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WaPO: First, the electronic mortgage superhighway. Then, the pileup.

WaPO: First, the electronic mortgage superhighway. Then, the pileup.


Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, January 2, 2011

In the early 1990s, the biggest names in the mortgage industry hatched a plan for a new electronic clearinghouse that would transform the home loan business – and unlock billions of dollars of new investments and profits.

At the time, mortgage documents were moved almost exclusively by hand and mail, a throwback to an era in which people kept stock certificates, too. That made it hard for banks to bundle home loans and sell them to investors. By contrast, a central electronic clearinghouse would allow the companies to transfer thousands of mortgages instantaneously, greasing the wheels of a system in which loans could be bought and sold repeatedly and quickly.

“Assignments are creatures of 17th-century real property law; they do not coexist easily with high-volume, late 20th-century secondary mortgage market transactions,” Phyllis K. Slesinger, then senior director of investor relations for the Mortgage Bankers Association, wrote in paper explaining the system.

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