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Lawsuits Seek To Recover Recording Fees From MERS

Last April, WFAE's Greg Collard reported on some county recorder or registers of deeds trying to recoup money from a company called Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems. Some county registers appear to be listening. Bloomberg reports that Dallas County, Texas, and two counties in Kentucky have filed lawsuits against MERS to recover recording fees. Their lawsuits also name Bank of America. The big banks created MERS in the mid-90s as mortgage-backed securities took off. The mortgage industry was frustrated with the slow pace of recording transactions in county courthouses. They wanted a faster system to keep up with the volume of transactions, and MERS was born. Once a deed is filed in a courthouse, all future assignments of that deed are tracked in the private MERS database. And it's allowed banks to save a lot of money on courthouse filing fees. At the time of WFAE's story, Guilford County Register of Deeds Jeff Thipen and John O'Brien, the register of deeds in Salem, Mass., were leading the charge to encourage registers and attorneys general to file lawsuits against MERS. "I think this was a scheme put together to hide from the public and not pay fees. It's as simple as that," said O'Brien, who estimated his county had lost about $50 million because of MERS. For more background on MERS, you can also listen to this interview. WFAE's Scott Graf spoke Christopher Peterson, a law professor at the University of Utah who published this research paper on MERS.