Sunday, August 12, 2012

Fla. Probe Into F'closure Fraud Winds Down With A Wimper; State AG's Office To Walk Away w/ Tail Between Its Legs While State Bar Continues To Snooze

In West Palm Beach, Florida, The Palm Beach Post reports:

  • The news conference was called. A five-paragraph statement issued. It was Aug. 10, 2010, and then Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, a candidate for governor, was making his move against three of the state’s largest and most feared foreclosure law firms — ones he suspected of illegally speeding cases through the courts with forged and fraudulent documents. Thousands of final judgments of foreclosure may have been the result of illegal activities, the news release said.

    Two years later, one firm has inked a settlement with the state. The Law Offices of Marshall C. Watson in March 2011 agreed to pay $2 million, but admitted no wrongdoing.

    The other law firm investigations, which came to total six by last summer, are “winding down,” Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office said Friday.

    A February court decision barring the state from issuing subpoenas to the firms means any enforcement action is “up to the discretion of the Florida Bar,” Bondi press secretary John Lucas said.

    The legal limbo has left homeowner advocates incensed and law firms befuddled. With no closure, the firms remain implicated in the public eye and on the state’s website, which lists them as under active civil investigations. With no closure and no one held accountable, there is no justice, anti-foreclosure activists say.
  • Some have now turned their ire on the Florida Bar, which says it has power only to investigate individual attorneys, not law firms. Despite hundreds of foreclosure-related complaints against attorneys, not a single Florida lawyer who represents banks in foreclosure cases has been disciplined for foreclosure fraud by the Florida Bar.

    And all of the major players, including leaders of the Law Offices of David J. Stern and Boca Raton-based Shapiro & Fishman, remain members in good standing with the Bar.
For more, see Two years after foreclosure probe launched, investigation winds down (Blocked by legal decision, attorney general says any enforcement action is up to the Florida Bar).

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