The mortgage mess is largely the result of lenders packaging and selling off their debt -- to the point where many banks are now unable to produce the original mortgage documents proving who owns the debt.
A homeowner rebellion is now taking advantage of this fact by demanding the original mortgage note when threatened with foreclosure. And in many cases, the banks can't do it. According to the Huffington Post:
"The chaos is a sign of how far the mortgage business has come since people commonly took out a mortgage from their neighborhood banker, who kept the relevant documents locked away until the house was sold or paid off. During the securitization boom, millions of mortgages were sold and packaged into bonds -- often many times over, metastasizing into esoteric financial instruments -- for sale to investors. Each time, the paperwork should have been changing hands and the homeowner should have been notified that someone new held the note. But just as deciphering the true holder of the mortgage has become more and more difficult for homeowners -- Is it the servicer? Investor? Trustee? Original lender? -- the paperwork has also become difficult to track."