Stopping foreclosure secrecy

Real people are enduring the devastation of foreclosure processes because of the excesses of bankers and investment firms. By Phil Ting and Kevin Stein

OPINION Thanks to a shadowy corporate mortgage recording system, millions of Californians have no idea who owns their home loans.

As we suffer through this recession triggered by reckless subprime lending and Wall Street speculation, our recovery is being held back in part because people are struggling with foreclosures and underwater home values — exacerbated by a lack of mortgage transparency.

The mess created by Wall Street is causing wrongful foreclosures and wreaking havoc. Real people — often lower-income families and communities of color — are enduring the devastation of foreclosure processes because of the excesses of bankers and investment firms.

In San Francisco, we've seen the highest number of foreclosures in the Ingleside-Excelsior, Bayview, Tenderloin, and Mission neighborhoods — many of the places where home values have fallen most. Whether or not you face foreclosure, we all pay for this crisis by losing vital tax revenue that could go to support our schools, protect our neighborhoods, or build our economy.

When Wall Street realized it could make billions by bundling mortgages and selling them to investors, banks and financial institutions needed a way around recording the ownership and assignment of home loans. What the banks and Wall Street came up with is a shadowy, industry-backed reporting system called MERS — mortgage electronic reporting system.

Simply stated, subprime and predatory lending allowed banks to create millions of questionable mortgages, Wall Street bundled these risky mortgages together to sell to investors, and MERS made it quicker and easier to conduct these risky transactions with impunity.

As San Francisco's assessor-recorder and a financial advocate for low-income communities, we have seen harmful industry practices wreak havoc on families trying to stay in their homes — whether by use of MERS that clouds property titles, wrongful foreclosures, or denied loan modifications.

The state Legislature considered several good foreclosure bills this year. One proposal placed a $20,000 fee on financial institutions attempting a foreclosure. This would have discouraged foreclosure and helped defray costs to communities if the process went ahead.

State Sen. Mark Leno( D-SF) and Senate President pro tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) offered legislation stopping banks from proceeding with foreclosures when a homeowner is attempting to modify his or her mortgage.

Assessor-Recorder Ting is sponsoring a bill requiring that all mortgage assignments and transfers be recorded with counties, thus taking this process out of the murky MERS system.

Unfortunately, the banks and their armies of lawyers and lobbyists have been able to stymie these reforms.

We must continue to fight these wealthy, powerful lobbies so that the long road to recovery in our housing markets and communities can begin. We cannot let Sacramento forget it was financial institutions that fueled the housing bubble, crashed the stock market, and sent shockwaves throughout the economy with their reckless practices.

Few states have been ravaged by subprime lending and the meltdown of mortgage-backed securities the way California has, so we must continue reforming the practices of banks and Wall Street that have thrown our economy and communities into turmoil.

Phil Ting is San Francisco assessor-recorder. Kevin Stein works with the California Reinvestment Coalition.


Prosecuting Wall Street investment banks and their “geniuses” is not only a matter of democracy, but more importantly, it is about survival of America that we all love…and the only path for our kids’ future.
How did we become just one big hypnotized mass, even after the truth has been revealed? We're walking around as if we're mesmerized, not standing up, not demanding justice, still paying our mortgages to lenders who don't even legally own them...

Please read my blog post about MA Register of Deeds, a real people’s hero: - the first Register in the nation to say no to MERS and robosigning

Posted by Guest on Jun. 12, 2011 @ 3:45 am

the people of america are at war against bank fraud all over the usa not just california. we are fighting the banks lies and the judges of the courts that let banks steal our homes with out evidence that they own the original promissory note and mortgage. our govrement look the other way while people are suffering.
its time the media crack down harder on bank fraud and make this story head line every day all year long

Posted by Guest dani on Jun. 12, 2011 @ 6:21 am

You are right. It is all about title ... as in you ain't got one. Not only that, you don't have any title insurance either. Don't believe? Go take a look at your tile POLICY. It is especially bad if you bought a foreclosed upon home.

Once MERS is in the title history of a given property, the title is fatally clouded until such time as you take steps to clear it.

To learn more, go to

Posted by Guest on Jun. 12, 2011 @ 9:14 pm

From the United States Constitution,

Amendment 14 - Citizenship Rights. Ratified 7/9/1868:

"4. The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume '"or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.
5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article."

It looks like President Obama needs to call the Congress back into session from their summer recess to force Standard and Poor to give back our AAA credit rating, thus nullifying what is in effect the largest tax increase in the nation's history which Standard and Poor and the Tea Party/Republican intransigence to bargain in good faith have bestowed on every citizen and business because of higher interest and borrowing costs. Except that this tax increase does not even go to our government – it goes directly to the bankers! If the President and the Congress fail to act, this will be the first time in our nation's history that someone other than the Congress has raised the taxes of our citizens.

If the President and the Congress don't act - and even if they finally do - then maybe we should demand a Constitutional Convention to restore our Constitution and abrogate the undue influence of the major corporations, the military-industrial complex Eisenhower warned us about, the bankers, the lawyers, and the influence of money on our electoral process which has sold our democracy to the highest bidder. And we should revoke all these states of emergency that the Congress has passed and the Presidents have refused to end that have subverted our Constitution since March 9, 1933 – when a state of emergency was passed unread by the Congress that was written by the Federal Reserve Bank of NY, in which EVERY American citizen was declared an enemy of our own government. The banks have been riding high since that time, and even before that time, starting with the passage of the Federal Reserve Act December 23, 1913 – higher than the people, and it’s time for that situation to be set straight.

John Philpot Curran in a speech upon the Right of Election in 1790 noted that “The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

It’s time to return ourselves to a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. We must insist on it.

Posted by Guest Herschel Dosier on Aug. 06, 2011 @ 8:23 am

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