Thursday, April 12, 2012

'Tsunami' of foreclosure complaints swamps Fla. Bar

The Florida Bar has fielded nearly 1,400 complaints against attorneys relating to the housing crisis, an unprecedented amount that has buried investigators and forced the group to rethink how it will handle widespread grievances in the future.

Beginning in the fall of 2010, as foreclosures receded because of robo-signing revelations, a wave of consumer complaints alleging attorney misconduct began to hit the Bar.

The complaint categories - mortgage fraud, foreclosure fraud, loan modification misconduct - didn't even exist three years ago, said Ken Marvin, director of lawyer regulation for the Florida Bar.

His first recorded loan modification complaint was in November 2010. Today, 793 cases have been opened.

"They just started coming in and the numbers were incredible," Marvin said. "We never even had a loan modification category or mortgage fraud or foreclosure fraud, and we had to create all of this because we wanted to track these reliably."

The Bar hired an additional attorney to specifically process foreclosure and mortgage complaints, which make up about 17 percent of all open Bar cases.

"The most important thing is to get it right," Marvin said.

As of late March, 208 of the 1,394 housing-related cases have resulted in some kind of disciplinary action against an attorney, which can range from a public reprimand to disbarment.

But while foreclosure fraud may be the most high-profile type of case following the collapse of the Law Offices of David J. Stern last year, no punitive actions have been taken so far against an attorney in that category. Of 377 foreclosure fraud cases opened, 234 are still pending.

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