Freddie Mac sued by county in Ohio
Last year, Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems Inc. (MERS) became the subject of lawsuits from counties across the nation as District Attorneys allege the company never owned the loans they were facilitating foreclosures for, and in most cases, judges agree, and their authority to facilitate has been denied in several counties. Dallas County alleges the mortgage-tracking system violates Texas laws and shorted the county anywhere from $58 million to over $100 million in uncollected filing fees due to the MERS system, dating back to 1997.
Others sued MERS as well; in February, in the U.S. Court for the Western District of Kentucky, Chief Judge Joseph McKinley Jr. dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Christian County Clerk, denying relief to the County for the same relief sought by Dallas County and others.
Rampant mortgage fraud, continued robosigning
Studies have shown that MERS destroyed the chain of title in America, and other studies reveal that illegal robosigning is still in play, and that foreclosure fraud has occurred in the majority of loans.
As the courts have not yet rewarded cities, counties, or states pursuing action against MERS, other tactics are being taken by these entities, for example, Louisiana is using RICO laws to sue MERS.
Summit County, Ohio taking a different approach
Summit County, Ohio filed a lawsuit1 Tuesday against Freddie Mac, alleging a failure to pay fees on transfer taxes on over 3,500 real estate transactions over six years. Court documents show that the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation is accused of committing fraud by claiming it was a government entity, thereby exempt from transfer taxes. The County has not released a final assessment of the amount they believe is due, but they will also be seeking interest and penalties.
This approach is far different than going after MERS (which coincidentally was established by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac over 15 years ago), rather going directly after the still-functioning Freddie Mac.
“The reality is Freddie Mac is a federally chartered, private corporation and they should have been paying these fees and taxes,” Assistant Prosecutor Joe Fantozzi told the Akron Beacon Journal.
Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae began paying transfer taxes in 2009, so the lawsuit is only seeking transfer taxes due from 2002 through 2008, which in Summit County are $4 per $1,000 on all real estate transactions. Additionally, the county also charges a 50-cent lot fee and recording fees, which are $28 for the first two pages and $8 for each additional page.
Fannie Mae not named, FHFA already fighting back
Although Geauga County in Ohio sued MERS, Chase Bank, and CoreLogic, the Akron Beacon Journal reports that Summit County is believed to be the first county in the state to file legal action against Freddie Mac. Fannie Mae was not named in the suit due to the low volume of mortgages in the county it handled during the time period.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), the conservator of Fannie and Freddie, is fighting back on these same battle lines, suing in Illinois to validate the two mortgage giants’ tax-exempt status, the Chicago Tribune reported. This move is likely an effort to circumvent more lawsuits like the one currently being filed in Summit County.