A former Citigroup executive has been tapped to head Reston-based Merscorp, the parent company of the firm that maintains an electronic mortgage clearinghouse embroiled in a series of lawsuits involving the documentation of foreclosures.

Bill Beckmann joins as president and chief executive of the company and its subsidiary — Mortgage Electronic Registrations Systems Inc. — effective immediately, a company spokeswoman said.

Beckmann replaces R.K. Arnold, the longtime MERS official who retired in January. Paul Bognanno, the company’s interim chief, organized the search that ultimately led to Beckmann’s hiring and will play a consulting role during the transition.

In a statement released Friday, Merscorp touted Beckmann’s mortgage industry expertise. Beckmann spent more than two decades at Citigroup and served as chairman and chief executive of CitiMortgage before leaving the company in 2008. More recently, he ran his own consulting firm. ¢

Beckmann joins an operation that’s become integral to the mortgage industry’s operations but a lightning rod for critics, who say that gaps and errors in its private electronic database have spurred the nation’s mortgage mess.

That database, created in the mid-1990s, is a registry of 68 million mortgages or 60 percent of the nation’s residential loans. It enables brokers to bundle mortgages to sell to investors without having to deal with the slow process of moving documents through county courthouses.

In addition to tracking the transfer of mortgages, MERS also serves as a proxy for mortgage owners in the foreclosure process.

In its statement, the company made no mention of its legal headaches. But Merscorp chairman Kurt Pfotenhauer said Beckmann’s knowledge and experience “will be instrumental as we continue to implement initiatives to strengthen and improve the MERS brand.”

Beckmann said he’s excited to be part of a firm that “provides a unique and vital service to the nation’s housing finance system.”

During his time at CitiMortgage, Beckmann oversaw strategy, sales, operations, capital markets and regulatory issues. At the time, the company had 4 million residential mortgage customers.

Beckmann holds an M.S. in management from the Stanford Sloan Program and a bachelor’s in mathematical economics from Brown University.

Researcher Lucy Shackelford contributed to this report.