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EDITOR’S COMMENT: Even if you think that foreclosed homeowners deserve it, you wouldn’t like these pictures. It’s like being in favor of the war in Iraq and then seeing pictures of American soldiers torturing prisoners. There is something distinctly unAmerican in treating the victims of foreclosure as objects of ridicule and disdain — by people who have been shown time and time again to have violated the law in their fervor to push through tens of thousands of foreclosures. The culture of that firm must sicken anyone and the employee who took these pictures did us a favor. If you were not angry yet about the Banks and their “tools” like Baum, you are at least uncomfortable.

Even if you take as gospel the ideology that their misfortune is their own fault” how can anyone take pleasure and fun out of the misery of those who are overburdened with debt? How can we stand by as the numbers increase geometrically on suicides, attempted suicides, domestic violence and death? Wouldn’t you rather see that stop than to continue? Unfortunately it seems that the only thing that moves most people is when it finally happens to them and they have the time and the anger to figure things out, fight back or give in and give up.

But these pictures show us something more. They show us how man’s inhumanity to man is alive and well. It isn’t gallows humor. It is a tableau of those who, as predators, have made a good business out of sucking out the lifeblood of the average person and how even the average person, once employed by one of these predators, becomes corrupted not necessarily by greed, but by need of a job. If you want to know what Bankers think of us, look at these pictures. And see if you are moved to write a letter, join a protest or speak out against the Banks who drove this Country to ruin. If it isn’t you now, you’re next.

What the Costumes Reveal


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.

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.

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.)

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.”

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.


26 Responses

  1. Fannie and Freddie tell mortgage servicers not to refer new cases to Baum firmby KERRY CURRY
    Fannie Mae moves foreclosure cases out of Stern law firm
    Freddie Mac warns mortgage servicers not to use Florida law firm
    New York subpoenas 2 foreclosure-related firms
    Attorney pledges fight on David J. Stern WARN notice lawsuit
    Ben-Ezra & Katz cuts 236 jobs after losing Fannie’s business
    Tuesday, November 15th, 2011, 12:00 pm

    [Update 1: Adds confirmation that Fannie suspended new referrals to Baum firm]

    Fannie Mae said Tuesday that it told mortgage servicers to stop referring new foreclosure cases to the Steven J. Baum PC lawn firm.

    Last week, Freddie Mac told mortgage servicers they may no longer refer New York foreclosure or bankruptcy cases to the Baum firm. Both government-sponsored enterprises had used Baum as part of their attorney networks.

    The Freddie directive became effective Nov. 10, according to a short statement on the Freddie Mac website. A Fannie Mae spokeswoman said Fannie is in the process of updating its designated counsel list, but confirmed that no new cases will be going to Baum.

    It’s another blow for the large, Buffalo, N.Y.-based foreclosure law firm, which last month agreed to pay a $2 million fine and change its foreclosure processes under a settlement with Department of Justice.

    The DOJ describes the Baum firm, which also has an office on Long Island, as one of the largest mortgage foreclosure firms in New York state.

    In a story in the Buffalo News on Tuesday, Freddie Mac spokesman Brad German acknowledged that Baum was “a big firm” for Freddie Mac business.

    Baum wasn’t immediately available for comment.

    Whether large servicers will follow Freddie’s lead and pull new cases from the firm was unclear Tuesday.

    Last year, when the Law Offices David J. Stern in Plantation, Fla., lost its business from the government-sponsored enterprises, the nation’s largest mortgage servicers quickly followed suit. The firm essentially imploded within six months, dropping from about 1,000 employees to just a handful today who are mainly there to wind down the business and assist in processing documents for more than 20 lawsuits Stern filed against his former mortgage clients.

    In New York, the agreement between the Baum firm and DOJ resolves an investigation into Baum’s foreclosure-related practices, specifically whether the firm, on behalf of its lender clients, filed misleading pleadings, affidavits and mortgage assignments in state and federal courts in New York, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

    The agreement “does not constitute a finding by any court or agency that Baum has engaged in any unlawful practice or wrongdoing,” the U.S. attorney said in a statement.”Baum acknowledges, however, that it occasionally made inadvertent errors in its legal filings in state and federal court, which it attributes to human error in light of the high volume of mortgage defaults and foreclosures throughout the state of New York in the wake of the national subprime mortgage crisis.”

    In April, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman subpoenaed the firm. At the time, Baum said he was cooperating fully with Schneiderman’s investigation.

    Public opinion turned against the firm in recent weeks when photos of a Halloween party at the firm surfaced on the Internet showing employees dressed up and mocking homeless people.

    Write to Kerry Curry.

  2. “Consider the premise.”In deed my good Sir….

  3. @BSE,

    W. Black says—in your video post

    “It was the lenders that put the LIE in liar’s loans”

  4. lets see,

    20 years ago we never had these problems—————–

    how come????????????

  5. Time for a KingCast visit to the Baum firm this week. I wrote Joe Nocera just now as follows below the link to today’s journal entry noting this month’s $2M payout from Baum because of the U.S. Atty investigation.


    Joe thank you so much for running those photos. We need responsible journos like you who will stop protecting these beasts who basically put a poop-stain on all of corporate America. I wrote for the Indy Star before law school. I was also a licensed Title Insurance producer and I am posting your editorial today.

    Meanwhile watch this:

    Phelan Hallinan Schmieg ethics breach: They called cops on media & homeowner, lied about it.

    And yesterday’s update from Boston via Oakland

    For Scott Olsen: Occupy Wall Street, Boston, Oakland and the World!

    Give a holler for lunch I’m in NY all the time.


    Christopher King, J.D. — Reel News for Real People — Documenting Deceit

  6. To send Mr. Baum a message–
    Phone: 716-204-2400 Fax: 716-204-4600

  7. Right on, Chris—well said!!!


    NOW is the time…this is history in the making…get the TRUTH to every single one of the OWS protesters—when they see the fraud IN WRITING—LOOK OUT!!!!

  8. Bank of America’s Death Rattle
    Bill Black: BAC, has directed troubled financial derivatives from its Merrill Lynch subsidiary to federally insured bank Bank of America making private risk public

  9. You readers of this site must sign up and sign the petition – to stop all foreclosures – see Dinsfla’s site – he is one of us and this petition is a great start – see the article – Neil please post on this or readers go to:

  10. Make the banks pay
    Obama and the AGs still balk at the only solution to the housing-driven recession
    By Adam Levitin

  11. Be careful of what you choose to plant, the harvest will surely come and you shall eat the fruits of it.

    Isaiah 5:8-9 AMP

    Woe to those who join house to house [and by violently
    expelling the poorer occupants enclose large acreage] and join field to field until
    there is no place for others and you are made to dwell alone in the midst of the
    land! In my [Isaiah’s] ears the Lord of hosts said, Of a truth many
    houses shall be desolate, even great and beautiful ones shall be without

  12. Mr. Baum , properly goes as the Wrestling Million Dollar man.

  13. I cannot believe that people still believe that this entire situation has been created by people who bought more house than they could afford. The banks have done well covering their lies.

    After doing hundreds of hours of research and being in court myself, this is the farthest from truth as it gets. Having been through SEC files, the OCC and various other entities, I can say with certainty this is absolutely not the case these days. It is an outrage this foreclosure mess is being blamed on victims, when this entire situation was planned, intentional and greedily carried out over a period of years by Wall Street and the banks. The proof lies in every document you look at. Jeez, people, check out the data and files. They are right there…time consuming, but very real. This was no accident. Last time I checked it was not criminal to be unsophisticated and easy prey.

  14. I understand how some of these firms employee behave, in what is called a natural yet disgusting human behavior. It’s always going to be us and them or them and us kind of a thing. People always celebrate their achievements and gains regardless of how they attained it or where it came from or what they had to do to obtain it. If any one is paid handsomely to do their job, of course there will be celebration, I get that, but having to use deceptive and shady acts in order to attain those achievements should not be celebrated.

    Sooner or later those celebrating will be on the other side, one day any one of them will lose his/her job because after all they work for a firm that does not value people or their human rights, and does not think that upholding the truth or the law is necessary. If they don’t value the rights of the very people that are keeping them in business, why should they value the rights of anyone else.

    Someday and hopefully soon, they will be investigated and someday soon, they will be made a mockery off, because in this small world of ours what goes around will most certainly come around. The more these con artist show their true colors the better for us there’s no doubt about that. There’s always one person in such a group that will see through the blind fold, and act upon what their conscious is begging them to do, like some of those robo-signers have done.

    The more they misbehave and the drunker they get, the better, so let them rejoice and let us collect on that. Yes it is appalling and inhumane and classless behavior, it goes to show us all what these people are made of, like I said con-artists. Our day in the sun is just around the corner, the truth will prevail after all we live in a small world! I will raise a glass of healthy does of justice for the homeowners who were touched in a negative way by this firm or any other deceptive organization. Let’s keep our positive and open minds open, and also keep our eyes open, let’s use their stupidity to our advantage.

  15. DISGUSTING!!!!!!!!! What goes around, comes around. Maybe in a year or two those pictures will be true to life for those employees. A little peak into the future for them. One can only hope.

  16. Here is Chana Lask’s video:


    Particularly exquisite is the notion of the foreclosure mills operating in a parallel universe.

    Formally put: “Consider the premise”,.

  17. Despicable, bad taste, lacking in the most elementary compassion but not actionable in any court of law. It won’t make or break the crooked system We The People have allowed to exist through our apathy, indifference and ignorance.

    Small potatoes not worth losing sleep over: what goes around comes around. The antidote from that kind of virus is education.

  18. And lets not forget, Debt restructuring first requires a default, until this one SIMPLE BANKING RULE is changed to Debt Restructuring DOES NOT first require a default, the banks will behave in a way that makes little sense to the 99% that still have their common sense intact.

  19. I’m curious about the timing of this article. Why break this story just before Halloween this year? Why not use this year’s opportunity to snap more pictures?

    Or, did the Halloween party just happen since yesterday was the Friday before Halloween?

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