‘Douche du Jour’: Steven J. Baum “Foreclosure Mill” Halloween Party Mocks People Who Lost Homes to Foreclosure
Photographs submitted to a New York Times columnist show an appalling Halloween party thrown last year by a leading “foreclosure mill” at which employees dressed up as and mocked the very homeowners– former homeowners, that is– whose properties were seized by the company.
According to columnist Joe Nocera, Steven J. Baum is a Buffalo, New York area law firm representing banks and mortgage companies in foreclosures. The company is the largest of its kind in New York state and counts nearly every major mortgage lender among its clients. Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and others call on the firm to assist them in kicking down-on-their-luck people out of their homes.
At last year’s company Halloween party, Baum employees dressed up as homeless people whose homes were foreclosed upon. How do we know this? It turns out one concerned employee e-mailed Nocera photos of the shockingly insensitive party. In one, a homeless woman is holding a bottle of booze. In another, a destitue woman sits with a sign around her neck reading “3rd party squatter. I lost my home and I was never served.” According to Nocera, “I was never served” is a mockery of a common complaint lodged by homeowners attempting to stall foreclosure proceedings. Another photo shows Baum’s office decorated as a street of foreclosed homes, with a sign reading “Baum Estates.”
“There is this really cavalier attitude,” the whistleblower told Nocera about the firm. “It doesn’t matter than people are going to lose their homes,” she said, adding that heavy pressure to seize homes means that the company doesn’t try to help homeowners obtain loan modifications that could keep them in their homes.
These revelations, while shocking for their utter callousness, should surprise no one. Nocera points out that Baum is under investigation by New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman for dicey dealings in which homeowners may have been improperly foreclosed upon. The firm also agreed to pay $2 million to settle a Justice Department investigation into whether it had “filed misleading pleadings, affidavits, and mortgage assignments” in state and federal courts.
Judge Arthur Schack of the State Supreme Court in Brooklyn has called Baum’s foreclosure filings, which are the target of a class-action lawsuit alleging serious impropriety, as “operating in a parallel mortgage universe, unrelated to the real universe.”
The Baum whistleblower photo leak, as vile as it may be, may not reveal anything illegal. But the images do illustrate just how desensitized many people who work in the foreclosure industry have become to the millions of American homeowners who have lost, or who are in the process of losing, their homes. These photos couldn’t come at a worse time for a foreclosure firm. Millions of Americans have finally had enough of corporate greed and growing inequality. They’re taking to the streets, joining ‘Occupy Wall Street’ and similar movements across the nation, armed with statistics, stories and images that illustrate just how out of control things have gotten. Thanks to the douchebags over at Steven J. Baum, the protesters have now been handed a week’s worth of ammunition.
Lock ‘n’ load, 99%ers!
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