NEW YORK, March 22 (Reuters) - Steven J. Baum PC, once the
biggest foreclosure law firm in New York state, has agreed to
pay $4 million to settle a probe of foreclosure abuses.
The Amherst, N.Y.-based firm, which closed its doors in
December, improperly verified and notarized complaints, New York
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement
announcing the settlement.
"The Baum firm cut corners in order to maximize the number
of its foreclosure filings and its profits," Schneiderman said.
As part of the agreement, Steven J. Baum, the law firm's
founder, and managing partner Brian Kumiega agreed not to
represent lenders or servicers in new foreclosure-related cases
for two years.
The settlement also includes Pillar Processing, which
processed paperwork for the firm.
The Baum firm neither admitted nor denied the Attorney
General's findings, according to the settlement agreement.
Elkan Abramowitz, who represents Baum, said in a statement
that Schneiderman didn't find "a single instance where a
foreclosure proceeding was brought by the Baum firm where the
homeowner wasn't actually in default." Abramowitz of Morvillo,
Abramowitz, Grand, Jason, Anello & Bohrer added that it was
"unfair to criticize the firm for relying on the representations
of its clients."
The settlement is part of Schneiderman's wide-ranging probe
of misconduct in the mortgage market.
The Baum firm, which critics called a foreclosure mill, came
under media and government scrutiny in the wake of the mortgage
In October, the firm settled with federal authorities,
agreeing to pay $2 million and overhaul how it handled
foreclosure cases. Shortly after, the New York Times published
photographs depicting a 2010 firm Halloween party at which Baum
employees dressed as homeless men and women.
In November, the firm announced that it was going out of
business after Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac barred their loan
servicers from referring business to the firm.
Between 2007 and 2010, the Baum firm filed over 100,000
foreclosure proceedings, representing JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank
of America Corp., Citibank and other loan servicers, according
(Reporting by Karen Freifeld)
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