There's an important op-ed this week in the New York Times that marks the first anniversary of one of the most tasteless Halloween stunts in recent memory. Last year, employees from the New York law firm of Steven J. Baum -- which represents the country's top lenders, including Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo -- openly mocked families facing foreclosures for which their clients were directly responsible.
The tastelesness in question was the "foreclosed homeowner" party that the firm's employees held last year. Apparently, it's an annual affair. Joe Nocera of the Times recently published six pictures sent to him by a tipster, who says the party is an annual event. The photos show the alleged employees dressed as homeless people on the street, holding signs bemoaning their lost homes. They're awful, and you can all of them here.
The tipster says they worked for firm. Nocera has more:
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.
No word on if the firm's Halloween party took place this year. They're currently under investigation by the state attorney for shady business practices. They also got word that the New York Times was publishing a piece about them last week.