The MERS Corporation Claims To Hold Titles To Half Of America’s Mortgages

The New York Times Sunday profiles this fascinating corporation.

MERS stands for Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems.

Public mortgage documents used to logged in longhand down at the county records office. They provided a clear indication of homeownership.

Now the system is electronic and more confusing. It’s harder for homeowners to figure out who owns their mortgages and who exactly is foreclosing on them and do these entities have the right to foreclose.

How can MERS, which owns no properties, foreclose on people?

Judges are taking an increasingly skeptical approach to the claims and foreclosures of MERS.

The New York Times reports:

But by the 1990s, the centuries-old system of land records was showing its age. Many county clerk’s offices looked like something out of Dickens, with mortgage papers stacked high. Some clerks had fallen two years behind in recording mortgages.

For a mortgage banking industry in a hurry, this represented money lost. Most banks no longer hold onto mortgages until loans are paid off. Instead, they sell the loans to Wall Street, which bundles them into investments through a process known as securitization.

MERS, industry executives hoped, would pull record-keeping into the Internet age, even as it privatized it. Streamlining record-keeping, the banks argued, would make mortgages more affordable.

But for the mortgage industry, MERS was mostly about speed — and profits. MERS, founded 16 years ago by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and big banks like Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase, cut out the county clerks and became the owner of record, no matter how many times loans were transferred. MERS appears to sell loans to MERS ad infinitum.

This high-speed system made securitization easier and cheaper. But critics say the MERS system made it far more difficult for homeowners to contest foreclosures, as ownership was harder to ascertain.

About Luke Ford

Raised a Seventh-Day Adventist at Avondale College in Australia, Luke Ford moved to California in 1977. He graduated from Placer High School in 1984, reported the news at KAHI/KHYL radio for three years, attended Sierra College and UCLA, was largely bedridden by Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for six years, and converted to Judaism in 1993. From 1997-2007, Luke made his living from blogging. Living by Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com), he now teaches the Alexander Technique (moving the way the body likes to move). Lessons cost $100 each and last about 45 minutes. In 2011, Luke completed a three-year teaching course at the Alexander Training Institute of Los Angeles. His personal Alexander Technique website is Alexander90210.com. Luke is the author of five books, including: » The Producers: Profiles in Frustration » Yesterday’s News Tomorrow: Inside American Jewish Journalism
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