American Homeland Title Agency, Inc., John Yonas, and Martin Rink, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
Stephen W. Robertson, Commissioner of the Indiana Department of Insurance, Defendant-Appellee.
April 1, 2019
from the United States District Court for the Southern
District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division. No.
l:15-cv-02059-SEB-DML - Sarah Evans Barker, Judge.
Easterbrook, Sykes, and Brennan, Circuit Judges.
a random audit, the Indiana Department of Insurance
("the Department") discovered that American
Homeland Title Agency had committed hundreds of regulatory
violations. After several rounds of negotiation, American
Homeland agreed to pay a fine and relinquish its licenses.
But just a few months later, American Homeland sued the
Department's commissioner, Stephen Robertson, for
allegedly discriminating against the company because of its
not reach the merits of that discrimination claim. In its
agreement with the Department, American Homeland consented to
the same penalties it now challenges. It hasn't provided
a valid reason to void that agreement, so judicial review is
unavailable. We therefore affirm summary judgment in favor of
Homeland Title Agency is a Cincinnati-based company that
performs title searches and sells title insurance. Its owners
are John Yonas and Martin Rink, both of whom are attorneys.
In 2015 the Department randomly audited American
Homeland's files and found hundreds of code violations,
none of which American Homeland denies.
Department's examiners recommended that the Commissioner
fine American Homeland $70, 082 and order $42, 202 in
consumer reimbursements. To calculate those penalties, the
examiners started with what their guidelines recommended but
then deviated upward. The guidelines are fully advisory, so
everyone agrees that the examiners had the discretion to do
parties then went through several rounds of negotiation. But
not only did the examiners refuse to adjust the fines, they
added a new sanction: Yonas and Rink would lose their
licenses to do business in Indiana. Later, one of the
Department's attorneys informed American Homeland that if
it refused to agree to the penalties, it could seek
administrative review. But if American Homeland did that, it
could face the maximum fine of $9.5 million. Fearing that
exposure, American Homeland agreed to the recommended
the Commissioner's approval, the parties signed the
"Agreed Entry." American Homeland accepted the
penalties and "voluntarily and freely waive[d] the right
to judicial review of th[e] matter." After settling the
dispute, American Homeland paid the fees, and Yonas and Rink
gave up their licenses.
months later, American Homeland sued Commissioner Robertson.
The complaint alleged that the Department imposed higher
penalties because American Homeland is based in Ohio, not
Indiana. American Homeland initially contended that this
disparate treatment violated the Constitution's Commerce
and Equal Protection Clauses. But as everyone now agrees,
"the McCarran-Ferguson Act exempts the insurance
industry from Commerce Clause restrictions." Metro.
Life Ins. Co. v. Ward, 470 U.S. 869, 880 (1985);
see 15U.S.C. §§ 1011-1015. Still, the
McCarran-Ferguson Act "does not purport to limit in any
way the applicability of the Equal Protection Clause."
Metro. Life Ins., 470 U.S. at 880 (striking down,
under rational-basis scrutiny, a tax regime that favored
in-state insurers). So American Homeland's second claim
Homeland's equal-protection case rests on three pieces of
evidence. First, the company offers the expert testimony of
Dr. Daniel Voss, who conducted a statistical analysis and
found that when the Department audits out-of-state companies,
it tends to deviate more from its guidelines than when it
audits in-state companies. Second, American Homeland points
to a stray comment that a Department examiner made during a
recorded phone call while negotiating the penalties. When
Yonas and Rink insisted that the sanctions would put them out
of business, the examiner said, "[P]lease understand if
you ... guys aren't writing this business in Indiana[, ]
people in Indiana would probably be writing it." Third,
American Homeland emphasizes that Robertson was unable to say
definitively during his deposition that no one in his
department was motivated by in-state bias-though he did say
that he himself would never consider that factor.
case were to go to trial, American Homeland would seek three
kinds of relief. First, it asks for damages. The complaint is
somewhat unclear, but the company presumably wants to be
reimbursed for whatever amount it overpaid because of its
out-of-state residency. Second, it wants an injunction
ordering that the licenses be reinstated. And third, it wants
a declaratory judgment stating that the ...