of TMIC, said the corporate name was changed to avoid confusion with the names of its affiliates in the Ticor organization.
"The EPIC situation involves only TMIC, but, unfortunately, some who are not familiar with the Ticor organization may have misunderstood," he said. "We expect that our new name will, over time, prevent this from recurring."
Although the name change took effect a week ago, a committee of investors in EPIC mortgages and related securities wasn't aware of it. Thursday, the committee announced that the three largest insurers of mortgages on 20,000 EPIC properties have agreed to place $43.3 million in escrow.
The committee listed the three, which together insure about 90% of the mortgage loans made to EPIC, as Ticor Mortgage Insurance Co., Republic Mortgage Insurance Co. and Mortgage Guaranty Insurance Corp.
Under the plan, TMIC will put $24 million in escrow for use in an EPIC liquidation plan. If such a plan is not approved, the funds will be returned to TMIC.