In Guilford County, North Carolina, the Register of Deeds, Jeff Thigpen, is questioning if his county was cheated out of more than a million dollars real estate fees because banks did not file proper chain of ownership documents with his office.
Instead, the banks used a Virginia based company called MERS. It bypassed the local Register of Deeds office, not just in Guilford but all counties across the U.S.
MERS stands for Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems. It manages a centralized electronic property data base that is a critical tool in securitization, or bundling, of mortgages into securities (mortgage-backed securities). About 60 % of all mortgages, or 65 million U.S. homes, are tracked in MERS. Yesterday, the Greensboro News and record reported Thigpen said,
“As register of deeds I have two primary responsibilities in land records,” Thigpen wrote in the release. “A sworn duty to protect the chain of title and a fiduciary responsibility to collect recording fees. Quite frankly, MERS has undermined both. Through their own ‘private-for-profit’ Register of Deeds mortgage tracking office, MERS has created a dangerous centralization of power whose sole purpose is to protect and serve the interests of major banking conglomerates and undermine public recording officers.” (Click here to read the complete News and Record article.)
MERS was established by big banks, and many contend it is nothing more than an electronic shell company with no employees. (Click here to find out more about MERS.) Financial institutions such as Wells Fargo, Bank of America, JP Morgan, Citi and others all use MERS. Mr. Thigpen alleges MERS may have made false statements since 2005 to avoid fees in his county that he says add up to more than $1.3 million. To get an idea of how much of a problem this is for MERS and the banks, consider this probably happens in every single county in America!