This news comes from just around the corner from me. Guilford County is home to Greensboro, North Carolina. North Carolina's thrd largest city.
Apparently someone within one of our countires has taken exception to the banks submitting falsified documents to the court, and attesting to their truthefullness via mass prodessed robo-signings.
Al Yoon of Dow Jones Newswire, Wall Street Journal, 13 March 2012
New York (Dow Jones)--A North Carolina county on Tuesday sued four of the nation's largest banks and a private mortgage registration system over forged and falsified loan documents state official said have hurt property values and upended their own efforts at tracking records.
The lawsuit filed in a North Carolina court for Guilford County Register of Deeds Jeff Thigpen, names units of Bank of America Corp. (BAC), J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. (JPM), Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) and Citigroup Inc. (C), and MERSCorp., which owns the Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems. It also names mortgage processing and analytics firm Lender Processing Services.
Thigpen's lawsuit alleging robo-signing, or the filing of mortgage documents signed without proper review, comes just a day after the four named banks and Ally Financial Inc. agreed with state attorneys general to a landmark $25 billion settlement of similar foreclosure abuses. The banks neither admitted or denied guilt in the attorney general settlement, which doesn't protect them from certain other litigation.
Unfortunately it is not a Distrit Attorney tryng to press criminal charges, but rather the Registrar of Deeds.
From the complaint (no link - from item 3):
Defendants systematically created the falsified, forged and/or fraudulently executed mortgage documents filed with the Register of Deeds by what infamously has become known as “robo-signing,” which is the practice of signing mortgage assignments, satisfactions and other mortgage-related documents in assembly-line fashion, often with a name other than the affiant’s own, and swearing to personal knowledge of facts of which the affiant has no knowledge. Defendants’ scheme, that failed to disclose and track ownership in mortgages accurately, was manifested in a private electronic registry manyof the Defendants created called the “Mortgage Electronic Registration System” (MERS).
Through MERS, Defendants effectively privatized the public property recording system and disrupted Guilford County’s responsibility to maintain a reliable public registry of land records, as well as citizens’ fundamental right to determine through public searches who holds interests in property.
In other words, they took over the government's record keeping function, and then fouled it all up.
From the press release (pdf):
MERS has saved larger financial firms millions of dollars while avoiding recordation and payment of fees related to mortgage transfers.
Since 2005 there were 47,553 deeds of trust that list MERS as a beneficiary filed in the Guilford County Register of Deeds office. Experts have indicated that those kinds of loans are repackaged and sold two and four times on average under the MERS system. “One repackaging of MERS documents would have generated $665,742 if documentation had been filed in our office. Two repackaged loans would have generated $1,331,484. And that’s conservative estimate.”
Thigpen maintains the lost recording fees would help local elected officials reduce budget deficits and maintain core services such as public education and public safety in this time of fiscal crisis.
Thigpen’s primary concern relates to recent court rulings in Arkansas, Kansas, Maine and Missouri questioning MERS legal standing in home foreclosures and suits challenging that MERaS filings may be fraudulent. “If MERS filings are false statements, there are laws that say if you decrease the money that you pay for a service through using those false statements then you can get damages. The legal term is “unjust enrichment”. Thigpen wants to explore unjust enrichment and other options related to recovery of lost revenue.
He is also requesting that the banks be made to submit records that will clear up the title on these properties. There is some suspicion that the banks may not have all these records. In a case I know about that involved one of the early predatory lending outfits, the supenad company could not find the documentation on roughly 2% of their loans.