On October 1, Bank of America announced that it was delaying foreclosures in 23 states.
The same day, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal took the radical step of putting a halt to all foreclosures from all banks in his state.
A Box Even Houdini Couldn’t Escape?
All of this is a major headache for the banks, but according to the New York Times, “The companies say they are reviewing their procedures to take care of any violations.” They seem to think they can correct the problem by redoing some paperwork. But if the holdings in recent court decisions are upheld, it will not be just a question of hiring extra staff to clean up some files. For all those mortgages filed in the name of MERS, say these courts, the chain of title has been irretrievably broken. Humpty Dumpty has had a great fall and cannot be put together again.
MERS is simply an electronic data base. On its website and in assorted court pleadings, it declares that it owns nothing. It was set up that way intentionally so that it would be “bankruptcy-remote,” something required by the credit rating agencies in order to turn the mortgages passing through it into highly rated securities that could be sold to investors. MERS not only has no assets; it has no employees. The thousands of people enlisted to sign affidavits on its behalf are merely conduits. The arrangement satisfied the ratings agencies, but it has not satisfied the courts. Increasingly, judges are holding that if MERS owns nothing, it cannot foreclose, and it cannot convey title by assignment so that the trustee for the investors can foreclose. MERS breaks the chain of title so that no one has standing to foreclose. The homes are effectively owned free and clear.