Citigroup Stops Using Foreclosure Law Firm Facing Florida Probe
Citigroup Inc. said it stopped steering foreclosure work to a Florida law firm whose court filings to support home seizures are under investigation by the state’s attorney general.
The bank, which is proceeding with seizures as some rivals stop to recheck documents, had used the Law Offices of David J. Stern PA. Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum said Aug. 10 it is examining whether Stern and two other firms filed “improper documentation” with the state’s courts to speed proceedings.
“Pending the outcome of the AG’s investigation, Citi is not referring new matters to this firm,” the New York-based bank said in an e-mailed statement. Citigroup services loans for government-sponsored entities, such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Stern “was approved by the GSEs during the time in which it was retained by Citi,” the bank said.
Lawmakers, attorneys general and consumer groups have pressed mortgage firms to follow Bank of America Corp., the biggest U.S. lender, which last week suspended all foreclosures to check whether faulty documents were used to confiscate homes. JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Ally Financial Inc.’s GMAC Mortgage unit froze seizures or evictions in Florida and 22 other states. Citigroup said last week it doesn’t plan to join them.
McCollum’s office “hasn’t made any charges or allegations of fault,” said Jeffrey Tew, an outside attorney for Plantation, Florida-based Stern, who declined to discuss its work for Citigroup. “I believe they’re a client. I can’t go into any details.”
Citigroup, the third-largest U.S. bank by assets, said in an e-mailed statement Oct. 8 that it provides “strong training” for its employees and periodically reviews document- handling procedures within the company’s foreclosure group.
“At this point, we have no reason to believe our employees haven’t been following our procedures, so we do not believe a suspension is necessary,” it said.