A landmark ruling in a recent Kansas Supreme Court case may have given millions of distressed homeowners the legal wedge they need to avoid foreclosure. In Landmark National Bank v. Kesler, 2009 Kan. LEXIS 834, the Kansas Supreme Court held that a nominee company called MERS has no right or standing to bring an action for foreclosure. MERS is an acronym for Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, a private company that registers mortgages electronically and tracks changes in ownership. The significance of the holding is that if MERS has no standing to foreclose, then nobody has standing to foreclose – on 60 million mortgages.
All over the country, lawyers are contesting foreclosures because of similar chain-of-custody issues. I have some material about this coming out in my next Rolling Stone story, so I can’t get into this too much, but suffice to say the lenders and the banks were extremely sloppy about their paperwork (at best — there is a fraud angle as well) and jammed up the system with missing and/or mismarked mortgage notes. Since a sale isn’t legal unless there’s full transfer of the physical note, a lot of the sales of mortgage-backed securities were not entirely legal, since the actual notes were often not transferred.
Nothing like waking up in the morning and finding out a whole sector of the economy is completely screwed. Are these good times or what?