Editor: David Reiss
Brooklyn Law School

February 25, 2013

Massachusetts District Court Holds that MERS, as Mortgagee and Nominee for Lender, has Authority to Assign Mortgage

By Michael Liptrot

The court in Rosa v. Mortg. Elec. Sys., Inc., 821 F. Supp. 2d 423 (D. Mass. 2011) held that the assignee bank had standing to foreclose on the homeowners. The homeowners argued that the bank did not have standing because MERS lacked authority to assign the mortgage. They made several arguments as to why MERS lacked authority, including (1) the original noteholder did not authorize the assignment; (2) MERS could only act as nominee for the original noteholder, who dissolved in 2008; and (3) MERS did not hold the note at the time of assignment, and thus could not assign what it did not hold.

First, the court looked at MERS’s authority to assign the mortgage. The court rejected the homeowner’s argument, stating, “[s]ince Massachusetts law does not require a signatory to prove authority to execute a mortgage assignment, a mortgagee need not prove authorization from the note holder to assign a mortgage.” The court then held that the assignment by MERS to the assignee bank was valid because MERS was a mortgagee under the terms of the mortgage agreement.

Next, the court determined that the original noteholder’s dissolution had no effect on MERS’s authority to assign. The court held, “[the original noteholder’s] dissolution [did not] terminate MERS’ nominee relationship with a successor purchaser or assignee of the Note or affect MERS'[s] status as mortgagee. . . . As mortgagee, MERS continued to hold the Mortgage in trust for whomever happened to own the Note.”

Finally, the court rejected the argument that MERS must hold the note in order to assign the mortgage. They found this argument contrary to case law. The court stated, “In Massachusetts, the mortgage does not automatically follow the note and the mortgage and the note may be held by different parties. . . . An assignor of a mortgage is not required to have possession of or beneficial interest in the note in order to assign the mortgage because it holds the mortgage in trust for the note holder. ” Thus, MERS had authority to assign the mortgage despite not being in possession of the underlying note.

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