First American Financial enters joint venture with Norwest Mortgage


November 3, 1998, SANTA ANA, CALIFORNIA

The First American Financial Corporation (NYSE: FAF), the nation's leading provider of real estate-related financial and information services, and Norwest Mortgage, Inc., the nation's leading mortgage lender, have completed the formation of a previously announced joint venture to provide multiple services to the real estate industry. The joint venture holding company, called RELS LLC, includes two companies formerly operated by Norwest Mortgage; Value IT and VIE. The companies will continue to conduct operations under their existing names, and will begin operating under the new structure immediately.

Value IT markets appraisal services and national appraisal review services to lending institutions, and manages an appraisal fee panel of 6,500 independent appraisers nationwide. VIE provides income and employment verification reports to lenders. VIE's services are available in Iowa, Minnesota, Texas, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and VIE recently received authorization to begin operating in California.

"With the completion of this joint venture, Value IT and VIE are positioned to compete even more effectively on a nationwide level, and better serve our growing customer base," said Mark Oman, chairman and chief executive officer of Norwest Mortgage. "This relationship is a natural extension of our existing business relationship with First American."

While Norwest retains 50 percent interest, First American, which has acquired a 50 percent interest in the subsidiaries, will manage the joint venture. A six-member operating committee - including three executives from First American and three executives from Norwest Mortgage - will oversee the joint venture's operation. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

A third subsidiary of Norwest Mortgage, ATI Title Company, will also become part of the joint venture under a second holding company, called RELS Title Services LLC. This portion of the joint venture is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of 1998. ATI Title Company offers title insurance products and escrow closings and is the nation's largest underwritten title company owned by a bank holding company.

"The RELS joint venture brings together significant, high-quality providers of title, appraisal and employment verification services, and positions them in a management structure that will help them gain a stronger competitive edge in the marketplace," said Parker S. Kennedy, president of The First American Financial Corporation.

Combined, ATI, Value IT and VIE employ more than 1,300 team members, through more than 100 offices nationwide. Substantially all existing employees will remain at their current locations.

Based in Des Moines, Iowa, Norwest Mortgage, Inc., is a subsidiary of Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE: WFC). It is the nation's leading originator of residential mortgages. With nearly 850 stores nationwide, Norwest Mortgage operates the largest mortgage lending network in the country and provides funding for approximately one of every 15 homes financed in the United States.

The First American Financial Corporation, based in Santa Ana, California, is the nation's leading provider of real estate-related financial and information services. The corporation's subsidiaries include First American Title Insurance Company, a national and international title insurer; First American Real Estate Information Services, Inc., which offers tax monitoring, credit reporting, property data services, flood certification, field inspection services, appraisal services, loss mitigation services, mortgage loan origination and servicing systems, and mortgage document preparation nationally; First American Home Buyers Protection Corporation, a home warranty company; and First American Capital Management, an investment advisory firm. The corporation also operates First American Trust Company and First Security Thrift Company in Southern California. First American Financial has more than 17,000 employees in over 400 branches in the United States and abroad. Information about the company's subsidiaries and an archive of its press releases can be found on the Internet at http://www.firstam.com.

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