The New York law firm Steven J. Baum P.C., which specialized in mortgage foreclosures, announced that it would close today, less than a month after the New York Times published photos of its employees dressed as homeless people for Halloween, in a twist too absurd for 30 Rock. “Disrupting the livelihoods of so many dedicated and hardworking people is extremely painful, but the loss of so much business left us no choice but to file these notices,” said Baum in a statement. Last week, following Times columnist Joe Nocera’s publication of the offensive pictures from the company’s Halloween party last year, Nocera received an angry e-mail from Baum: “Mr. Nocera — You have destroyed everything and everyone related to Steven J. Baum PC. It took 40 years to build this firm and three weeks to tear down.” Our sympathy receptors must be broken today.
The “foreclosure mill” used the speedy, inaccurate process of “robo-signing” documents to increase productivity, leading a judge to call one filing “incredible, outrageous, ludicrous and disingenuous.” Last month, the firm agreed to pay a $2 million penalty for its rushed mistakes. After the settlement and the publication of the photos, both Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae opted to stop working with Baum, making the company’s survival impossible.
Of the angry e-mail from Baum, Nocera wrote, “I think that’s what they call shooting the messenger.” Wounded messenger sounds like a hell of a costume for Nocera next Halloween — bloodied, but grinning.