Now in Legal Rebels:
Posted Oct 31, 2011 11:00 am CDT
A New York Times columnist is expressing outrage over Halloween costumes worn by some employees of a law firm previously in the news because of a probe into its foreclosure practices.
The costumes appear to mock homeowners targeted in the law firm’s cases, showing an “appalling lack of compassion,” according to New York Times columnist Joe Nocera. The photos, taken at the Steven J. Baum law firm’s Halloween party last year, were passed along to Nocera by a former firm employee who wanted to remain anonymous. Not every department in the Baum firm used the occasion to mock homeowners, but some did, the former employee told the newspaper.
In one photo, posted on the New York Times website, two law firm employees are dressed like homeless people. One is holding a sign that reads, “I lost my home and I was never served.” It was intended to mock claims made by foreclosed homeowners, the ex-employee said. Other photos showed mock homeless camps, mock foreclosure signs and office decorations that look like a row of foreclosed homes.
Earlier this month, the law firm agreed to pay $2 million to settle a federal probe into misleading foreclosure practices. At the time, Steven Baum acknowledged some “inadvertent errors” but no wrongdoing.
A spokesman for the law firm gave the New York Times this statement: “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,” the statement read. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”
On Saturday, the law firm backtracked from that stance, the Buffalo News reports. Baum told the newspaper the photos “obviously were in poor taste.”
“On behalf of the firm, I sincerely apologize for what happened last year at our Halloween party,” he said. Baum said this year’s party, held last week, raised money for the American Red Cross, and employees were warned they could not wear costumes that might be interpreted as offensive.