UPDATED WITH EXPANDED PHOTO (ORIGINALLY POSTED ON 10/29/2011)
In this New York Times op-ed entitled "What the Costumes Reveal," Joe Nocera describes the conduct of employees of the New York law firm Steven J. Baum, P.C., at last year's firm Halloween bash. To be blunt, the conduct described is disgusting. Nocera writes that Baum employees wore costumes making fun of people who have lost their homes to foreclosure. In the image below, for instance, a dirty "foreclosure victim" is holding a wine bottle wrapped in a brown paper bag, while another, dressed in rags and with her belongings in a shopping cart, displays a "Will Worke for Food" sign.
On Friday, the law firm of Steven J. Baum threw a Halloween party. The firm ... is what is commonly referred to as a “foreclosure mill” firm, meaning it represents banks and mortgage servicers as they attempt to foreclose on homeowners and evict them from their homes. ...[A] former employee of Steven J. Baum recently sent me snapshots of last year’s party. In an e-mail, she said that she wanted me to see them because they showed an appalling lack of compassion toward the homeowners — invariably poor and down on their luck — that the Baum firm had brought foreclosure proceedings against. 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. * * * These pictures are hardly the first piece of evidence that the Baum firm treats homeowners shabbily — or that it uses dubious legal practices to do so. It is under investigation by the New York attorney general, Eric Schneiderman. It recently agreed to pay $2 million to resolve an investigation by the Department of Justice into whether the firm had “filed misleading pleadings, affidavits, and mortgage assignments in the state and federal courts in New York.” (In the press release announcing the settlement, Baum acknowledged only that “it occasionally made inadvertent errors.”)
In response to an inquiry from Nocera about the photographs, Nocera says that a Baum firm spokesperson asserted: “It has been suggested that some employees dress in ... attire that mocks or attempts to belittle the plight of those who have lost their homes. Nothing could be further from the truth.” Huh? Was the Baum spokesperson looking at photos other than the ones that accompany Nocera's piece?
Baum's employees have the right to wear these costumes at their firm's Halloween party or most anywhere else. But I wonder: How many of Baum's employees have read paragraphs 6 and 7 of the preamble to the Model Rules of Professonal Conduct?
HT to Tom McSorley.