What is MERS and Had They Lost Their Significance?


What To Do With Mers?
Most of the mortgages are owned by an entity called MERS (Mortgage Electronic Recording System). This is not some physical entity, it is just like an electronic warehouse which keeps title record of most of the mortgages in USA. Now, irrespective of the fact that you are making your mortgage payments directly to your lender, this entity possibly may have all of your records. It is an electronic entity. Many cases have been decided in USA calling it a non party-in-interest. This term is a legal terms which means that only legal entity can sue or be sued. Every action in US courts must be initiated by a real party in interest and be defended by a real party in interest. MERS as such is not a real party in interest. They can be identified in your mortgage record as the “mortgagee of record” or sometimes as “nominee” or agent for the purpose of making future transfer of transactions.

What Is MERS and How Does It Work?
It was a mysterious electronic organization, a very large electronic database of mortgages and mortgage transactions. It was crafted in the mid 1990s as a legal device to replace the county land title recording system. The real estate boom was largely attributed to MERS as the securitization process culminates with MERS. Most of the lenders joined MERS happily as it transferred and registered all the mortgage transaction to its data bank. The lenders saved lots of money because most of the transaction took place electronically and saved millions for lenders as they saved having local agents in various counties throughout USA. Also, most of its work was generic, similar, and ingenuity was required so there was a tremendous cost saving which made lenders very rich, and softened their lending practices.

Innumerable Problems Created by the MERS System
We know that under the traditional (and legally authorized) method of keeping track of who owns what, any person is free to walk into a land records office and search the entire historical record of who bought and sold any particular piece of property. In other words, this was commonly called a “title search.” Under the MERS system, however, no such search is possible. MERS Members are not required to report transfers to the database and so there is no real way to be sure about who owns what.

One Court Says: MERS Doesn’t Deliver Clear Title
Back to our previous comment that MERS cannot sue in their names because they are not a real party in interest. As it is one of the cardinal principle of transfer that a note follows the deed and they cannot be sold separately. In In re Agard, a bankruptcy judge analyzed MERS for the purpose of deciding whether a bank seeking foreclosure could prove that it owned the promissory note accompanying the mortgage — a prerequisite in bankruptcy court when asking the court for permission to proceed with the foreclosure. Previously, MERS had attempted to assign the mortgage and promissory note to the foreclosing bank and the question was whether it successfully did so.

The bankruptcy court in Nevada had decided that MERS is not a proper party which can sue in its own name because it had not entered into any transactions with the homeowners. It concluded that MERS, as currently structured, did not deliver clear title to the foreclosing bank.
MERS Announces Some Changes
Because of the various problems it faces in the Courts, MERS has recently announced that it is changing one of its membership rules (Rule 8) to require that members no longer foreclose in MERS name. MERS has also told its members that assignments out of MERS’s name should be recorded in the county land records even if the state law doesn’t require it.

Our Military Is Protected from Foreclosure under The Servicemen Act (SCRA)


We have been approached by few military families whose home were foreclosed while the owner were performing military services overseas. This is very painful, but unfortunately, it has been done and the homes were foreclosed in clear violation of the SCRA. In one case, our law office helped getting back garnished wages of a police officer back. Two mortgage servicing companies have agreed to settle federal complaints that they wrongfully foreclosed on the homes of at least 178 military service members and to set aside a minimum of $22 million to compensate those victims. This is a great victory for the Justice Department that various lenders had settled such cases. The lenders include, of course the notorious one i.e Countrywide Home Loan Servicing and Saxon Mortgage Services. These companies knowingly and repeatedly violated the Service members Civil Relief Act, a federal law that extends an array of financial and legal protections to military personnel. The former Countrywide unit agreed to pay $20 million to approximately 160 victims of illegal foreclosures from January 2006 to May 2009. It also agreed to reimburse victims of any other illegal military foreclosures found to have occurred from May 2009 to the end of last year.
NY Times has posted one such painful story of Sgt. James B. Hourley who was away on war duties in Iraq. In violation of a law intended to protect active military personnel from creditors, agents of Deutsche Bank foreclosed on his small Michigan house, forcing Sergeant Hurley’s wife, Brandie, and her two young children to move out and find shelter elsewhere.

“When the sergeant returned in December 2005, he drove past the densely wooded riverfront property outside Hartford, Mich. The peaceful little home was still there — winter birds still darted over the gazebo he had built near the water’s edge — but it almost certainly would never be his again. Less than two months before his return from the war, the bank’s agents sold the property to a buyer in Chicago for $76,000. Since then, Sergeant Hurley has been on an odyssey through the legal system, with little hope of a happy ending — indeed, the foreclosure that cost him his home may also cost him his marriage. ”Brandie took this very badly,” said Sergeant Hurley, 45, a plainspoken man who was disabled in Iraq and is now unemployed. ”We’re trying to piece it together.”

“In March 2009, a federal judge ruled that the bank’s foreclosure in 2004 violated federal law but the battle did not end there for Sergeant Hurley. Typically, banks respond quickly to public reports of errors affecting military families. But today, more than six years after the illegal foreclosure, Deutsche Bank Trust Company and its primary co-defendant, a Morgan Stanley subsidiary called Saxon Mortgage Services, are still in court disputing whether Sergeant Hurley is owed significant damages. Exhibits show that at least 100 other military mortgages are being serviced for Deutsche Bank, but it is not clear whether other service members have been affected by the policy that resulted in the Hurley foreclosure.”

In court papers, lawyers for Saxon and the bank assert the sergeant is entitled to recover no more than the fair market value of his lost home. His lawyers argue that the defendants should pay much more than that — including an award of punitive damages to deter big lenders from future violations of the law. The law is called the Service members Civil Relief Act, and it protects service members on active duty from many of the legal consequences of their forced absence.

We suggest as a foreclosure defense attorney, and working in this field for long time, we encourage any military family (living in Nevada) to ask our free legal help in this regard. We would not charge any money upfront from any such familiy AND EVEN ADVANCE COURT COST, if they have meritorious case while their loved one were performing military services overseas. Call us at (702) 270-9100 and even get a free consultation over the phone.

Foreclosure Lawyers Not Above Board–Judge Berate Bank Lawyers


While we criticize everyone including lenders, mortgage brokers, bank attorneys has been berated by judges lately. Now judges are lamenting and doing their scorching criticism of lawyers–notably bank lawyers. Judges have accused lawyers of processing shoddy or fabricated paperwork when representing their clients i.e banks. Here, is one such judge. Judge Arthur M. Schack of New York State Supreme Court in Brooklyn has taken aim at an upstate lawyer, Steven J. Baum, referring to one filing as “incredible, outrageous, ludicrous and disingenuous.” As we know, New York judges are also trying to take the lead in fixing the mortgage mess by leaning on the lawyers. In November, a judge ordered Mr. Baum’s firm to pay nearly $20,000 in fines and costs related to papers that he said contained numerous “falsities.” The judge, Scott Fairgrieve of Nassau County District Court, wrote that “swearing to false statements reflects poorly on the profession as a whole.”

The courts in New York State, along with Florida, have begun requiring that lawyers in foreclosure cases vouch for the accuracy of the documents they present. This also prompted a protest from the New York bar. We know that involvement of lawyers in questionable transaction can expose them to disciplinary conduct under their respective bar associations. It may reflect very poorly on our profession as a whole. The role of lawyers is under scrutiny in 23 states where foreclosures must be reviewed by a court. The situation has become especially heated for high-volume firms whose practices mirror the so-called robo-signing of some financial institutions. Robo signing, as you may know, was an accelerated process to do foreclosure without actually physically signing by someone knowledgeable and was merely a rubber stamp hoodwinked the foreclosure process.

Massachusetts Settles Suits Against Mortgage Lender Option One


We are hearing good news of homeowners fight against their predatory lenders. One such good news came from Massachusetts. Associated Press had reported (published in NY Times also in their August 11, 2011 issue) that Option One now known as Sand Canyon, agreed to make loan modification valued at $115 milliont to homeowners facing foreclosure. This lender has issued from 2004 through 2007 risky loans that did not document borrowers’ incomes to confirm they could afford the loans. Our readers may like to know that this lender is a subsidiary of H&R Block. They did not care of the general eligibility of homeowners and just based everything on their own model of not doing any loan modifications. Nearly 5,500 homeowners could get some relief on their loan payments under the settlement.

Refinancing Plan for Mortgages


Finally, something good came in the news and that is the refinancing of underwater homes. Despite the fact that there has been a very low interest rate available but many homeowners could not take benefit due to the fact of bad appraisals and their bad credit owing to delinquencies on their homes. However, good news is that Obama Administration is actively thinking of helping homeowners in refinancing their deep under water homes. Also, this would impact economy in creating more jobs, stopping foreclosure and the surplus money thus saved put back into our economy. It is an excellent proposal and we completely support it. Here is the full article:

U.S. May Back Refinance Plan for Mortgages
By SHAILA DEWAN and LOUISE STORY
The Obama administration is considering further actions to strengthen the housing market, but the bar is high: plans must help a broad swath of homeowners, stimulate the economy and cost next to nothing.

One proposal would allow millions of homeowners with government-backed mortgages to refinance them at today’s lower interest rates, about 4 percent, according to two people briefed on the administration’s discussions who asked not to be identified because they were not allowed to talk about the information.

A wave of refinancing could be a strong stimulus to the economy, because it would lower consumers’ mortgage bills right away and allow them to spend elsewhere. But such a sweeping change could face opposition from the regulator who oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and from investors in government-backed mortgage bonds.

Administration officials said on Wednesday that they were weighing a range of proposals, including changes to its previous refinancing programs to increase the number of homeowners taking part. They are also working on a home rental program that would try to shore up housing prices by preventing hundreds of thousands of foreclosed homes from flooding the market. That program is further along — the administration requested ideas for execution from the private sector earlier this month.

But refinancing could have far greater breadth, saving homeowners, by one estimate, $85 billion a year. Despite record low interest rates, many homeowners have been unable to refinance their loans either because they owe more than their houses are now worth or because their credit is tarnished.

Exactly how a refinancing plan might work is still under discussion. It is unclear, for example, whether people who are delinquent on their mortgages would be eligible or whether lenders would administer it. Federal officials have consistently overestimated the number of households that would be helped by their various housing assistance programs.

A working group of housing experts across several federal agencies could recommend one or both proposals, or come up with new ones. Or it might decide to do nothing.

Investors may suspect a plan is in the works. Fannie and Freddie mortgage bonds had been trading well above their face value because so few people were refinancing, keeping returns on the bonds high. But those bond prices dropped sharply this week.

Administration discussions about housing proposals have taken on added urgency this summer because the housing market is continuing to deteriorate. On Wednesday, the government said that prices of homes with government-backed mortgages fell 5.9 percent in the second quarter from a year earlier, the biggest decline since 2009. More than one in five homeowners with mortgages owe more than their homes are worth. Some analysts are now predicting waves of foreclosures and a continuing slide in home prices.

There is not much time to help the market before the 2012 election, and given Congressional resistance to other types of stimulus, housing may be the only economic fix in reach. Federal programs to assist homeowners have been regarded as ineffective so far, and they are complex.

“We are looking at trying to encourage more participation in all of the programs, including those that help with refinancing,” said Phyllis Caldwell, who oversees housing policy at the Treasury Department.

Some economists say that with housing prices and interest rates at affordable levels, only fear is keeping consumers out of the market. Frank E. Nothaft, the chief economist at Freddie Mac, said the federal action could instill confidence.

“It almost seems to me you want to have some type of announcement or policy, program or something from the federal government that provides that clear signal that we are here supporting the housing market and this is indeed a good time to really consider buying,” Mr. Nothaft said.

The refinancing idea has been around since at least 2008, but proponents say the recent drop in interest rates to below 4 percent may breathe new life into the plan.

“This is the best stimulus out there because it doesn’t increase the deficit, it accomplishes monetary policy, and it reduces defaults in housing,” said Christopher J. Mayer, an economist at the Columbia Business School. “So I think this is low-hanging fruit.” Mr. Mayer and a colleague, Glenn Hubbard, who was chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President George W. Bush, proposed an early version of the plan.

The idea is appealing because it would not necessarily require Congressional action. It also would not tap any of the $45.6 billion in Troubled Asset Relief Funds that was set aside to help struggling homeowners. Only $22.9 billion of that pool has been spent or pledged so far, and fewer than 1.7 million loans have been modified under federal programs. But Andrea Risotto, a Treasury spokeswoman, said whatever was left would be used to reduce the federal deficit.

A mass refinancing plan would spread the benefits of the Federal Reserve’s most important economic policy response, low interest rates, to more people. As of July, an estimated $2.4 trillion in mortgages backed by Fannie and Freddie carried interest rates of 4.5 percent or higher.

The two prevailing ideas, lowering rates on mortgages and converting houses owned by government entities like Freddie and Fannie into rentals and other uses, have somewhat different pockets of support. Investment firms would like to participate in the rental program, especially if the government lends them money to participate. For the most part, banks prefer the refinancing plan. There are many high-ranking proponents of the refinancing plan. Joseph Tracy, a senior adviser to the chairman of the New York Federal Reserve, has circulated a presentation in support of the plan. And Richard B. Berner, who recently joined the Treasury Department as counselor to Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, argued in favor of a blanket refinancing in his previous job as chief United States economist for Morgan Stanley. The proponents say the plan carries little risk because the mortgages are already guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. They also say it makes those loans less likely to go into default and ultimately foreclosure.

But the plan has some drawbacks. Some officials fear that promoting mass refinancings today could spook investors and make borrowing more expensive, for both homeowners and the federal government, in the future.

The government has already encouraged some refinancing through the Federal Housing Administration and through Fannie and Freddie, but participation is limited. For example, the Home Affordable Refinance Program excludes homeowners who owe more than 125 percent of the value of their house. To spur more refinancing, the government may decide to encourage Fannie and Freddie to lift such restrictions.

But government officials cautioned that Fannie and Freddie do not do the administration’s bidding, even though they are essentially owned by taxpayers. Edward J. DeMarco, who oversees the companies as acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, has voiced concerns about any plan that might cost the companies money, according to the two people briefed on the discussions. “F.H.F.A. remains open to all ideas that provide needed assistance to borrowers” while minimizing the cost to taxpayers, Mr. DeMarco said in a written statement.

A broader criticism of a refinancing expansion is that it would not do enough to address the two main drivers of foreclosures: homes worth less than their mortgages, and a sudden loss of income, like unemployment. American homeowners currently owe some $700 billion more than their homes are worth.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: August 26, 2011

An article on Thursday about the Obama administration’s consideration of a proposal to allow homeowners with government-backed mortgages to refinance them at today’s lower interest rates misstated Edward DeMarco’s title at the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. He is its acting director, not its chairman.

Can the economy revive without help to homeowners?


The homeowners are bleeding for long time and the scant help has given them no respite. The statistics are increasing and still Las Vegas is number one in foreclosure sale. None of the higher constitutional authorities had done any thorough probe in this matter. We hear lots of news but no solution so far. Only half-hearted measures had been taken and none of that has produced any tangible result to correct the rampant situation. Now, we have another fiasco and that is that the Standard and Poor’s has purposely overrated the toxic mortgage rating/securities before this financial fiasco erupted with full force. Yes, the same S&P which has decreased the rating on USA which resulted and still bleeding our markets by a descent of 1500 points so far.

We rather not say much about Congress as much has been said in the media. As usual we have assembly of incompetent, nincompoop, and do nothing people who like to come to the house, fight and then go to long vacation. As we know,tens of millions of Americans are continuously being crushed by this mortgage crisis. See for example, the stock of Bank of American. They had taken a big hit–some 10 billion loss only this years, and there stock price has been reduced to half the size. Yet, when it comes to loan modification, they resisted every request for loan modification. At least the homeowners were reaffirming the original debt. But BAC rather let it go to short sale for one third of the original loan, then give a reduced payments to the genuine, and hardprssed homeowners. We tried, we called several times, sent innumerable paperwork, and yet same annoying people gave us the same annoying news.

Obama administration has no mechanism to enforce, no accountability other than advice to bank to “do their best”. There were two other crook organization who thanks got are bankruptcy now i.e Freedie Mae and Fannie Mae. Banks took advantage of their idiocy and incompetence and made millions dumping bad securities upon them. Of course, there is no let up in sight. We have left with one thing, and that is reducing principle once for all. The reckless borrowers are no more on the horizons. Thus, this is good time to reward genuine homeowners. Also, we suggest to let the bankruptcy courts do the loan modification. Somehow they are already involved via chapter 13 this time.