Foreclosure law firm famed for mocking the foreclosed-on will close; world's tiniest violin plays sad song

Awwww, that "foreclosure mill" law firm that threw Halloween parties where employees dressed as foreclosed-upon Americans is going out of business. I has a tiny widdle sad.

The firm had already been denounced by consumers and consumer advocates for its work on behalf of lenders even before the "robo-signing" controversy thrust it into the middle of a nationwide crisis over the legitimacy of the legal process underpinning many foreclosures. Since then, the firm has been criticized 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.

And 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. The firm last month agreed to pay a $2 million fine and change its practices to settle a federal investigation by the U.S. Justice Department, but it's also under investigation by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who has subpoenaed the firm and people associated with it. Most recently, Cong. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, launched an investigation into Baum, and wrote to the firm to request documents.

But what really seems to have accelerated the demise of the firm were photos that recently emerged into the national spotlight from the firm's Halloween party last year, at which Baum employees dressed up as foreclosure victims and attorneys, mocking and ridiculing them. In one case, a New York City attorney who had sued Baum in a class-action case and then fought off a defamation suit from Baum, was depicted in a rather macabre scene.

More at Buffalo News. (thanks, EC!)

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  1. Try to keep in mind that most of the people laid off were not the ones in the picture making fun of the homeless, OK?

    1. So, basically, there’ll be few people digging out their old Halloween costumes and wearing them for realsies, then?

    2. Try to keep in mind that most of the people laid off were not the ones in the picture making fun of the homeless, OK

      But 100% of the people laid off worked for an unquestionably sleazy law firm. If your income comes from a criminal organization then I don’t really care if you’re the one busting kneecaps or just the one doing the money laundering, I’m not gonna shed any tears when you get laid off.

      1. Of course the firm is sleazy, but imagine if the choice is doing something innocuous for them like answering phones or being out looking for a job in this hideous economy when you have a family to feed.

        1. I imagine someone likely lost a good receptionist gig when John Gotti went down too. Boo fuckin’ hoo.

        2. I tend to agree with you, but if that’s so, hopefully those laid off that aren’t the a-holes in the pictures will join the Occupy movement.

        3. “I have a family to feed” as an excuse for turning a blind eye to crime, corruption, and clear harm done is what allows them to continue unabated, whether it exists in government, law enforcement, military, or the private sector.

           “No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.” –Voltaire

      2. Some corporations are sleazier than others, but corporations have a duty to one thing and one thing only – maximising profits.  

        We don’t *really* get to choose who we work for.  We choose amongst the small number of employers that will hire us.  As unemployment rises the reality is that it becomes a buyers market for the purchase of labour power. 

        The blame needs to be placed squarely on the bosses and the system which requires that we have an unaccountable dictatorship for our work life.

        1. Some corporations are sleazier than others, but corporations have a duty to one thing and one thing only – maximising profits.   We don’t *really* get to choose who we work for…

          Bullcrap. I could be making a lot more money than I am now if I had no moral qualms about how the work I do impacts society, and I don’t even have a law degree. “Please, won’t someone think of the poverty-mocking lawyers!” isn’t going to go very far with me.

          Besides, even the sleaziest of corporations has one more duty than you seem to acknowledge: they have a duty to obey the law. This law firm was not only callous in its treatment of unlucky homeowners, it apparently engaged in outright fraud while doing so. The world is better off without organizations like this one no matter how many people they employ.

  2. kar·ma  (kärm)n.1. Hinduism & Buddhism The total effect of a person’s actions and conduct during the successive phases of the person’s existence, regarded as determining the person’s destiny.2. Fate; destiny.

    1. FYI – that definition has very little to do with the actual concept of Karma as defined in Hinduism and Buddhism.

      1. It’s true, but explaining to the average westerner what “karma as action” means is tough, when we have several decades of pop spirituality that dictates that “karma is the universe’s way of kicking you int he ass if you were a dick, and hooking you up if you were good.”

        1. In real Hindu/Buddhist philosophy, samskara (the code in the Matrix that generates the action [karma]) is mostly ‘imposed’, ie comes from societal expectations, beliefs derived from authority figures, etc. rather than from personal actions. That really takes the wind out of the blame sails. Which is probably why nobody pays any attention to it.

  3. It just means that their bitterness and cynicism will be dispersed among the firms who will no doubt be eager to hire up such aggressive and results-oriented people.  And we will have one less obvious name to watch.

  4. Yes, it’s easy to talk about zero tolerance for the kind of shit that these companies do. But it’s very possible that you submitted your comment from an iPhone made in a Chinese prison/factory, or while wearing shoes made by children in a sweatshop. We are all so interconnected these day that it seems difficult to draw the line. I just try not to do evil myself, or help somebody else do it directly.

    1. Right. But here’s the thing. If you really do want to see these kinds of practices fall by the wayside there CAN NOT be any enabling behavior. Oh the poor firms. So what? So we have to protect them so they can exploit us? That is just sick.

      Firms like this *should* fail. Yes, the people in them will suffer… but the only way to keep more people from exploiting us through firms like this is to make it unprofitable and not worth it to do.

      Your priorities… they are whack.

    2. “Yes, it’s easy to talk about zero tolerance for the kind of shit that these companies do. But it’s very possible that you submitted your comment from an iPhone made in a Chinese prison/factory, or while wearing shoes made by children in a sweatshop. We are all so interconnected these day that it seems difficult to draw the line. I just try not to do evil myself, or help somebody else do it directly.”

      I’m curious though, is life worse for the average Chinese now, working in a factory that has suicide rates that are actually less bad than the average suicide rate in the USA, or was it worse back on the rice paddy?  Is someone in China holding a gun to those workers’ heads, forcing them to go to work?  Or are they lining up for such jobs?  And at the end of the day, is it the responsibility of us as consumers to make working conditions better for those in China (and of course other nations with working standards way lower than our own) — or is it the responsibility of the actual workers in those countries, to demand better conditions?  I find the irony with China in particular that so much lip service is paid over there, from what I gather, to the Communist Party, which, if memory serves, is supposedly ALL ABOUT “the worker” and yet they apparently have such horrible working conditions.  Maybe those workers should stand up for their rights, if they are so important.

      I’m honestly not trying to be an arse with this comment, but I dunno, it just strikes me as those workers’ responsibilities more than ours to stand up for what they want — if they really do want something other than what they have.

      1. I’m curious though, is life worse for the average Chinese now…

        Little though I like the PRC and horrible as many of their policies are, China has done more to eradicate poverty than the rest of the world combined, which has backslid in many cases.

    3. The harm caused by those sort of companies when they are operating is much greater than the harm caused by their closure. Utilitarian ethics wins.

    4. “it’s very possible that you submitted your comment from an iPhone made in a Chinese prison/factory”

      As was your computer, which ontains components fabricated in a Foxconn (or similar) facility.

  5. Also one injustice does not cancel out another. I’m tired, in general, of this constant sort of game that people play whereby if some one takes a stance on *one* social issue another attempts to shut that down by saying “but you probably have an iPhone/eat meat/drive a car/do some other behavior that has negative impact somewhere or is a part of another social issue.”

    So what? These things do not cancel each other out. The fact that there is genocide in Uganda does not make it cool to pepper spray kids at UC. The fact that iPhone uses Chinese labor does not make what this firm did any better. It means nothing.  It especially means nothing when it is coupled with a “I just try to be a nice person argument” If you find yourself making an argument like that, try reversing it.

    Imagine you are telling people that we should go easier on the issue of Chinese sweatshop conditions because there are law firms ripping people off in the US, for instance.

    1. Do you hope that for their children as well? Or because a parent was in err, do those children no longer matter at all?

      1. Do you hope that for their children as well? Or because a parent was in err, do those children no longer matter at all?

        The children of criminals don’t deserve to be punished for their parents’ misdeeds. On the other hand they also don’t deserve to profit from their parents’ misdeeds. If your family has to sell off the summer home in the Hamptons because your dad got busted for racketeering, so be it.

  6. @ Mitchell Glaser
    “… in this hideous economy when you have a family to feed.”

    Concern for victims is a fine thing, but I’m pretty sure you’ve identified the wrong group as the primary victims here.

    Let me help you with your care targetting: When you have a family to feed in this hideous economy, it’s helpful to be able to do so in a house that hasn’t been improperly foreclosed on.

  7. Steven J Baum has blamed the closure of his firm on the NY Times columnist who brought the firm to a lot of people’s attention: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/19/opinion/nocera-baum-weighs-in-after-uproar.html

    Seems to me like this guy’s actually sociopathic in the clinical sense, not just the “I find you a thoroughly unlikable person whom I want to insult” sense.

  8. I think we all have something new to be thankful for this holiday season. Bad things happening to evil people, you gotta love it. This schadenfreude is more delicious than my grandma’s sweet potato casserole, and that stuff’s pretty damn good.

  9. The fact that there isn’t more violence in America against firms like this, I think it suggests we are getting to be better people. Or, we’ve given up fighting. I hope it’s the former – because I grew up in an environment where you hurt people like the folks running this firm. Takes a lot of effort not to think that’s the way it should be done.

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