Outrageous Foreclosure Mill Halloween Party Photos Show Contempt of Homeowners

(NYT)   On Friday, the law firm of Steven J. Baum threw a Halloween party.The firm, which is located near Buffalo, is what is commonly referred to as a “foreclosure mill” firm, meaning it represents banks and mortgage servicers as they attempt to foreclose on homeowners and evict them from their homes. Steven J. Baum is, in fact, the largest such firm in New York; it represents virtually all the giant mortgage lenders, including Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo.

hoto from a former employee of the law firm of Steven J. Baum: Two Steven J. Baum employees mocking homeowners who have been foreclosed on.

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.

This photo is a depiction of Susan Chana Lask, who posted a YouTube video denouncing the firm.

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

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 posteda 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.

These pictures are hardly the first piece of evidence that the Baum firm treats homeowners shabbily — or that it uses dubious legal practices to do so. It is under investigation by the New York attorney general, Eric Schneiderman. It recently agreed to pay $2 million to resolve an investigation by the Department of Justice into whether the firm had “filed misleading pleadings, affidavits, and mortgage assignments in the state and federal courts in New York.” (In the press release announcing the settlement, Baum acknowledged only that “it occasionally made inadvertent errors.”)

MFY Legal Services, which defends homeowners, and Harwood Feffer, a large class-action firm, have filed a class-action suit claiming that Steven J. Baum has consistently failed to file certain papers that are necessary to allow for a state-mandated settlement conference that can lead to a modification. Judge Arthur Schack of the State Supreme Court in Brooklyn once described Baum’s foreclosure filings as “operating in a parallel mortgage universe, unrelated to the real universe.” (My source told me that one Baum employee dressed up as Judge Schack at a previous Halloween party.)

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.

I saw the firm operate up close when I wrote several columns about Lilla Roberts, a 73-year-old homeowner who had spent three years in foreclosure hell. Although she had a steady income and was a good candidate for a modification, the Baum firm treated her mercilessly.

When I called a press spokesman for Steven J. Baum to ask about the photographs, he sent me a statement a few hours later. “It has been suggested that some employees dress in … attire that mocks or attempts to belittle the plight of those who have lost their homes,” the statement read. “Nothing could be further from the truth.” It described this column as “another attempt by The New York Times to attack our firm and our work.”

A "squatter" in Baum Estates.

I encourage you to look at the photographs with this column on the Web. Then judge for yourself the veracity of Steven J. Baum’s denial.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/29/opinion/what-the-costumes-reveal.html?_r=2

16 Responses to Outrageous Foreclosure Mill Halloween Party Photos Show Contempt of Homeowners

  • What a bunch of ASSHOLES!

  • These people have no souls. They are already dead and don’t even know it.

  • Who the fuck are these people? Don’t they realize after THEIR jobs are gone, their houses will be foreclosed? And then where will they be? They should keep those “props” for their own future use!!

  • He/she who mocks, is thereby mocked.

  • Disgusting sub human filth. This is what OWS ia all about, drawing attention to the inhumanity that has taken over society. These people (if that term can be applied to them) have no humanity, no souls, they are zombies!

  • The mentality of these scumbags reminds of the US torturers in Iraq with their festive photo ops seen around the world.

  • May these sleazebags burn in hell. But not until after they lose everything and end up on the street homeless.

  • That is some sick shit. I am one of the foreclosed. Fuck You Baum. Anyone have the names of the three cunts in the pics?

  • makes me sick

  • This is OUTRAGEOUS and SHAMEFUL!!!!!! How dare these people make fun of the suffering of others. I pray for their souls ~ KARMA is a bitch.

  • These people are agents of Darkness. There names and adresses and who they work for should be placed on a website to identify them. So the rest of the world know to not do buisness with them or so they can decide if they even want them in there pressence. The attorneys have destroyed the nation. They have raped and pillaged the nation through the judicial system. The Judicial system and legislation systems in our goverment are ruined because of attorneys, They have no morality GOD doesnt exist to these attorneys. They are responsible for gay rights, abortion, the current melt down of our financial system and destruction of the dollar, are responsible for the foreclosures they are the ones who wrote the laws to allow predatory lending. They are responsible for everything that is inflated and expensive in the country from healthcare to airline travel WHY because SUE SUE SUE causing buisnesses to fold and have to raise the prices. When Revolution comes the attorneys should have there assests ceased and jailed for life but I have a feeling the gillatines will be brought in instead call these people out put there names and adresses on the internet. ~

  • If you look at these women in the pics they look like a bunch of skank whores. Very sleezy, I do understand they are dressed up for halloween to but Im just saying in general Also this is how people associated with attorneys are. They have no morality, No belief in GOD. No wonder attorneys and those that work for them are the most hated people in society , they just slightly behind muslim terroist as being the most hated people on the planet! Most women who work for attorneys are also sex toys. This is a fact.

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