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Fix Mortgage Flaw that Enabled Robo-signing in Florida

palmbeachpost.comJuly 5, 2012

By Rhonda Swan

Florida counties are missing out on millions of dollars and homeowners are being kept in the dark about who owns their loans because the state does not require that mortgage assignments be recorded. It’s a problem the Legislature can and should fix during its next session.

A federal judge last week dismissed a lawsuit by the Duval County Clerk of Court alleging that the Mortgage Electronic Registration System deprived the county of recording fees because the state has no statute that requires lenders to publicly note when they transfer mortgages. Banks created the MERS database to avoid recording fees.

Duval County Clerk of Court Jim Fuller estimated that MERS has saved banks at least $2.4 billion since 2009 that should have gone to counties and municipalities throughout the country.

MERS is listed as the mortgagee on millions of loans, allowing the real owner to remain anonymous. Many of the 60 million mortgages that MERS is supposed to track have been bundled and sold over and over as investments — securitized — without the borrower’s knowledge. Homeowners and even lenders are left without a clue as to who owns the note. The original notes often have been lost, and lenders have had to recreate mortgage assignments, the document that indicates when the loan balance is transferred to a new lender. That led to the robo-signing scandal in which lenders and their attorneys faked documents to win foreclosures. Some homes were lost to lenders who didn’t even own the mortgage.

Palm Beach County Clerk of Court Sharon Bock said she didn’t file suit against MERS because she knew it was a losing proposition. She said the Legislature should require that assignments be recorded as a public record. “We did see the result of an undisclosed transfer of a mortgage in the uncovering of a robo signing. That’s a fact,” she said. “Banks became incredibly slopppy with their securitization.”

U.S. District Judge Harvey E. Schlesinger said the lawsuit illustrates how technology has outpaced state law. “The relief plaintiff seeks is not available in this court,” he wrote in his order. “The remedy that plaintiff seeks can only be obtained by a change in the Florida statutes.”

It’s up to state lawmakers to protect the interests of Floridians over the greed of bankers.


Back to July 2012 Archive

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