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To Fight MERS, Registers Pull Money From Big Banks

Two weeks ago, WFAE's Greg Collard filed a report about two registers of deeds taking on Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, or MERS. One register, Jeff Thigpen, is in Guilford County. The other is John O'Brien in Salem, Massachusetts. They say the mortgage industry has used MERS - created by the country's largest banks 15 years ago - to avoid paying local land-recording recording fees when mortgages are sold to investors. Thigpen and O'Brien say the public is not only losing this income, also losing the ability to track the chain of title. Both want their attorneys general to file lawsuits against MERS, and together they're urging registers and county recorders across the country to do the same. The recorder in Norristown, PA, is joining their cause. There, Recorder of Deeds Nancy Becker is urging registers across the country to withdraw public money from banks affiliated with MERS. According to this story, Becker has transferred her office's money from Wells Fargo to a community bank that is not affiliated with MERS. From the Times Herald in Montgomery County, PA: This week, Becker sent similar letters to county Treasurer Tom Ellis, Pennsylvania Treasurer Rob McCord and the state's Acting Attorney General William Ryan Jr., saying that she had joined the nationwide effort against financial institutions that have partnered with electronic recording service, including Wells Fargo, Bank of America, PNC and Sovereign, among others, which she alleges are "circumventing" proper recording. "It's just sloppy, sloppy work," she said. The article did not mention how much money she withdrew from Wells Fargo. O'Brien, the Massachusetts official, recently pulled $25 million from Bank of America. He also deposited the money in a community bank. The Boston Business Journal reports on that decision here. Bank of America spokesman T.J. Crawford told the publication, "This is not a discussion we're going to have with Mr. O'Brien through the media."