AG Coakley Following Up On Essex County's O'Brien's MERS Inquiry


AG Coakley Following Up On Essex County’s O’Brien’s MERS Inquiry

AG Coakley Following Up On Essex County’s O’Brien’s MERS Inquiry

Firm may skirt millions in property fees

Attorney general, others probe system created by lenders

By Jenifer B. McKim Globe Staff / December 15, 2010

Attorney General Martha Coakley is trying to determine whether a lender-created company that tracks mortgage loan data has failed to pay millions of dollars in property recording fees in Massachusetts.

Coakley is taking aim at the little-known but powerful Reston, Va., company whose members include Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase, and other major lenders.

The company, Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems Inc., oversees a database of about 31 million mortgages, about half of the active loans in the United States.

As concern about foreclosure practices mounts across the country, Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems is increasingly being questioned by regulators, lawyers, and housing advocates about the way it operates.

Essex County’s register of deeds, John L. O’Brien Jr., last month asked Coakley to investigate the company, known as MERS. He said that by using its own database for property transfers, MERS does not pay recording fees or disclose the transactions, as Massachusetts law requires.

O’Brien estimated that in Essex County alone, $10 million was lost over the past decade because MERS failed to pay a $75 fee each time a mortgage was transferred between lenders.

“They created their own registry of deeds,’’ he said. “They have to record these assignments. The taxpayers deserve these fees.’’

A spokeswoman for Coakley said her office is looking at the issues O’Brien raised.

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