-Matt Taibbi, Happy New Year, America…
Have multiple relatives en route to my home this morning, but wanted to post a few thoughts on an interesting story that came out this week before I disappear into a weekend of overeating and meaningless NFL games.
The piece, which came out Thursday, is the Washington Post’s feature on MERS, the electronic mortgage registration company that is at the center of the foreclosure/mortgage bubble mess. MERS is the brainchild of the mortgage-lending industry and is essentially an effort at systematically evading taxes (more on that in a moment) and hiding information from homeowners in ways that enabled the Countrywides of the world to defraud investors and avoid legal consequences for same.
The idea behind MERS was to wipe away centuries of legal tradition that mandated the physical transfer of loan notes and ownership information. Whereas lenders once were required to physically register with county clerk offices every time a mortgage loan was extended or re-sold, MERS provided an “electronic registry” of mortgage notes where all such transfers were recorded in the wiry brain of a giant computer instead of on paper.
Instead of the individual banks or lenders registering with the counties each time a loan was sold or re-sold, MERS would handle the initial registration and then become the “nominal” note-holder. Then, each time the note was passed on, MERS would record the transaction in its computer — but no matter who the actual owner of the note was, MERS would remain the legally registered assignee of the note.