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Replacement counsel sought in New York foreclosure cases

Financial regulator urges mortgage servicers to quickly hire new counsel to prevent added costs to consumers

It’s great to relax and have fun with colleagues at corporate holiday parties. But one group of employees took the “fun” too far at their 2010 Halloween party, and they now are suffering the consequences of their inappropriate behavior.

Last year, employees at the Amherst, N.Y.-based law firm Steven J. Baum, which represented banks and mortgage servicers in about 40 percent of New York’s foreclosure actions in 2010, hosted a foreclosure-themed Halloween party, at which employees dressed as homeless people. The New York Times posted photos of the party, which a former Baum employee submitted because she thought readers should know about the firm’s callous attitude toward consumers whose homes were being foreclosed.

In November, the firm announced that it planned to close. The announcement came after months of federal and state investigations as to whether Baum incorrectly handled its foreclosure cases. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac also had recently barred loan servicers from referring new foreclosure cases to Baum when the firm announced its closure.

On Friday, New York Financial Services Superintendent Benjamin Lawsky said mortgage servicers must “proceed expeditiously” to find replacement counsel for Baum’s foreclosure cases in order to prevent long delays that could result in penalties or fees that would become a financial burden to consumers.

“New Yorkers facing foreclosures should not be penalized in any way because of delays which may arise because many mortgage servicers will now need to find new counsel,” Lawsky said in a statement. “It adds insult to injury for New Yorkers to suffer further as a result of shuttering this abusive and discredited firm.”

Read Thomson Reuters for more information about the Baum foreclosure scandal. 

Ashley Post

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