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Registers of Deeds ask Iowa AG to postpone servicer settlement

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Two Registers of Deeds asked Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller Friday to postpone a settlement with the nation's largest mortgage servicers until the cost damage to land records is better understood. John O'Brien, Register of Deeds of Southern Essex County in Massachusetts, and Jeff Thigpen, Register of Deeds of Guilford County in North Carolina, wrote a letter to the attorney general, stressing the need to appropriately settle terms with servicers based on the amount of damaged practices such as robo-signing caused. "We need to take a long hard look at the damage that these banks have caused, not only to our economy but also to people's chains of title," O'Brien commented. "There can be no settlement for pennies on the dollar." Attorney General Miller, who was not available for comment Friday, is leading an investigation by all 50 state attorneys general into the servicing practices that lead to the housing crisis. According to reports this week, a second and less stringent draft of the settlement has been circulating throughout the industry. Miller is maintaining this effort outside the consent orders between the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Federal Reserve, the Office of Thrift Supervision and 14 major servicers. The OCC reported Friday that it will not make independent reviews required under the consent orders available to the public. O'Brien believes Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems is to blame for much mortgage fraud surrounding the housing crisis because of "their failure to record documents in the local registry of deeds in order avoid paying billions of dollars in recording fees." MERS claims O'Brien's statement are unfounded, and attested that all MERS mortgages are recorded in the public land records. "MERS members pay recording fees when the mortgage is recorded," Janis Smith of MERS said. "The use of MERS is in compliance with the purpose and intent of the state recording acts." Along with their initial request, O'Brien and Thigpen sent a follow up request to Miller asking for representation and access to settlement talks. "Why the Registers of Deeds have not been involved in these negotiations is puzzling" according to O'Brien and Thigpen. "We need to bring our knowledge of the land recordation system and consumer's problematic chain of title issues to the table." Write to Christine Ricciardi. Follow her on Twitter @HWnewbieCR.

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