In the mid-'90s, the big banks set up the Mortgage Electronic Registration System, or MERS, to track mortgages as they're traded by investors in mortgage-backed securities. It's a system set up to let banks skip the process of paying recurring filing fees at county courthouses each time a mortgage was bought or sold. Now, many cash-strapped local governments, big and small, are filing lawsuits against MERS. Politicians contend their communities are owed millions of dollars.
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