Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Top 1% Mocks Homeless at Halloween Party

The 1% mocked the homeless and homeowners, many who have been illegally foreclosed on, in a Halloween celebration. First they TRICKED innocent homeowners, then they TREATED themselves. Now they're being investigated for fraud by the authorities.

This story makes one wonder how prevalent this is among the uber-wealthy. Oh, what a real treat it would be if only I could be a fly in the wall in their mansions and boardrooms! It's no wonder those protesters on Wall Street are camped out in a New York City park in the freezing cold and snow. And maybe the 1% is right now gazing down upon them in the comfort of their warm multi-million-dollar penthouse suites, laughing and making jokes as they sip on their $50,000-a-bottle Pernod-Ricard Perrier-Jouet champagne.

Bloomberg reports that multi-millionaire Steven J. Baum’s New York foreclosure law firm has attracted lawsuits and fines for its actions during the housing crisis, with one judge likening its conduct to something out of the “Twilight Zone."

Late last year Baum’s firm, which one lawyer for homeowners said processes about half the foreclosures in New York state, was ordered to pay legal fees, fines, and costs by a Nassau County District Court Judge.

A probe came after JPMorgan Chase and Ally Financial's GMAC mortgage unit said they would stop repossessions in 23 states where courts supervise home seizures and Bank of America froze foreclosures nationwide.

Steven J. Baum's firm has been accused of overcharging, filing false documents and representing parties on both sides of a mortgage transfer. Baum runs the firm his father founded in 1972 and he is said to be worth $50 million.

Baum has gained notoriety statewide and nationally, as the firm’s work in the foreclosure crisis placed it in the midst of the controversy over improper legal paperwork and so-called “robo-signing.” Employees of banks and law firms have admitted to signing tens of thousands of affidavits and other court documents attesting to the circumstances of a foreclosure without actually knowing them or reviewing them, as required by law.

The controversy and investigation are major issues for Baum, which employs well over 100 people.

Originally a small real estate firm, Baum has grown rapidly over the past decade into New York’s dominant foreclosure firm, handling over 40 percent of filings statewide on behalf of the nation’s biggest mortgage lenders and loan servicers.

In the process, it has mastered the task of generating and filing routine court papers through an assembly-line operation, enabling it to churn out tens of thousands of documents a year for its bank clients in an effort to speed foreclosures. The firm has become the linchpin in the flood of foreclosure activity in the state. As a result, it’s now squarely in the cross hairs of consumer advocates and opposing attorneys, who denounce its work and label it “a foreclosure mill” as they fight it in court.

“It’s truly a foreclosure factory. They really mass-produce these things without putting sufficient effort into preparing a polished product,” said Craig D. Robins, a Long Island consumer bankruptcy and foreclosure attorney. “The quality of their work is sub-par.”

The firm and its attorneys have been criticized for submitting court documents that opposing attorneys and judges say are riddled with errors and unsubstantiated claims.

There are also assertions of rampant conflicts of interest with Baum, as some of the firm’s attorneys are signing mortgage “assignments” or transfers from one bank to another as “deputies” or agents of the Mortgage Electronic Registry Service, or MERS. At the same time, their firm represents the bank that is trying to foreclose, so the firm is representing both sides of the mortgage transfer. And during the process, their employment with Baum is not disclosed to the court.

MERS is a service created by the banking industry to simplify the sale and transfer of loans by recording them in MERS’ name without having to file new county records each time a different bank takes over. But the validity of the entire system, and Baum’s role in it, is now under attack nationwide. MERS is now being sued by Delaware's Attorney General

Critics have accused Baum's firm of not only sloppy and unprofessional work, but fraud. It’s even the target of a couple of class-action racketeering lawsuits.

“People have talked about robo-signers and paper irregularity. This is fraud,” said Ronald J. Kim, an attorney in Saratoga Springs. “A lot of the things Baum has done, I would have had my license taken away for.”

And in Nassau County District Court, Judge Scott Fairgrieve accused the Baum firm of misrepresenting its client’s position and trying to mislead the court, calling its actions “outrageous,” “reprehensible” and “repugnant.”

Now the state New York attorney general has set his sights on the firm. Most of the nation’s attorneys general are negotiating a massive $20 billion settlement with lenders, mortgage servicers and related parties.

In particular, he’s examining the relationship between Baum and Pillar Processing, a legal documents processing and outsourcing company that Baum founded and then sold in 2007 to a Wall Street hedge fund, Tailwind Capital. Besides documents, Pillar provides human resources, accounting and technology services for Baum.

Although legally separate, the two companies remain intertwined, with their office suites sharing the same space, secured entrance and receptionist in a nondescript suburban office building at 220 Northpointe Parkway. Most of Pillar’s work is for Baum’s firm, although Pillar’s employees for the most part are not lawyers.

From InfoWars - October 30, 2011 - On Friday, the law firm of Steven J. Baum, that represents virtually all the giant mortgage lenders, including Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo, threw a Halloween party.

The party is the firm’s big annual bash. Employees wear Halloween costumes to the office, where they party until around noon, and then return to work, still in costume. A former employee of Steven J. Baum recently sent snapshots of last year’s party via e-mail, and in the e-mail it said that "she" wanted to show the appalling lack of compassion toward the homeowners — invariably poor and down on their luck — that the Baum firm had brought foreclosure proceedings against.

Reuters reported that Baum's firm has recently received some of the worst PR imaginable over the weekend, when the New York Times ran office Halloween-party photos featuring the firm's staff seeming to mock the homeless and displaced.

In one photo, a woman wears a sign around her neck that reads, "3rd party squatter. I lost my home and I was never served." That statement is meant to mock "the typical excuse of the homeowner trying to evade a foreclosure."

Another picture shows a coffin with a picture of woman with her eyes cut out. A sign reads, "Rest in Peace. Crazy Susie." That's allegedly a reference to Susan Chana Lask, a lawyer who filed a class-action suit against Steven J. Baum.

According to the New York Times, the firm is already under investigation by the New York attorney general, and it recently agreed to pay $2 million to resolve an investigation by the Department of Justice into whether it had "filed misleading pleadings, affidavits, and mortgage assignments in the state and federal courts of New York."

The Buffalo News says that those at the office Halloween party were criticized as being insensitive toward people who were losing their homes.

A corner of the office party was decorated like foreclosed homes; and a sign reading “Baum Estates.”

The head of the firm, Steven J. Baum, said in a statement to The Buffalo News on Saturday that the photos obviously were in poor taste. "On behalf of the firm, I sincerely apologize for what happened at our Halloween party."

The photos had generated 175 reader comments on the New York Times website as of Saturday evening. “I am appalled but find I pity those in these photos,” one reader wrote. “The lack of their empathy and humanity are apparent.”

Photos from a former employee of the law firm of Steven J. Baum

Steven J. Baum employees mocking homeowners who have been foreclosed on.

A corner of the Baum office was decorated to look like a row of foreclosed homes.

O.T.S.C. stands for order to show cause, a last-ditch motion often made by desperate homeowners about to be evicted from their homes.

Contact Steven J. Baum

Phone: 716-204-2400

* Fax: 716-204-4600
* 716-204-2496

Regular Mail

P.O. Box 1291
Buffalo, NY 14240-1291

Overnight Mail (Physical address of office)

220 Northpointe Pkwy, Suite G
Amherst, NY 14228

Long Island Address

900 Merchants Concourse
Suite 412
Westbury, NY 11590
* This is not a mailing address *


  1. UPDATE:

    CLASS IRONY-FARE - "The 89 employees of a New York law firm specializing in foreclosures who dressed as homeless people during an office Halloween party last year have been thrown out on the street.

    Steven J. Baum P.C., a firm that specialized in foreclosures, is closing its doors a month after photos showing employees celebrating Halloween by dressing like the homeless surfaced in a New York Times column by Joe Nocera. Noerca wrote a follow up column this weekend, in which he quoted an angry email he received from Mr. Baum himself. The firm announced the shuttering via press release and was reported by the NYT."

  2. Foreclosure Firm Steven J. Baum to Close Down

    After those photos surfaced, the mortgage giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae cut off the Baum firm, forbidding servicers of their mortgages from using Mr. Baum and his colleagues. That effectively served as the firm’s death knell.

    On Saturday, Joe Nocera, The Times columnist who originally wrote about the firm’s Halloween party, published another column about the controversy. In it, he quoted an e-mail that Mr. Baum had sent him last week.

    “Mr. Nocera — You have destroyed everything and everyone related to Steven J. Baum PC,” said the letter. “It took 40 years to build this firm and three weeks to tear down.”

    “I think that’s what they call shooting the messenger,” Mr. Nocera wrote.