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.
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.
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
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.
Location: Naples, Fla.
Median Price Increase: 15.67 percent
Home Price: $11.95 million
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.
Location: Washington, D.C.
Median Price Increase: 18.45 percent
Home Price: $7.495 million
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.
Location: West Palm Beach-Boca Raton, Fla.
Median Price Increase: 18.48 percent
Home Price: $3.4 million
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.
Location: Punta Gorda, Fla.
Median Price Increase: 19.35 percent
Home Price: $1.15 million
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.
Location: Phoenix-Mesa, Ariz.
Median Price Increase: 20.62 percent
Home Price: $4 million
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.