Does the MERS Corporation Own Your Home?
The chief question in courts of law is: who owns the subject property, and can they prove it by producing a mortgage note? Increasingly, the respective answers are: “Don’t know” and “No.”
In 2010, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled that MERS (Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems) Corporation was prohibited from filing foreclosures in that state.
A federal bankruptcy judge in Long Island ruled just last week that MERS could not act as the “agent” of the mortgage note owner. Judge Robert Grossman acknowledged in a case called In re: Agard, that MERS may be involved with up to 50% of all home foreclosures nationwide, and that his decision may negatively affect the mortgage industry (i.e. accelerate its demise), but his decision required that the process comply with federal and state bankruptcy laws.
Many MERS-held "notes" will either not materialize, or will not pass muster relative to the many networks of applicable legal standards.
The Iowa Attorney General recently announced progress, along with other state attorneys general, in conjunction with the newly established Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to overhaul the process of how the nation’s largest banks conduct the foreclosure process. The group essentially is a nation-wide focus group of state law enforcement officers and bureaucrats tasked to generate a list of best-practices they can mold into national standards.
In Florida, attorney and foreclosure-giant, David Stern, under investigation by the Florida Attorney General, just announced that his law firm is suspending foreclosure operations.
In Utah last month, a local judge made national headlines by allowing a judgment debtor to rip-up his mortgage note in open court and literally walk away from his home, debt-free, because the lender could not prove ownership by producing a mortgage note.
All this has the board of directors of the Virginia-based MERS Corporation very nervous. MERS is a private mortgage registry database that has essentially replaced our nation’s tradition of publicly stored land ownership records. MERS’ CEO, R.K. Arnold, among the founders of the corporation, jumped ship in January.
As the foreclosure meltdown has unfolded over the past 24-months, many mortgage lenders’ practices of cutting corners in the lending process, and making some rather huge mistakes, have come to light. This has had the effect of making it difficult, and in some cases impossible, to actually prove who owns a particular home.
The early challenges from county officials in the 1990s to the MERS system of high-speed and cheap securitization went unnoticed in favor of the mortgage lending industry. As the MERS system of speed collateralization took off, it developed a process of instant deputization, where thousands of loan officers received “certifying resolutions” in minutes via the Internet. These financial deputies or, in some cases "agents", were authorized to process mortgage transfers and foreclosures on behalf of MERS.
All good things usually come to an end; sometimes a bitter end. Now, the judges in all the various courts are tipped off; and bankruptcy judge Grossman's decision may go federally viral.
Where will this all lead? Will the state attorneys general, through a new layer of bureaucracy, be able to arrest the process and introduce effective reform? Or will judges, case-by-case, reluctantly pull the threads that will undo our nation’s mortgage lending system?
Only time will tell, so stay tuned on this one.
In the meantime, if you are experiencing mortgage payment difficulties in Oakland County, the Oakland County Treasurer has partnered with GreenPath Debt Solutions, the United Way and others to establish the Oakland County Foreclosure Prevention Initiative. Simply click on this link or call (888) 350-0900 for assistance with the eviction process or to speak with a certified housing counselor.
Labels: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, David J. Stern, foreclosure, Green Path Debt Solutions, MERS, Oakland County, Oakland County Foreclosure Prevention Initiative, R K Arnold, Robert Grossman