Somehow the banking industry has convinced much of the public and most of our political leaders that our housing and foreclosure crisis is the fault of irresponsible borrowers despite the overwhelming evidence that greedy bankers are to blame. Since good policy can’t happen unless people escape the bankers’ web of misinformation and spin, I thought it would be appropriate to synthesize what we’ve learned about the greed-driven decisions of bankers and Wall Street traders and what they reveal about how we got where we are now.
Chasing Illegal Profits in the Mortgage World: MERS
In the beginning, there were clear rules about how ownership of land, and the right to foreclose, were transferred and created. The rules were state specific, rooted in our history, from back when each state’s sovereignty rivaled the federal government’s. Although the rules varied in important details, one feature was constant across states: an accurate public record of property ownership. These records were created and maintained by local governments, and financed by recording fees.
In the 1990s, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the mortgage industry created MERS. MERS, they claimed, not only prevented the industry from publicly recording changes of ownership and servicing of mortgage loans, saving many millions of dollars by depriving counties of them, but it eliminated the need to even create records that ownership changed, saving even more in document creation, handling and storage costs.
Yes, MERS claimed that its private database would enable mortgage servicers to keep track of who owned what, but MERS did nothing to ensure the accuracy or completeness of the database. Indeed, the MERS database is frequently wrong, as Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden discovered. His complaint against MERS does a fabulous job of detailing what a deceptive sham MERS is.
Be sure to check out the rest here…