Law Firms Descend on Florida to Take Over Foreclosure Business
The new law firms are being handed 3,500 to 5,000 transfer files at $1,200 to $1,400 per file, according to a legal headhunter
Law firms from throughout the country have opened offices in Florida to capture foreclosure business abandoned by the Law Offices of David J. Stern and Ben-Ezra & Katz in the wake of investigations into possible foreclosure fraud.
The largest of the new firms is Atlanta-based McCalla Raymer, which has four Florida offices, including one in downtown Fort Lauderdale. McCalla Raymer has about 21 attorneys in Florida and is one of a handful of firms under contract to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac in Florida.
Well, well, well…
Now where have I heard of McCalla Raymer before?
Oh yea. From these previous posts…
McCalla Raymer, LLC, a provider of real estate and mortgage banking legal services headquartered in Georgia, has expanded its services to Florida, opening an office location in Orlando.
“Florida represents a key market for McCalla Raymer,” said Marty Stone, the firm’s managing partner. “Our clients have expressed the need for additional support and quality legal guidance to adequately protect their interests. We are proud to be that provider and look forward to continuing to strengthen our partnerships with clients nationwide.”
Jane Bond, a veteran mortgage banking attorney, will oversee the Florida operation.
Continue reading here…
Services allegedly provided, but not limited to are the following…
Violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”)
ILLEGAL FEE SPLITTING
UNAUTHORIZED PRACTICE OF LAW
All as noted in a pending class action complaint.
For more on McCalla Raymer see the links below…
Georgia’s Version of David J. Stern and Friends? – McCalla Raymer, Charles Troy Crouse and Prommis Solutions
Posted by Foreclosure Fraud on November 5, 2010 ·
Lawsuit Claims Suspicious Signature On Foreclosure Documents ~ Click Through to View ~ 4closureFraud.org… Read more
Posted by Foreclosure Fraud on November 14, 2010 ·
Earlier this month we put up… LINK – Georgia’s Version of David J. Stern and Friends? – McCalla Raymer, Charles Troy Crouse and Prommis Solutions Which covered some document irregularities on foreclosure paperwork. Well it looks like our friends in Georgia are turning up the heat… Prosecutors Probe Counterfeit Notary Seal from Prommis Solutions Click Through … Read more
KABOOM – Georgia Foreclosure Fraud Class Action – Georgia Residents v Georgia Foreclosure Fraudsters
Posted by Foreclosure Fraud on November 14, 2010 ·
Foreclosure Mill Law Firm Accused of Fraud, Racketeering See also: LINK – More Georgia Foreclosure Fraud – Prosecutors Probe Counterfeit Notary Seal from Prommis Solutions ~ LINK – Georgia’s Version of David J. Stern and Friends? – McCalla Raymer, Charles Troy Crouse and Prommis Solutions ~ Click Through to View And now for the complaint… WENDY N. … Read more
Posted by Foreclosure Fraud on December 19, 2010 ·
Lenders, Servicers Scramble to Shift Foreclosure Cases to New Firms The head of one coverage attorney service has been swamped with requests but says there’s a shortage of qualified attorneys As the one-time largest plaintiffs foreclosure law firm in Florida, the Law Offices of David J. Stern at its peak handled 20 percent of all … Read more
Posted by Foreclosure Fraud on December 26, 2010 ·
New lawyers face probes, pop up at other firms By Christine Stapleton and Kimberly Miller Palm Beach Post Staff Writer Recently out of law school and looking for work, scores of young Florida attorneys found steady paychecks in burgeoning firms whose business is based on repossessing the American dream. Today, more than 260 attorneys work … Read more
Sorry, back to the article…
Atlanta-based McCalla Raymer, North Carolina-based Brock & Scott, Atlanta-based Aldridge Connors, Massachusetts-based Ablitt Scofield, New Jersey-based Mark J. Udren & Associates, Atlanta-based Pendergast & Associates, Philadelphia-based Phelan Hallinan & Schmieg and Atlanta-based Johnson & Freedman all opened in Florida in the past year.
Most have chosen Fort Lauderdale as their South Florida base. Some have vowed to keep a tight rein on their operations and not allow shoddy practices.
“When everything happened last fall with David Stern and the robo-signing investigations, there seemed to be an opening in the Florida market, and we found the right people to partner with,” said Marty Stone, managing partner of McCalla Raymer. “We want to try to mirror the success we’ve had in Georgia. We didn’t want to just hire a few people on the ground and manage everything remotely. That was one of the issues with Stern. He was too focused on Fort Lauderdale.”
So, why all the new firms?
Fannie and Freddie’s plan this time is to spread out the work among more firms instead of concentrating it with a few large firms to prevent them from turning into assembly-line factories.
“The whole approach by Fannie and Freddie is to have a lot of firms instead of a huge skyscraper,” said Jonathan Broder, a Miami legal headhunter and owner of MyMotionCalendar.com, a contract lawyer service. “They don’t want to concentrate business with one or two firms. The idea is the more you spread it out, the better. Otherwise they could have sent all the files to one of the big firms and re-created David Stern.”
The foreclosure firms have hired Broder’s firm to provide “coverage attorneys” for routine foreclosure hearings.
Wait. Stop. I’m glad they just mentioned coverage attorneys because they just failed before they started.
Check out this post from Mark Stopa on the matter…
Local Counsel – BEGONE!
Most of the foreclosure mills who work for the banks handle foreclosure lawsuits throughout the State of Florida. Typically, they don’t have offices throughout the state, yet they handle cases everywhere. Obviously, lawyers based in Fort Lauderdale don’t travel to every motion to dismiss hearing in Sarasota, or vice versa. So how can these mills get away with this, particularly in counties which have administrative orders requiring in-person attendance at all hearings? Their procedure is simple. If the foreclosure mill is based out of Fort Lauderdale and has cases in Sarasota, the mill hires a lawyer who lives in Sarasota to “cover” all hearings in that area. This “local counsel” isn’t an employee of the mill and isn’t counsel of record in the case – that attorney just “covers” hearings.
Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.505(e) lists the ways in which a lawyer can make an appearance in a case for a client. There are just three: (1) the attorney files the party’s first pleading; (2) the attorney files and serves a Notice of Appearance; or (3) the attorney stipulates to a substitution with current counsel, the client consents, and the Court signs an Order approving the stipulation.
If you’re a lawyer, and you want to argue at a hearing, you must do one of these three things. If you don’t, then guess what? You’re not counsel and you don’t get to talk/argue at a hearing! This may sound harsh or overly technical, but this is what the Second District ruled in Pasco County v. Quail Hollow Properties, 693 So. 2d 82 (Fla. 2d DCA 1997). The court’s rationale in Quail Hollow was clear, and it makes sense if you think about it:
The Court must be able to rely on representations of attorneys because such representations bind the client.
If the attorney is “covering” a hearing, as “local counsel,” but is not counsel of record, then he cannot bind the client, so he shouldn’t be permitted to argue/speak at a hearing. It’s really that simple.
Now, I encourage everyone to read Mark’s post on this in full.
It is just another way to stop the machine from stealing your home.
His post can be read in full here…
Back to Law Firms Descend on Florida to Take Over Foreclosure Business
So, how did Fannie and Freddie pick these new firms?
Fannie Mae, under a congressional spotlight, is taking an active role to make sure the firms maintain proper procedures and even sits in on lawyer interviews at firms…
“Fannie and Freddie did their own interviews with these people so they’d feel comfortable”
“They are taking a whole different approach than they did previously.”
Isn’t that nice…
When choosing new law firms, Fannie Mae considered the following criteria: attorneys in good standing with the Florida Bar and local bar associations, demonstrated experienced in handling foreclosures and providing quality and cost-efficient work, diversity and overall capacity to handle the foreclosure volume, among other considerations, said spokeswoman Amy Bonitatibus.
When asked how lenders ensure their new counsel do not run into the same issues as their predecessors, Bonitatibus said, “Under Fannie Mae’s contractual relationship with its loan servicers, the servicers are responsible for monitoring and managing the conduct of foreclosure proceedings.”
But some foreclosure defense lawyers question just how different the new firms are from the old ones since many of the newcomers have hired former Stern and Ben-Ezra lawyers and staff. And the practices, while much improved from the days of robo-signing, still fall short, they say.
Numerous former Ben-Ezra employees now work at Brock & Scott, which opened in Fort Lauderdale earlier this year.
McCalla Raymer hired former attorneys and staff from both Stern and Ben-Ezra, Stone said, adding his firm vetted the former employees for Bar complaints. Fannie Mae also vetted them, he said.
“Obviously Florida is a priority for them,” Stone said. “They want to make sure that what happened with Stern and Ben-Ezra doesn’t happen again.”
Stone said he would not rule out former Stern or Ben-Ezra employees simply due to their previous employment.
“I wanted to make sure everyone was judged by their personal merits,” he said.
Pozzuoli, too, said he did not rule out former Stern and Ben-Ezra lawyers and employees but has just hired a couple.
So what does the defense bar think of this?
Thomas Ice, a major voice in the foreclosure defense bar with Royal Palm Beach, Fla.-based Ice Legal, said he is seeing some of the same sloppy work with new firms.
“All they are doing is hiring the same lawyers who were problematic to begin with,” he said. “Unless they put in some special programs to teach young lawyers right out of law school how to conduct themselves as officers of the court, you will see the same problems you always have.”
So there you have it. All is well in Florida and the fraudclosures continue…
You can check out the original article in full here…