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Majority stake in MERSCORP Holdings acquired by NYSE parent company ICE

MERS finally vindicated

Intercontinental Exchange, ICE, announced on Friday that it plans to acquire a majority equity position in MERSCORP Holdings, the owner of Mortgage Electronic Registrations Systems, collectively known MERS, sending a signal to the market that MERS is finally vindicated.

“This transaction underscores MERSCORP Holdings’ efforts to strengthen the value to its member institutions and continue to support MERS’ role as a national mortgage registry,” said Kurt Pfotenhauer, chairman of MERSCORP Holdings.

“The investment of capital and resources from ICE will enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of MERS for our more than 5,000 member organizations,” continued Pfotenhauer.

ICE is an operator of global exchanges and clearing houses and provider of data and listings services, which includes being the owner of the New York Stock Exchange.

As part of the acquisition, ICE and MERS entered into a software development agreement to modernize and enhance the MERS System, strengthening its value to stakeholders, including homebuyers and regulators.

MERSCORP Holdings owns and operates the MERS System, a national electronic registry that tracks the changes in servicing rights and beneficial ownership interests in U.S.-based mortgage loans. 

The registry was forced into the spotlight after the financial crisis and received a lot of backlash for its presumed role in the run-up to the crisis.

But part of the ICE deal includes a significant update to the MERS System, conducted by ICE.

According to details provided by the companies, the upgrades to the MERS System have various benefits, including:

  • A commitment by a leading market infrastructure operator with global experience in complex, regulated financial environments
  • A state-of-the-art MERS System with dynamic, world-class data and transaction management that strengthens value to stakeholders, including home-buyers and regulators
  • Continued support of eNotes, which are electronic promissory notes, and electronic processing that serves lenders and consumers

As part of the deal, ICE will rebuild the MERS System infrastructure and is expected to shift its operation to an ICE data center in the first half of 2018.  

Bill Beckmann, the CEO of MERSCORP, in the cover story for the April 2015 HousingWire Magazine, recounted the company’s long fight with plenty of setbacks to gain back its reputation.

“The big surprise when I got on board was just how misunderstood our role is. MERS is a small, but important, part of the mortgage infrastructure and we were being portrayed by some as the cause of the financial crisis, as clouding titles to homes in the U.S., or being some secretive arm of the banks — in some cases the media and blogs fueled this perception," Beckmann told HousingWire Magazine. "But what we do is increase efficiency, reduce paperwork and reduce the cost of originating mortgages. So for such a small company to garner a large amount of attention, that was not something I was expecting.”

But fortunate for MERS, the law is in its side.

Beckmann said in the interview at the time that there are still a few important cases they need to defend.

“I don’t want to paint the picture we’re 100% out of the woods, but we have a strong track record legally so there’s no reason to believe it won’t continue,” he said.

MERS’ battle is still ongoing, with the most recent MERS cases only going back around two months. In April, MERS announced it secured a pair of victories in federal court, as two United States District Courts in Texas recently upheld MERS’ mortgage assignment rights.

According to the companies, the transaction is expected to close at the end of June.  

The companies also stated that the price and terms of the transaction are "immaterial to ICE," and were not disclosed.

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