In the past month, GMAC, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America have halted or slowed foreclosure procedures, after bank employees and affiliates admitted to signing thousands of documents without knowing the details of the cases. BofA said yesterday that it will restart the foreclosures after its own probe found no irregularities.
"The problems with these firms – and they're very sloppy practices – is that they unacceptably cut legal corners and put the burden on borrowers to basically pay whatever these folks have them pay," said Jeffrey Golant, an attorney in Pompano Beach. "They're loading down with junk fees and illegitimate charges, basically putting people who are already struggling, maybe possibly in most cases legitimately behind on their mortgages, but loading up with such abusive fees that people will never get out of foreclosure."
Still, the crisis has been good for Stern and the rest of the mortgage-servicing industry. Stern and his wife Jeanine have brought nearly $60 million in real estate in recent years, mostly in Florida, according to property records.
His 16,000-square-foot mansion, valued at more than $15 million, occupies a corner lot in a private island community on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway in Fort Lauderdale, according to the New York Times and Mother Jones magazine.
The mansion is featured on a water-taxi tour of the area's grandest estates, including the homes of Jay Leno and billionaire Blockbuster founder Wayne Huizenga, and the former residence of Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball. In addition to the 130-foot yacht, Stern reportedly has an automobile collection that includes a 2008 Bugatti and multiple Ferraris, Porsches and Mercedes.
But Tew declined to discuss his client's assets.
"All that does is feed into this scenario that somehow they're taking advantage of poor people who are losing their houses and getting rich off of it," he said. "You could say the same thing about a neurosurgeon that makes millions of dollars a year from people who sustained terrible head injuries."