The banks' "creation and use of a private national mortgage electronic registry system, known as MERS, has resulted in a wide range of deceptive and fraudulent foreclosure filings in New York state and federal courts, harming homeowners and undermining the integrity of the judicial foreclosure process," Schneiderman's office said in a statement.
The lawsuit alleges employees and agents of the banks "repeatedly submitted court documents containing false and misleading information that made it appear that the foreclosing party had the authority to bring a case when in fact it may not have."
MERSCORP Inc. of Virginia and its subsidiary, Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems Inc., also were named in the suit.
"The banks created the MERS system as an end-run around the property recording system, to facilitate the rapid securitization and sale of mortgages," Schneiderman said. "Once the mortgages went sour, these same banks brought foreclosure proceedings en masse based on deceptive and fraudulent court submissions, seeking to take homes away from people with little regard for basic legal requirements or the rule of law.
"Our action demonstrates that there is one set of rules for all -- no matter how big or powerful the institution may be -- and that those rules will be enforced vigorously. Only through real accountability for the illegal and deceptive conduct in the foreclosure crisis will there be justice for New York's homeowners."