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In a legal maneuver that has been in the works since shortly after the so-called “robo-signing” scandal hit last year, South Essex Register of Deeds John O’Brien has asked Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office to seek $22 million from a mortgage-holding consortium that includes Bank of America (NYSE: BAC), TD Bank (NYSE: TD) and Sovereign Bank among other major financial players.
In seeking to move against MERS — Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems — O’Brien argues the organization became in essence a shadow registry that let investors buy and sell mortgages without making what O’Brien argues are legally required changes to titles at registries of deeds around the state.
Kevin Harvey, an assistant register, said in an interview that the registry has a “fiduciary responsiblity” to collect $75 every time ownership changes on a title and a constitutional responsibility to provide the public with clear information about what person or entity owns each parcel of land in a community.
“The public has the right to know who owns the mortgage they’re paying,” Harvey said.
At issue, he said, is the “integrity of the chain of title.”
A MERS spokeswoman said the oranization would issue a statement on the matter Thursday afternoon.
Reston, Va.-baed MERS was set up by major financial institutions to speed the handling of land transactions. MERS’s website includes the slogan “process loans, not paperwork.”
In addition to big, national banks, MERS lists among its members regional players such as Eastern Bank and Webster Bank.