The Myths And Merits Of MERS - Part 2

MYTH: MERS signing officers lack authority to act on behalf of MERS Inc.

FACT: MERS Inc. is a Delaware corporation and its actions are governed by its bylaws and the Delaware General Corporation Law (DGCL). Under the DGCL, there is no requirement that an officer of a corporation be an employee of that corporation.58 In addition, under the DGCL, there is no requirement that individuals serving as officers of a corporation be employed or compensated by that corporation.

Under Delaware law, a corporation may by board resolution appoint officers to carry out the corporation's business.59 In addition, Section 142(a) of the DGCL provides that "any number of offices may be held by the same person unless the certificate of incorporation or bylaws otherwise provide."

Since MERS Inc. has no employees, a majority of the actions taken by MERS Inc. in its capacity as mortgagee under mortgages and/or deeds of trust are taken by designated officers commonly referred to as "certifying or signing officers." The signing officers are generally officers of MERS' members that are responsible for carrying out servicing functions on behalf of such MERS members.

The MERS Inc. signing officers are appointed pursuant to a corporate resolution, duly adopted pursuant to authority granted by the Board of Directors of MERS Inc. Pursuant to the corporate resolution, these signing officers are appointed as assistant secretaries, assistant vice presidents and vice presidents of MERS Inc. and their authority is limited to: (1) executing lien releases, (2) executing mortgage assignments, (3) executing foreclosure documents, (4) executing proofs of claims and other bankruptcy related documents (e.g., motions for relief of the automatic stay), (5) executing modification and subordination agreements needed for refinancing activities, (6) endorsing over checks made payable to MERS Inc. (in error) by borrowers, (7) taking such other actions and executing documents necessary to fulfill the MERS member's servicing duties, and (8) taking such ministerial actions and, in such ministerial capacity, executing and delivering all such instruments and documents as the officer(s) of MERS Inc. deem necessary or appropriate in order to effectuate fully the purpose of each and all of the foregoing powers, in each case only with respect to the loan owned by the related member.60 In order to be eligible for appointment as a signing officer of MERS Inc., a person must demonstrate a basic knowledge of the MERS® System and pass an annual certifying examination administered by MERSCORP Holdings.

We are not aware of any relevant case law that would suggest that the MERS Inc. business model of appointing signing officers is either inappropriate or illegal. In fact, several courts have upheld the MERS Inc. signing officer business model.61

The propriety of the MERS Inc. signing officer business model has also been upheld in an ethics opinion from the New York State Bar Association62 which found that no conflict of interest exists in violation of New York state bar professional conduct rules when an attorney serves as an officer of the mortgagee of record/assignor for the purpose of executing a mortgage assignment and also represents the assignee in the prosecution of the subsequent foreclosure action.

Courts have consistently upheld the authority of MERS Inc., in its capacity as mortgagee, to assign mortgages.63 When plaintiffs have challenged the authority of MERS Inc. signing officers to execute assignments in connection with foreclosure or bankruptcy proceedings, courts have consistently found that such plaintiffs lack standing to challenge such assignments because they are not parties thereto and are not the intended beneficiaries thereof.64 Significantly, such plaintiffs have failed to articulate any correlation between the alleged lack of authority and a resulting harm to the plaintiff occasioned thereby.

MYTH: The MERS® System creates a cloud on real estate titles.

FACT: The servicer (acting on behalf of the beneficial owner(s) of the note) is the entity responsible for initiating and completing foreclosure actions and, as such, the servicer (not MERS Inc.) is the entity that is responsible for assuring that mortgage assignments and mortgage notes are properly assigned to the real party in interest (i.e., the servicer or the note owner) prior to the commencement of foreclosure proceedings. MERS® System members have a substantial interest in providing accurate and current information because they rely on the MERS® System to obtain current information about note owners and servicers, as well as to obtain or receive legal notices served on MERS Inc. as mortgagee of record.65 Using MERS Inc. as the mortgagee of record actually reduces the possibility of missed or incorrect assignments that would create an unclear "chain of title" as to who is the actual mortgagee or beneficiary of the security instrument. When MERS Inc. serves as mortgagee, the recorded chain of title to the mortgage starts with MERS Inc. at origination and ends with MERS Inc. when it either releases the lien or assigns the lien to another entity.66 The MERS® System...

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