Robosigning Settlement: Millions From 'Foreclosure Party' Firm

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The New York-based foreclosure law firm infamous for their ill-themed Halloween party has agreed to fork over $4 million in a settlement with state prosecutors over tens of thousands of foreclosures it had filed.

The Steven J. Baum firm, which was New York's largest foreclosure defense firm until it shut down last November, was sued for engaging in "robo-signing" and other deceptive practices to shortcut the processing of thousands of foreclosure cases. The firm's clients included Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, HSBC and Citibank.

"The Baum Firm cut corners in order to maximize the number of its foreclosure filings and its profits," New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement. Though the firm would not admit to any wrongdoing as part of the settlement, owner Steven J. Baum and managing partner Brian Kumiega have agreed not to represent lenders or servicers in new foreclosure cases for two years, Schneiderman added.

Part of the money paid by the firm will be used to help homeowners facing foreclosure or victims of predatory lending.

This is certainly not the first time the Baum firm has drawn fire for its unsavory work practices, even outside office hours. Last October, The New York Times published pictures of the firm's Halloween party which showed staffers dressed as foreclosure victims and the homeless.

The op-ed reveals a "callous firm, eager to mock the people with whom they've helped to boot from their homes". In one image, an employee wore a cardboard sign around her neck that read: "3rd party squatter. I lost my home and I was NEVER served," making reference to what the firm considers a "typical excuse" of homeowners trying to evade foreclosure, according to The Times.

Shortly after the pictures were leaked, the firm reached a $2 million agreement with Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, also related to its foreclosure practices. After the settlement was announced, Fannie Mae joined Freddie Mac in dropping Baum from its lists of law firms eligible to handle foreclosures. The firm announced soon after that they would close.

The $4 million settlement is the largest foreclosure law firm settlement in the nation, according to the attorney general's office.




See also:
Family Wrongly Booted From Home Returns To Wreckage

Home Value Survey Sees Sharp Rise in Realtor Optimism
Could 2012 Be the Best Year to Buy a Home in Decades?


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Robosigning Settlement: Millions From 'Foreclosure Party' Firm

Recent reports on the housing market suggest that real estate prices may finally be close to hitting bottom, with at least one expert predicting that national median prices will tick up this year for the first time since the housing bust. 

For some towns, price recoveries have been in the works for some time. Florida, in particular, lays claim to quite a few markets that appear to be firing on all cylinders, and posting the price gains to show for it.

With the help of our friends at Realtor.com, AOL Real Estate brings you homes from the metro areas that posted the greatest year-over-year median price increases in February, as measured by Realtor.com listings. If a national price recovery is happening, these are some of the towns leading the charge. 

Location: Sarasota-Bradenton, Fla.
Median Price Increase: 14.47 percent

Home Price: $5.479 million
Beds/Baths: 5/7
Sq. Ft.: 5,286

This home, apparently recognized as a local architectural achievement, uses the material terrazzo, a combination of granite or marble and concrete, for its indoor and outdoor flooring. 

See the listing for more details

Highlights of the home include its gourmet kitchen, master bedroom, master bath, entertainment areas, office and exercise space. Need we mention the views? 

See the listing for more details

Location: Daytona Beach, Fla. 
Median Price Increase: 15.56 percent

Home Price: $7.7 million
Beds/Baths: 4/10
Sq. Ft.: 13,654

Commanding a long, lavishly-landscaped driveway, this "new traditional" epitomizes the "good life" in Daytona Beach. 

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The gated home has its own dock and and a generous stretch of waterfront.

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Location: Fort Myers-Cape Coral, Fla. 
Median Price Increase: 15.59 percent

Home Price: $8.7 million
Beds/Baths: 6/13
Sq. Ft.: 13,723

This home is a behemoth. But while it may stretch 13,723 square feet, you're never far from a bathroom. There are 13. 

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The home is steeped in luxury inside and out. Exhibit A: a nine-car garage. 

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Location: Naples, Fla. 
Median Price Increase: 15.67 percent

Home Price: $11.95 million
Beds/Baths: 5/8
Sq. Ft.: 7,890

She's not hard to look at, is she? One of the many things this mouth-watering residence has going for it is its gigantic, resort-style pool. The home also has 127 feet of waterfront, and its many columns, inside and out, give the place regal flair. 

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As far as amenities, we say the theater room and library top the list. 

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Location: Boise City, Idaho
Median Price Increase: 16.28 percent

Home Price: $1.25 million
Beds/Baths: 4/6
Sq. Ft.: 6,984

Sitting on a hilltop perch, this sprawling log-built home commands five acres of woodsy Boise real estate. 

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The place is brimming with interior detail, including cherry floors, built-in cabinets and sound system, "forged-nickel hardware" and crystal chandeliers. 

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Location: Washington, D.C.
Median Price Increase: 18.45 percent 

Home Price: $7.495 million
Beds/Baths: 6/8
Sq. Ft.: 9,710

Throw down for this stately manse and you'll win the right to call Joe Biden neighbor. Vicey himself lives in the neighborhood. The Tudor-style home has 17-inch stone walls that are stitched with timber and brick. 

See the listing for more details, or see AOL Real Estate's full profile on the home

The home's interior has ebony-stained floors, and amenities include a library, breakfast room, great room, "executive kitchen," gymnasium and au pair room. 

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Location: West Palm Beach-Boca Raton, Fla. 
Median Price Increase: 18.48 percent

Home Price: $3.4 million
Beds/Baths: 6/7
Sq. Ft.: 7,043

This lavish mansion boasts membership in Harbour Isles, a ritzy, secluded community. In fact, ever single home has a dock, according to the listing. The 7,000-square-foot home has over 90 feet of waterfront for itself. 

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Pictured here is the home's columned patio that offers soul-soothing river views. 

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Location: Punta Gorda, Fla. 
Median Price Increase: 19.35 percent

Home Price: $1.15 million
Beds/Baths: 3/2
Sq. Ft.: 3,950

Overlooking a stretch of creek, this luxury property spans four verdant acres. Of all the interior highlights, the great room really caught our eye, thanks to some creative copy on the part of the property's listing description. Inside the cavernous room, the "Built in Wood/Gas Fireplace is perfect for snuggling on [the] occasional cool Florida evening," the description says.  

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The home has a gourmet kitchen with cherry cabinets, marble countertops, dual ovens and its very own "butcher block." There's also a glass-enclosed pool that overlooks the property's creek. 

See the listing for more details

Location: Phoenix-Mesa, Ariz. 
Median Price Increase: 20.62 percent

Home Price: $4 million
Beds/Baths: 6/8
Sq. Ft.: 9,309

Located in the city that posted the second-highest year-over-year increase in home prices for February, according to Realtor.com, this $4 million mansion features marble and oak floors, beveled glass windows and custom cabinetry. Oh, and also close to 10,000 square feet of space. 

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The home has a guest house and expansive courtyard connected to the gourmet kitchen. Amenities run the gamut: The home has a game room, wine cellar, music room and potting room, among other perks.  

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Location: Miami
Median Price Increase: 26.19 percent

Home Price: $7.7 million
Beds/Baths: 6/7
Sq. Ft.: 6,500

This sprawling apartment nestles into one of Miami's soaring residential skyscrapers. Price per square foot for the contemporary is a whopping $1,185. 

See the listing for more details

The sleek, lavish interior opens up to a balcony perched over Miami's waterfront. Occupants can suck in the jaw-dropping views while lounging in an outdoor hottub. 

See the listing for more details

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