Never heard of the law firm of Steven J. Baum?
Well, that law firm, located near Buffalo, represents banks and mortgage servicers when they attempt to foreclose on homeowners and evict them from their homes. It is the biggest law firm of its type in the State of New York.
The firm has been denounced by consumers and consumer advocates for participating in "robo-signing" and allegedly improper foreclosures, with critics saying it helped speed up foreclosures to benefit its lender clients by allegedly authorizing the "assignment" or transfer of mortgages from one lender to another when critics say it lacked authority to do so. It's been vilified by advocates, other attorneys, politicians and even judges for submitting sloppy and allegedly fraudulent paperwork that is riddled with legal errors, including faulty affidavits and notarizations.
You would think that a law firm facing such allegations (and a $2 million fine to boot) would clean up its act. But no. About a month ago, the law firm had an office Halloween party. And the employees of the the law firm dressed up as — wait for it — people being foreclosed on. Here are a couple of pictures:
As you can see, the law firm employees showed an appalling lack of compassion toward the homeowners — invariably poor and down on their luck — that the Baum firm had brought foreclosure proceedings against.
In response to this obvious callousness, the two major lenders for home ownership, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (themselves not exactly enjoying a wave of public support) decided to “evict” the law firm of Steven J. Baum from its referral list. That's right, Baum people — no more business for you!
And the results are so so sad. From the Buffalo News:
This month, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage- finance companies operating under U.S. conservatorship, dropped Steven J. Baum PC from their lists of law firms eligible to handle foreclosures. Servicers including Bank of America Corp. and Ally Financial Inc. also stopped using the firm, which last month agreed to pay the U.S. $2 million and change its practices to resolve a probe of faulty foreclosure filings.
“Disrupting the livelihoods of so many dedicated and hardworking people is extremely painful, but the loss of so much business left us no choice but to file these notices,” Steven J. Baum, who owns the firm, said in the statement.
Payback is a bitch, huh?
To the 67 people employed by the Baum firm… don't let the door hit your ass on the way out.
And Kudos to New York Times columnist Joe Nocera for his work on putting a spotlight on these guys.