Brandon Abbey is the President of Escrow.com, a company I frequently use to facilitate domain acquisitions and sales. I’ve used them for most of my high dollar transactions where escrow is required, and I have been very happy with their customer support. I have found that buyers and sellers trust Escrow.com, making it easier to complete a sale or a purchase.
Escrow.com was founded by a division of Fidelity National. In 2002, Brandon was the west coast sales VP for a software company called iLumin, and as part of a transaction they did with Fidelity, Escrow.com became a division of iLumin. The company didn’t do much with Escrow.com, and prior to their acquisition by Computer Associates they sold Escrow.com to a company in southern California. At the time of that acquisition, Brandon was asked by the management company to come in and run Escrow.com.
EJS: How important do you think your domain name is to your brand, in terms of trust, name recognition, and partnerships?
BA: Certainly the name is very important from a recognition standpoint, but there is a lot behind the name. We have become to “go to” company when it comes to secure Internet transactions. If you take a look at some of our partner relationships it is a very impressive list, eBay, AutoTrader, GoDaddy, Cars.com, some of the largest banks in the US and we continue to add new partners every week. Being the only company that can legally provide this service in all 50 states makes us the logical choice for business commerce.
EJS: Your company is one of the few escrow companies that doesn’t take possession of the domain name before completing the transaction. Can you tell us why you don’t, and what safeguards are in place to protect
buyer and seller?
BA: We made the decision early on not to take possession of the domains or other property. Escrow.com is a financial instrument that holds the deposited payment between the buyer and seller, releasing funds to the
seller once the agreed upon conditions of the transaction are met. If you are going to take possession of the domain you should also be responsible to determine the rightful ownership and any trademark, copyright or other legal issues that maybe associated with the domain.
For some large transactions we do offer a domain holding option when the parties have agreed to make payments over a specified time. As an example, buyer and seller agree to a purchase price of $900K to be paid in monthly installments over 36 months. We will create a separate contract that addresses the above mentioned concerns specific for that transaction, collect and disburse funds according to the predetermined schedule. Upon final payment the domain is transferred from our account to the buyer. Anyone who is interested in setting up a transaction like this should contact Andee Hill, Customer Service Manager – firstname.lastname@example.org.
The safeguard in place to protect the buyer is that the funds are not released to the seller until the domain is completely within the buyer’s control and the buyer has accepted the transfer. The safeguard for the seller is that they are assured the funds are secure and the buyer is capable of paying once the transfer of the domain is complete. If there is a dispute between buyer and seller as to the completion of the transfer and/or which party has control of the domain, and an agreement cannot be reached, both parties are referred to an outside arbitrator
and the funds held in escrow until the matter is resolved. It is extremely rare when a transaction goes to arbitration.
EJS: Escrow.com is licensed to do business in every US state. How does an escrow company secure licenses for each state, and how does that make your company more secure?
BA: Let me clarify that, Escrow.com is licensed in all states that require us to have a license. In the states that do not require a specific license we are registered to do business. The process of securing an escrow license is difficult and that is why many companies that offer escrow services do not do business in those states. When I joined Escrow.com in 2004 we did not have a license to do business in Arizona. The process took almost a year to secure a license. The final hurdle was an in person interview with their board, our Escrow Manager, CFO and me, in Arizona.
Earlier this year the Arizona Department of Financial Institutions sent three people over to audit us, which we passed. What you may not know is we are the ones who pay the cost of the audit including transportation, meals and lodging. As part of our licensing requirements we carry a significant amount of insurance that covers everything from errors and omissions to employee theft. Every employee of Escrow.com must go through and pass an extensive background check conducted by the California Department of Corporations.
EJS: What’s the largest domain transaction Escrow.com has ever handled (no need to disclose the name or names), and what’s been the largest general transaction the company has overseen?
BA: We have handled many multimillion dollar transactions, most of these large transactions were domains but there have been some pretty nice cars and boats in the mix.
EJS: How does Escrow.com differentiate itself from other escrow companies that deal with domain transactions?
BA: The big differentiator is we are a licensed escrow company and everything we do is governed by Escrow Law. Our books are reviewed by one of the most respected accounting firms that specialize in escrow, Morton Alan Haas & Company, on a monthly basis. Escrow.com was founded by Fidelity National Financial, the leading title insurance company in the United States. When you look at our management team I am the one with the shortest tenure and I have been here since 2004.
EJS: How do feel about how the Heisman Trophy vote turned out?
BA: It was the closest vote in the 75 year history of the Heisman. Certainly, Mark Ingram from Alabama is a deserving winner and I look forward to his professional career. Living on the west coast we had the opportunity to see Toby Gerhart from Stanford quite a few times. I think if he had the same exposure on the east coast that he had out here
there might have been a different outcome.