California Bar Journal
CBJ - August 2009 #03.
Foreclosure attorneys face discipline charges
California Bar JournalAugust 2009Foreclosure attorneys face discipline chargesBy Nancy McCarthyStaff WriterThe State Bar has taken action to lift the law licenses of three California attorneys allegedly engaged in loan modification fraud and is investigating nearly 140 more. One of the three resigned with charges pending, another faces involuntary inactive status and the third has been formally charged with seven counts of professional misconduct.
A 10-person task force, consisting of four lawyers and six investigators, also is working with federal, state and local law enforcement as part of a statewide crackdown on foreclosure fraud. Attorney General Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr. sued four more lawyers, as well as 14 companies and their executives, last month for bilking homeowners seeking mortgage relief. The lawsuits were part of "Operation Loan Lies," a nationwide sweep of sham loan modification consultants.
"The loan modification industry is teeming with confidence men and charlatans who rip off desperate homeowners facing foreclosure," Brown said. "Despite firm promises and money-back guarantees, these scam artists pocketed thousands of dollars from each victim and didn't provide an ounce of relief."
Brown is demanding millions in civil penalties, restitution for victims and permanent injunctions to keep the companies and defendants from offering mortgage-relief services.
Suzan Anderson, who oversees the State Bar task force, said her office receives between 15 and 40 new complaints each week. As of late July, it was investigating 391 complaints against 140 attorneys, compared to a total of nine investigations relating to loan modifications 2008.
"We're working hard to get a lot of filings done," Anderson said. "There are new twists every day. All the attorneys and investigators are experiencing overextended workloads right now."
Because attorneys can legally accept advance fees, their services are in demand by foreclosure relief companies, who cannot otherwise receive payment until their loan modification work is completed. The State Bar issued an ethics alert in February, offering guidance to lawyers thinking of signing on with a foreclosure consultant. It can be found at...