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What an Awesome Idea for a Halloween Party!

So I'm sure your firm is throwing a big Halloween party, just like this foreclosure mill in upstate New York:
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. I can’t tell you how people dressed for this year’s party, but I can tell you about last year’s.
That’s because a former employee of Steven J. Baum recently sent me snapshots of last year’s party. In an e-mail, she said that she wanted me to see them because they 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.

When we spoke later, she added that the snapshots are an accurate representation of the firm’s mind-set. “There is this really cavalier attitude,” she said. “It doesn’t matter that people are going to lose their homes.” Nor does the firm try to help people get mortgage modifications; the pressure, always, is to foreclose. I told her I wanted to post the photos on The Times’s Web site so that readers could see them. She agreed, but asked to remain anonymous because she said she fears retaliation.

Let me describe a few of the photos. In one, two Baum employees are dressed like homeless people. One is holding a bottle of liquor. The other has a sign around her neck that reads: “3rd party squatter. I lost my home and I was never served.” My source said that “I was never served” is meant to mock “the typical excuse” of the homeowner trying to evade a foreclosure proceeding.

A second picture shows a coffin with a picture of a woman whose eyes have been cut out. A sign on the coffin reads: “Rest in Peace. Crazy Susie.” The reference is to Susan Chana Lask, a lawyer who had filed a class-action suit against Steven J. Baum — and had posted a YouTube video denouncing the firm’s foreclosure practices. “She was a thorn in their side,” said my source.

A third photograph shows a corner of Baum’s office decorated to look like a row of foreclosed homes. Another shows a sign that reads, “Baum Estates” — needless to say, it’s also full of foreclosed houses. Most of the other pictures show either mock homeless camps or mock foreclosure signs — or both. My source told me that not every Baum department used the party to make fun of the troubled homeowners they made their living suing. But some clearly did. The adjective she’d used when she sent them to me — “appalling” — struck me as exactly right. 
Oh lawyers are so funny!

Yet consider the mindset of the lawyers and staff who would think decorating the senior partner's office with foreclosed homes is tasteful let alone humorous.

We often talk about a "war" mentality and the need for group cohesiveness, particularly when engaged in a process that is otherwise difficult either mentally or physically.

And in this case we have a perfect example of that, a culture where the foreclosed homeowners or their counsel are the "enemy," where they are viewed as irresponsible debtors who broke contracts, freeloaders who don't deserve to live in their homes, bottom-feeders who are victimizing the banks and thus deserve little pity and even less justice.

But then how else to justify the soul-numbing nature of the work they are asked to perform day after day?


  1. I've only been involved in one foreclosure case, we handled an appeal, but that experience really opened my eyes.

    In the case we handled, the home owner had refinanced in 2008, taken all the equity out of the home, and then never paid the mortgage once. Two years later she had appealed the foreclosure judgment, another 9 mos. later and the appeal was over. During the appeal we did reach out to counsel, who has his own foreclosure lawsuit against him, to determine if a resolution/modification could be worked out, they never responded.

    2 years and 9 mos. of not paying the mortgage and when she was finally forced out she wasn't even living there, she had rented the home out for more than a year. So not paying mortgage and collecting rent, costing the bank thousands upon thousands. Those costs end up hurting the rest of us.

  2. 2 years and 9 months without paying rent? That's it? Even after appeal? Most people can live in their house (or rent it out) for longer without even having to appeal. I have one sometimes-client who bought a house, paid the monthly mortgage maybe 2 or 3 months, then quit paying. He stayed in the house for well over 3 years, and that was without an appeal to further drag things out.

  3. Lady Gaga gave her old clothes to the poor.

    Don't they have enough to contend with without the added humiliation of wearing last season?

  4. Stereotyping SteveOctober 31, 2011 at 9:17 PM

    There used to be a lawyer in town who bilked clients for millions, bought expensive cars and watches, and was an arrogant prick.

    That story really opened my eyes to lawyers.

    The End.


  5. These jerks exceed any stereotype in spades.


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