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Hall It used to be that if you wanted to find out who owned your mortgage, you could go to the office of your local register of deeds, the final authority on questions of property ownership. But when banks set up their own private registration system to help them bundle and resell mortgages in a whirlwind of securities exchanges, the land offices of record had no hope of keeping up.
And when some banks later foreclosed on many of those properties, often cutting corners or worse - creating phony documents - it left register of deeds offices across Wisconsin awash in forged and fraudulent documents. That's a "serious problem" for registrars charged with maintaining property records, said Brown County Register of Deeds Cathy Williquette Lindsay, who heads a committee studying foreclosure fraud on behalf of the Wisconsin Register of Deeds Association.
Registrars' offices across Wisconsin are littered with paperwork signed and sworn to by fictitious people, including "Linda Green," a handle commonly used by "robo-signers" - workers who signed off on foreclosure documents without verifying them.
In separate legal actions, several local governments and three states - Massachusetts, New York and Delaware - have sued the major banks and the private record-keeping service they employ, the Mortgage Electronic Registration System MERSalleging they have flooded the courts and registrars' offices with inaccurate, fraudulent and forged documents.
John O'Brien, head of the Southern Essex District Registry of Deeds in Massachusetts, was among the first to raise the alarm about potential foreclosure fraud in November The review found just 16 percent of the records in the Essex County office assigning ownership of the mortgages were valid.
The rest had been back-dated, robo-signed or had other problems, including broken chains of title. Kevin Harvey, the county's first assistant register, said O'Brien's office has asked 80 financial institutions to file affidavits verifying that the records they have previously submitted were legitimate.
MERS was to be a central storehouse that streamlined the process of registering and transferring loans secured by property, which previously had been the exclusive purview of county registrars' offices.
But the private registration system has also created chaos, uncertainty and injected fraud into the nation's property records, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman charged in a lawsuit against MERS on Feb.
The lawsuit alleges the system effectively eliminated the public's ability to track property transactions by registering properties in the name of MERS rather than the bank that owns the mortgage. That allows member institutions to move loans quickly and multiple times without having to record each move with the local registrar's office.
And some of the information MERS does have, the lawsuit alleges, is "unreliable and inaccurate. Property owners visiting their local register of deeds offices to find out who owns their mortgage to prepare for a bankruptcy or defend against foreclosure often leave empty-handed, she said.
When Nevada began requiring transfers of mortgage ownership be recorded in the local recorder's office in October, foreclosures in that state dropped sharply. In some cases, MERS-designated officials sign documents "assigning" mortgages from MERS - which actually is only a registration system and owns no mortgages at all - to their own companies or clients to prove ownership in foreclosure actions, Schneiderman said.
Madison attorney Briane Pagel said he has been unable to get any information out of MERS to help his clients fighting foreclosure.
Attorney General Eric Holder and Lanny Breuer, head of the Justice Department's criminal division, were partners for years at a Washington law firm that represented a Who's Who of big banks and other companies at the center of alleged foreclosure fraud, a Reuters investigation shows.
While Holder and Breuer were partners at Covington, the firm's clients included the four largest U. InHolder's deputy chief of staff, John Garland, returned to Covington.
So did Steven Fagell, who was Breuer's deputy chief of staff in the criminal division. The revolving door between the Obama administration and Big Banks never stops turning. President Obama announced in his State of the Union address on January 24,that he was creating a special unit within the Financial Fraud Enforcement Taskforce to deal with mortgage origination and securitization abuses: And tonight, I am asking my Attorney General to create a special unit of federal prosecutors and leading state attorneys general to expand our investigations into the abusive lending and packaging of risky mortgages that led to the housing crisis.Search the holdings of libraries around the world, and find items to request via interlibrary loan (ILL).
To place an ILL request, use WorldCat to search the holdings of libraries around the world. EPA's Superfund Site Information. Disclaimer: The CERCLIS Public Access Database, which contained a selected set of publicly releasable Superfund .
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