NY A.G. reaches $4 Million Settlement With Steven J. Baum P.C.

On March 23, 2012, in Foreclosure, by Robbie L. Vaughn, Esq.

Steven J. Baum P.C. Settles

NY Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman recently announced an agreement with New York Foreclosure Law Firm Steven J. Baum P.C., and Pillar Processing, LLC, which requires that they pay $4 million to the State of New York. $2 million of which will be used to assist homeowners facing foreclosure, or victims of predatory lending practices.

Excerpts from the Attorney General’s Press release:

The Attorney General’s investigation found that the Baum Firm routinely brought foreclosure proceedings without taking appropriate steps to verify the accuracy of the allegations or the plaintiff’s right to foreclose. From at least 2007 through sometime in 2009, Baum Firm attorneys repeatedly verified complaints in foreclosure actions stating, among other things, that the plaintiff was “the owner and holder of the note and mortgage being foreclosed,” when, in many securitized loan cases, the Baum Firm did not have documentary proof that the plaintiff was the owner and holder of the note and mortgage.

Complaints were prepared in an assembly-line fashion by non-attorney Pillar employees with inadequate attorney supervision. Baum Firm attorneys also improperly verified and notarized these complaints. Attorneys routinely signed complaint verifications — which stated, among other things, that the attorneys had read the complaints and knew their contents — without reviewing the contents of the complaints or the underlying documents such as the original note or mortgage or any mortgage assignments.

During certain time periods, attorneys often did not see complaints after they were prepared by Pillar employees. Instead, attorneys pre-signed and notarized verification and certification pages that were subsequently attached to the complaints and filed with the county clerks. Even after the practice of attaching pre-signed and notarized verification and certification pages changed, attorneys continued to verify complaints without reading them. Until sometime in 2011, the Baum Firm also failed to properly notarize documents signed by its attorneys. Baum Firm attorneys routinely signed documents without being in the notaries’ presence, and when documents were signed prior to notarization, did so without the required oath being administered. Indeed, some notaries even notarized documents that were signed by an attorney who was not present in the state at the time the documents were notarized.

The Baum Firm also repeatedly failed to timely file the Request for Judicial Intervention (RJI) required to be filed in residential foreclosure actions and a court-required affirmation attesting to the accuracy of the foreclosure summons and complaint. New York Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman implemented the attorney affirmation requirement in October 2010 in response to revelations of widespread deficiencies in foreclosure filings nationwide, including the execution of affidavits without personal knowledge of the facts, a practice referred to as “robo-signing.” The filing of the RJI triggers the scheduling of a settlement conference where potential loan modification options are explored, and also leads to notice being sent to local housing counselors that a homeowner is at risk of foreclosure so that counselors can reach out to the homeowner to provide assistance. Many homeowners were denied this assistance as a result of the Baum Firm’s failure to file RJIs in a timely manner.

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New York homeowners who believe their homes were foreclosed based upon false or inaccurate documents filed in court should seek representation from an attorney. They may also file a complaint with the New York Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Frauds & Protection by calling 800-771-7755 [2]or visiting www.ag.ny.gov [3].

Read the full Press Release here.

Mortgage Servicing Settlement

On February 9, 2012, in Foreclosure, by Robbie L. Vaughn, Esq.

Mortgage Servicing Settlement

The following Excerpts are from a recent Press Release by NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman regarding mortgage servicing settlement:

A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN SECURES $136 MILLION FOR STRUGGLING NEW YORK HOMEOWNERS IN MORTGAGE SERVICING SETTLEMENT

After Schneiderman’s Persistence, Narrow Settlement Preserves Sweeping Legal Claims For Housing Crisis Misconduct That Has Not Yet Been Investigated

New York To Receive More Per Underwater Borrower Than Any Other State, Plus Loan Modifications, Principal Reductions

Schneiderman: Civil & Criminal Investigations Will Continue As We Seek Accountability For Those Responsible For Crisis And Leverage Greater Relief For Homeowners

New York’s estimated share of the guaranteed cash payments in the settlement is $136 million, the fourth highest in the nation. New York will be able to distribute these funds to legal aid, homeowner assistance and advocacy organizations to help distressed individuals facing foreclosure or servicer abuse.

….

Because of the complexity of the mortgage market and this agreement, which will be performed over a three-year period, borrowers will not immediately know if they are eligible for relief. It will take between 30-60 days to appoint a settlement administrator, and banks will be conducting a vigorous search to identify eligible borrowers and this may take several months.

For loan modifications and refinance options, borrowers may be contacted directly by one of the five participating mortgage servicers.

For payments to foreclosure victims, a settlement administrator designated by the attorneys general will send claim forms to eligible persons (You may be eligible if you were foreclosed on between January 1, 2008 and Dec. 31, 2012)

Even if you are not contacted, if your loan is serviced by one of the five settling banks, you are encouraged to contact your servicer to see if you are eligible—keeping in mind that it will take anywhere from six to nine months to be contacted.
Bank of America: 877-488-7814
Citi: 866-272-4749
Chase: 866-372-6901
GMAC: 800-766-4622
Wells Fargo: 1-800-288-3212

For more information on today’s agreement, visit:

www.ag.ny.gov
www.NationalMortgageSettlement.com
www.HUD.gov
www.DOJ.gov

The following article is from NY Attorney General Cuomo’s website. It calls for suspension of foreclosures by mortgage servicers engaged in “robo-signing” and offers sound advice to New York homeowners who are facing foreclosure proceedings.

ATTORNEY GENERAL CUOMO EXPANDS PROBE OF NEW YORK FORECLOSURE ACTIONS

Demands information from Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo and GMAC Mortgage/Ally ~ Calls for suspension of foreclosures by mortgage servicers engaged in “robo-signing” in New York until accuracy of court documents and integrity of process are assured

NEW YORK, NY (October 12, 2010) – Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that he is seeking information from four major mortgage servicers – Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo and GMAC Mortgage/Ally – concerning the filing of affidavits that falsely attest the signer has personal knowledge of the facts presented in home foreclosure proceedings, a practice known as “robo-signing.”

In view of the prevalence of this practice in the industry, Cuomo also called on mortgage servicers engaged in “robo-signing” in New York to immediately suspend all foreclosure actions in the state until they correct their procedures to comply with New York law and can assure the public and the courts that integrity has been restored.

“I will not allow New Yorkers to lose their homes due to mortgage goliaths that buck the system by submitting affidavits signed without knowledge of the facts,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “Such conduct is a fraud upon our courts and a slap in the face of New Yorkers struggling to get by in this economy. My office will continue to root out these practices so homeowners receive the full protections afforded by our judicial system.”

Recent reports indicate that employees of these mortgage servicers routinely signed affidavits submitted in foreclosure proceedings without personal knowledge of the underlying facts or verification of loan file information, and without even reading the documents they signed. This practice, known as “robo-signing,” has tainted the integrity of the foreclosure process by which homeowners in New York lose their homes. Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase and GMAC Mortgage announced that they were temporarily halting pending foreclosures, while Wells Fargo has not suspended foreclosures despite the deficiencies uncovered.

Attorney General Cuomo is calling on these mortgage servicers to submit documents and information to his office concerning how foreclosure documents are prepared, verified, attested to and notarized, and how required notices are provided to New York homeowners. The letters request that the mortgage servicers stop re-filing foreclosures that had been suspended (and in Wells Fargo’s case, cease proceeding with pending foreclosures) until the Attorney General’s Office is assured that reliable and fair procedures are in place and that accurate, trustworthy documentation will be submitted to the New York courts. The letters also request that the mortgage servicers refrain from filing any new foreclosures until they can provide assurances that their procedures comply with New York law and are neither tainted nor inaccurate.

Because of the gravity of these transgressions and the high volume of foreclosures, Attorney General Cuomo is calling on all mortgage servicers engaged in “robo-signing” in New York to immediately suspend all pending foreclosure actions in the state, including evictions and foreclosure sales. Cuomo is also requesting that the mortgage servicers not file any new foreclosures until the companies correct their procedures.

Tens of thousands of New Yorkers have been devastated by the foreclosure crisis. In fact, the foreclosure rates in Nassau and Suffolk Counties rank among the ten highest in the nation. More than 60,000 New York homes are currently in foreclosure, and 130,000 New York homeowners have received pre-foreclosure notices this year after falling behind on their mortgage payments.

In addition to his office’s review of Bank of America, Chase, Wells Fargo and GMAC Mortgage/Ally, Attorney General Cuomo is working with other state attorneys general, banking regulators and other interested parties to assess the veracity of servicers’ foreclosure filings and ensure the fairness and accuracy of their processes.

Attorney General Cuomo advises New York homeowners who are facing foreclosure proceedings to do the following:

  • Contact the court to find out the status of your foreclosure proceeding.
  • Seek representation or advice from a qualified attorney. If necessary, contact your local bar association or legal services office for a referral. If you are unable to retain counsel, carefully review any documents filed thus far with the court to ensure their accuracy.
  • If you have not done so already, immediately contact your lender or servicer to discuss available alternatives to foreclosure such as a loan modification.
  • For a general description of the foreclosure process, refer to www.nyprotectyourhome.com/fc_timeline.html.
  • Consult with a government-approved housing counseling agency. To find counselors approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in your local area, call 800-569-4287 or visit www.hud.gov. A list of housing counselors also can be found via the NYS Banking Department at www.banking.state.ny.us.
  • Call HOPE NOW at 1-888-995-HOPE. HOPE NOW is an alliance of housing counselors, mortgage companies, investors and other mortgage market participants that provides free foreclosure prevention assistance.
  • If you live in New York City, call 311 to schedule free foreclosure counseling sessions at the Center for New York City Neighborhoods.

New York homeowners who believe their homes were foreclosed based upon false or inaccurate documents filed in court by their lender or servicer should seek representation from an attorney. They may also file a complaint with the New York Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Frauds & Protection by calling 800-771-7755 or visiting www.ag.ny.gov.

The investigation, led by Special Deputy Attorney General for Consumer Frauds & Protection Joy Feigenbaum, is being handled by Special Counsel Mary Alestra, Assistant Attorney General Brian Montgomery and Deputy Bureau Chief Jeffrey Powell of the Bureau of Consumer Frauds & Protection under the direction of Executive Deputy Attorney General for Economic Justice Maria Vullo and Deputy Attorney General for Economic Justice Michael Berlin.

As always, The Foreclosure Defense Law Firm of VAUGHN & WEBER, PLLC is here to assist you. We are conveniently located in the heart of Nassau County, Long Island, at 217 Willis Avenue in Mineola, NY 11501. Contact us at (516) 858-2620 to arrange a FREE consultation with a foreclosure defense lawyer.

Please visit our Foreclosure category to learn more about foreclosure issues.

The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation. This website is Attorney Advertising. It does not form an attorney-client relationship. We are a debt relief agency and a law firm that helps people file for bankruptcy relief under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code – Title 11. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Proudly assisting residents of Long Island, Nassau county, Suffolk county, New York City, Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx, Staten Island, Manhattan