Who Are These People? Foreclosure Firm Staff Mock Homeless People At Halloween Party

These pictures sent to columnist Joe Nocera from a Halloween party last year show affluent people mocking homeless people with signs like this reading “3rd Party Squatter. I Lost My Home & Was Never Served!!” Under any circumstances in a devastating recession, such costumes would show callous and tasteless senses of humor. However, this was a party of lawyer with the law firm of Steven J. Baum, a “foreclosure mill” representing banks and mortgage servicers.

For attorneys or their staff to mock suffering people leaves a stain not just on that firm but on the bar. It is bad enough to see lawyers running these mill operations. However, to profiteer on such mills while mocking those put on the street is truly grotesque. It will be interesting to know what the firms clients — Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo — say about counsel who love to dress up as homeless, poor people.

The Amherst, N.Y. law firm is accused of not just mocking poor people but maintaining a “really cavalier attitude” on foreclosures and the interests of the displaced families and individuals. While first attacking the pictures and calling them a smear job, Steven J. Baum later apologized for “poor taste.”

The question is whether such offensive costumes represent bar violations. I think they are protected speech. However, that does not mean that we should not condemn such practices or raise the question of whether these companies should put such sensitive cases in the hands of such insensitive people.

Source: NY Times

33 thoughts on “Who Are These People? Foreclosure Firm Staff Mock Homeless People At Halloween Party”

  1. Here’s an article worth reading:

    Invasion of the Home Snatchers
    Matt Taibbi on how foreclosure courts are helping big banks screw over homeowners
    November 10, 2010

    The foreclosure lawyers down in Jacksonville had warned me, but I was skeptical. They told me the state of Florida had created a special super-high-speed housing court with a specific mandate to rubber-stamp the legally dicey foreclosures by corporate mortgage pushers like Deutsche Bank and JP Morgan Chase. This “rocket docket,” as it is called in town, is presided over by retired judges who seem to have no clue about the insanely complex financial instruments they are ruling on — securitized mortgages and laby­rinthine derivative deals of a type that didn’t even exist when most of them were active members of the bench. Their stated mission isn’t to decide right and wrong, but to clear cases and blast human beings out of their homes with ultimate velocity. They certainly have no incentive to penetrate the profound criminal mysteries of the great American mortgage bubble of the 2000s, perhaps the most complex Ponzi scheme in human history — an epic mountain range of corporate fraud in which Wall Street megabanks conspired first to collect huge numbers of subprime mortgages, then to unload them on unsuspecting third parties like pensions, trade unions and insurance companies (and, ultimately, you and me, as taxpayers) in the guise of AAA-rated investments. Selling lead as gold, shit as Chanel No. 5, was the essence of the booming international fraud scheme that created most all of these now-failing home mortgages.

    Looting Main Street

    The rocket docket wasn’t created to investigate any of that. It exists to launder the crime and bury the evidence by speeding thousands of fraudulent and predatory loans to the ends of their life cycles, so that the houses attached to them can be sold again with clean paperwork. The judges, in fact, openly admit that their primary mission is not justice but speed. One Jacksonville judge, the Honorable A.C. Soud, even told a local newspaper that his goal is to resolve 25 cases per hour. Given the way the system is rigged, that means His Honor could well be throwing one ass on the street every 2.4 minutes.

    Foreclosure lawyers told me one other thing about the rocket docket. The hearings, they said, aren’t exactly public. “The judges might give you a hard time about watching,” one lawyer warned. “They’re not exactly anxious for people to know about this stuff.” Inwardly, I laughed at this — it sounded like typical activist paranoia. The notion that a judge would try to prevent any citizen, much less a member of the media, from watching an open civil hearing sounded ridiculous. Fucked-up as everyone knows the state of Florida is, it couldn’t be that bad. It isn’t Indonesia. Right?

    Well, not quite. When I went to sit in on Judge Soud’s courtroom in downtown Jacksonville, I was treated to an intimate, and at times breathtaking, education in the horror of the foreclosure crisis, which is rapidly emerging as the even scarier sequel to the financial meltdown of 2008: Invasion of the Home Snatchers II. In Las Vegas, one in 25 homes is now in foreclosure. In Fort Myers, Florida, one in 35. In September, lenders nationwide took over a rec­ord 102,134 properties; that same month, more than a third of all home sales were distressed properties. All told, some 820,000 Americans have already lost their homes this year, and another 1 million currently face foreclosure.

    Throughout the mounting catastrophe, however, many Americans have been slow to comprehend the true nature of the mortgage disaster. They seemed to have grasped just two things about the crisis: One, a lot of people are getting their houses foreclosed on. Two, some of the banks doing the foreclosing seem to have misplaced their paperwork.

    For most people, the former bit about homeowners not paying their damn bills is the important part, while the latter, about the sudden and strange inability of the world’s biggest and wealthiest banks to keep proper records, is incidental. Just a little office sloppiness, and who cares? Those deadbeat homeowners still owe the money, right? “They had it coming to them,” is how a bartender at the Jacksonville airport put it to me.

    But in reality, it’s the unpaid bills that are incidental and the lost paperwork that matters. It turns out that underneath that little iceberg tip of exposed evidence lies a fraud so gigantic that it literally cannot be contemplated by our leaders, for fear of admitting that our entire financial system is corrupted to its core — with our great banks and even our government coffers backed not by real wealth but by vast landfills of deceptively generated and essentially worthless mortgage-backed assets.

    You’ve heard of Too Big to Fail — the foreclosure crisis is Too Big for Fraud. Think of the Bernie Madoff scam, only replicated tens of thousands of times over, infecting every corner of the financial universe. The underlying crime is so pervasive, we simply can’t admit to it — and so we are working feverishly to rubber-stamp the problem away, in sordid little backrooms in cities like Jacksonville, behind doors that shouldn’t be, but often are, closed.

    And that’s just the economic side of the story. The moral angle to the foreclosure crisis — and, of course, in capitalism we’re not supposed to be concerned with the moral stuff, but let’s mention it anyway — shows a culture that is slowly giving in to a futuristic nightmare ideology of computerized greed and unchecked financial violence. The monster in the foreclosure crisis has no face and no brain. The mortgages that are being foreclosed upon have no real owners. The lawyers bringing the cases to evict the humans have no real clients. It is complete and absolute legal and economic chaos. No single limb of this vast man-­eating thing knows what the other is doing, which makes it nearly impossible to combat — and scary as hell to watch.

  2. I represented a homebuilder in Texas who took back paper to finance the sale of some of his homes. Once in a while someone would default and we would be asked to foreclose. Texas had a draconian non-judicial foreclosure arrangement where the house would be sold by the trustee under the deed of trust to the highest bidder(usually the creditor or some bottom feeder) for the amount of the debt. It was the practice for the creditor to replace the original DOT trustee with the lawyer doing the foreclosing. This meant that I personally would send notices of foreclosure to the poor homeowner. People would call me in tears.. I couldn’t stand it and took the coward’s way out by forcing some paralegal to be named DOT trustee. Thankfully I never had to do any consumer real estate foreclisures.

    This is the type of scum drawn to the practice of law nowadays. ..I am very familiar with the obscene leniency given by the New York State Bar to misbehaving attorneys. Look at the case of Mitch Rothkin, who was holding $2 million for a client in connection with a Starker exchange. He “borrowed” this money to finance his stipper mistress’s purchase of a strip club. When the client asked for the money the shit hit the fan and he ended up sitting in Riker’s Island where he reportedly made a tidy sum representing his fellow inmates. The NY State Bar’s initial sanction was 5 year’s suspension. This was greeted with justifiable howls of outrage. He ultimately surrenderd his license. When last seen, he was working as a paralegal…

  3. The General Strike is going well. Veterans are marching in Occupy Wall Street.

    Time for these guys and gals to go buy some medals, uniforms and gas canisters so they can make fun of some new people! Or, maybe not!!!

  4. rafflaw:

    I think karma is on a fast track with the Baum Law Firm. According to the NYT piece he’s paid out $2 million in fines due to a DOJ investigation and has an NY State Attorney General’s investigation going and a class action suit on his hands. Are the good times still rolling for Baum?

    1. I hope he winds up in prison and disbarred. THAT will be true justice, the hell with karma.

  5. “We do self-select for law school.”

    An attorney was frequently referred to as, “That a– hole lawyer.” If he represented the wife, your client was a profligate; if he represented the husband, your client was a whore.

    I finally had enough of the manner in which he was referred: “Why do you keep calling him an a–hole lawyer? He’s an a–hole whether he was a doctor, banker, accountant or what have you. Being a lawyer didn’t make him that way.”

  6. At least the lawyer in Michael Moore’s Capitalism – a love story was all business and was perfectly aware that he was a snake.

  7. Actually Gene….if it leads to disrespect of the profession I think that it could be at the very least an admonishment….under Section 8.4

  8. Elaine said it best. Those companies want attorneys that will disregard the facts and the law to push these foreclosures through. As Mespo stated, Karma does have a tendency to come back to bite you!

  9. It’s interesting what laughter can do. I sometimes think I can tell more about a person by what makes him or her laugh than by any other sign. CERTAINLY I can tell more about a person by laughter than by words. And of course, people who laugh at MY JOKES are the true aristocrats and intellectuals.

  10. I’ll second everyone’s comments and add one more thing. They ought to know that people never got served! Can’t wait for them to testify in a court of law on that subject, since they are willing to admit to it on their office party signs.

    P.S. Most of these people use cocaine and alcohol so this was probably just the afterglow shot of their party.

    General Strike in about 20 minutes, Oakland Rules!!!

  11. I think there exists a cosmic karma that comes round on those who mock the less fortunate and take glee in their plight. Dickens wrote about it; so did Poe and Dostoyevsky. There’s a line about it in Proverbs, too. Something about gloating over disaster only to have it befall you. Here’s hoping for a speedy return of karma here.

  12. It’s strange how the mortgage and foreclosure situation is more than half fraudulent. Out in California there’s a couple running a cottage industry (multi-millions) of brokering mortgages and selling them in batches, and in each batch there is ONE that is totally fraudulent, on which NOT A SINGLE PAYMENT GETS MADE, and it goes into foreclosure immediately and then gets re-sold. They do it with the same property over and over and over and over and each time, the price rises. They churn these properties and take in all the cash-outs and the mortgage applications are a JOKE. They also use a notary seal to authenticate everything when the notary is not even there. Some of the people applying for these mortgages are seniors living on social security with incomes of $800 per month getting half million dollar mortgages and defaulting; they are not even aware that they have applied for the mortgage! And as many times as their frauds are reported to law enforcement, we hear the same response: Thre are SO MANY FRAUDS that we don’t have time to prosecute. Isn’t it amazing that they have time to prosecute folks for smoking a joint and don’t have time to clean up some of these ongoing fraud factories?

  13. It doesn’t seem so, but this is life in an infected meme complex. Another way of saying it is that callous hearts spread the disease that made them cold, heartless bastids in the first place.

  14. “It will be interesting to know what the firms clients — Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo — say about counsel who love to dress up as homeless, poor people.

    “The Amherst, N.Y. law firm is accused of not just mocking poor people but maintaining a “really cavalier attitude” on foreclosures and the interests of the displaced families and individuals.”


    Why do you suppose Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo chose this law firm? My guess would be that those clients knew exactly what kind of people they were hiring.

  15. WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE? is a good headline. Jokes aside, some of my best friends are lawyers (and a few of my worst enemies are too) but as one of those best friend lawyers once told me, “We do self-select for law school.” In an uncomfortably large number of lawyers (over many years; I was a legal secretary for 25 years and I was the victim of a vexatious litigator for 30) I see a certain quality, I don’t know, combat for combat’s sake, or the desire to get your foot on somebody’s neck, whatever. Strangely it goes hand-in-hand with being obsequious to judges! It is also a quality of many judges, very dismaying. But I can’t say that this surprised me at all. It’s “HEY THESE FOLKS ARE LOSERS HA HA HA” in an unabashed form. I remember one lawyer telling me that “losing a case makes you lose your credibility.” When you consider that probably HALF the cases that end up in the US Supreme Court (which obvioiusly came there either from the federal appeals bench or from the highest state courts in the land) are REVERSED, you should be able to stop equating “losing” with “loser” but that is, unfortunately, a common take on the part of many lawyers. I was in a settlement conference with a lawyer recently (“hot-shot” lawyer) who kept saying (3 X in 2 hours) “[nasty chuckle] I’m having a hard time staying respectful!” because he claimed that his side would win and his predictions would work. And he was sitting directly to the left of an extremely prestigious lawyer who was retired from being one of the top partners of one of the finest firms in New York, and this prestigious lawyer sitting next to him DOES respect me and made that clear. So I have thought back to his comments recently and concluded that the way some lawyers boost their egos is by making their whole life into a disdainful sneer unless they’re scraping and bowing before somebody powerful. It’s really not a comment on lawyers so much as a comment on our society, I think.

  16. “”At this year’s party we raised money for the American Red Cross. Our office continues to be active in the community and has donated to Habitat for Humanity, Hospice of Buffalo and the Ronald McDonald Foundation among others. We have held various fundraisers for our servicemen and women. We are also involved in the Military Warriors Foundation, in having our clients donate foreclosed homes to soldiers in need.”


  17. Well given the fact that many if not most of the foreclosures were fraudulent, I hope that this firm’s lawyers and others like them will go to prison for perpetrating fraud upon the court with robo signers who committed perjury on legal documents. My question is have any lawyers gone to prison for robo signing? Have any been disbarred?

    I think a good response would be to have folks dressed as jailbirds with lawyers bar cards on them.

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