Massachusetts has joined several other states in saying they would oppose a foreclosure fraud settlement if it includes certain liability releases, particularly those relating to MERS. Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley (yes, that Martha Coakley) wants to retain the ability to pursue lawsuits against the banks and their subsidiaries over state consumer protection violations and fraud upon state courts.

“Massachusetts will not sign on to any global agreement with the banks if it includes a comprehensive liability release regarding securitization and the MERS conduct,” Coakley wrote to the Norfolk County register of deeds in Dedham, Massachusetts. “These investigations must continue.” The registry keeps records of real estate in the county […]

Last week, Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden said in an interview that he had “strong reservations” about releasing claims that go beyond the servicing of mortgages.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office said in a statement last week that he “remains concerned by any settlement agreement that would preclude state attorneys general from conducting comprehensive investigations of the mortgage crisis.”

It’s telling that Coakley had to respond to a register of deeds, the unassuming, ministerial recorders of real estate transactions who are starting to wield considerable weight as a settlement is discussed. It was a Massachusetts register of deeds, John O’Brien, who was among the first to provide evidence of the extent of robo-signed documents at his office, and who said he would no longer accept fraudulent documents to be recorded. This register of deeds movement has grown and grown. Last week, Oakland County, Michigan register Bill Bullard produced his own investigation:

County Clerk Bill Bullard says he’s found more evidence that fraudulent documents are being used to foreclose on Oakland County homeowners.

Bullard said Thursday he’s forwarded the documents to Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette for review. He provided a copy of the letter to Schuette to county commissioners.

Oakland County commissioners also introduced a resolution supporting an investigation into document fraud within the county.

“This is part of our ongoing investigation into mortgage fraud in the Register of Deeds Office,” Bullard said. “We learned through a news story just yesterday that a gentleman by the name of Bryan Bly testified in a sworn deposition in a case in Florida that he had fraudulently signed 5,000 fraudulent mortgage documents a day.”

“We immediately investigated the last three years and determined that 100 fraudulent documents had been signed by Bryan Bly as signatory representing allegedly about five different banks, and a couple he notarized.”

They have the evidence. A simple crowd-sourced movement of registers can document years and years of fraud. MERS is central to that, because that’s the electronic registry which basically superseded the public land recording system in this country during the bubble years. This is entirely tied up with securitization failures, and liability for this mess, which is at the heart of the foreclosure fraud issue, should never be signed away. And now, Coakley is saying she won’t. I hope more AGs join her.

UPDATE: I should add that this is associated with an investigation Coakley has taken up, which also centers on MERS. Foreclosure fraud activists and experts are a little dubious about whether the banks could be made liable for the sins of MERS. But if this keeps Coakley out of the global settlement, all the better.

David Dayen

David Dayen