Press release from United Law Group today that handles debt settlement cases, among others. You would think that if United Law Group was a stickler for details and keeping records they’d recognize the reporter was Paul Elias, not Paul Alias.
Refuting assertions that United Law Group is ‘either unscrupulous or incompetent’, the firm’s senior managing attorney Robert Buscho released documents contradicting claims made by Warren Jacobs in a recent AP News story written by AP reporter Paul Alias. Buscho denied misconduct in this case and calls the recent news story an “erroneously researched piece of tabloid journalism.”
Irvine, CA (Vocus/PRWEB ) February 24, 2010 — United Law Group’s senior managing attorney Robert Buscho today released a statement and documentation that counters the allegations made about the firm. The documents include the request for information submitted to United Law Group via the internet on January 18, 2009, a recording of the message left by a United Law Group representative following up on his request, a recording of the call where Jacobs retained the firm and was advised that the firm would not tell him to stop making his monthly mortgage payments, and a copy of the trial modification agreement dated March 2, 2009 in which the bank offered to reduce his payments by $664 by cutting his rate from 8.2% to 5.75% and reducing his principal by over $50,000.
“Warren Jacobs reached out to United Law Group and requested a call from the firm via an online form that he submitted requesting additional information about a forensic loan audit on January 18, 2009,” said Buscho. “He was not contacted by a so-called robo-dialer.”
ULG staff documented speaking to Mr. Jacobs eight times between February 1 and March 9, 2009. File notes also indicate correspondence with the lender during that time. On March 2, 2009, a mere six weeks after being retained by Mr. Jacobs, ULG’s efforts on his behalf resulted in a loan modification offer that reduced his interest rate from 8.2% to 5.75%, slashed his monthly principal and interest payment from $1,511.22 to $847.82 and cut the amount owed on the note from $207,855.35 to $156,250.00 – a principal reduction of over $50,000.
ULG staff communicated with Mr. Jacobs about the modification on March 9, 2009 and told him to start making payments on the new program. He chose not to take the offer and asked if the firm could “do better.” He then lost his job a month later and informed the firm that he wanted to delay things because he lost his job.
United Law Group personnel either spoke to or left messages for Mr. Jacobs multiple times between April and May 2009 to discuss his financial situation and the risk of foreclosure. He failed to return calls to the firm.
“While Mr. Jacob’s plight may sound like that of many American’s, the reality is that he was not making proper use of a system that was designed to help ‘honest’ homeowners,” said Buscho.
The article contends that Jacobs hired another attorney to file bankruptcy on his behalf in June 2009 after United Law Group failed to take certain actions to delay foreclosure.
“United Law Group did not offer to file bankruptcy on Mr. Jacobs’ behalf because he previously filed a Petition under Chapter 7 on April 15, 2003. With no complaint objecting to the discharge having been timely filed, he received a discharge from the U. S. Bankruptcy, Northern District of Texas, on July 31, 2003,” said Buscho. “In the article, writer Paul Alias states that Mr. Jacobs claims to have filed another bankruptcy petition in June of 2009. If this was done, it would be an illegal filing as Mr. Jacobs is not entitled to more than one discharge under Chapter 7 within seven years. He would therefore be an ineligible debtor under Bankruptcy Code § 109. A trustee or interested party would have standing to request the Bankruptcy Court dismiss the second filing as abusive.”
Focused heavily on impugning the reputation of the firm and its founder, who stepped down in December of 2009 for health reasons, the story written by Paul Alias alleges that United Law Group is on par with unscrupulous so-called loan modification firms who attempted to take advantage of homeowners in need.
“United Law Group opened practice during very tumultuous times in this country,” said Buscho. “We stand by our clients and provide ethical, legal solutions every step of the way. We’ve taken some hits for our efforts because the banks don’t like it when homeowners have a strong partner in their corner. We are speaking out today because these scare tactics cannot be allowed. The honest people who retain our firm need our help, not poorly-researched, tabloid-style stories full of inaccuracies designed to instill fear and panic.”
United Law Group attempted to contact Paul Elias and his news editor Tim Reiterman after the article was published. Mr. Reiterman stated that it was AP policy to submit complaints directly to the writer but that the writer may not promptly return calls as he was “on deadline.”
“The reporter from the Associated Press originally requested the names of satisfied clients and was provided those names,” said Buscho. “One client, Dr. Vanessa Taylor, is a prominent Southern California podiatrist who received two modifications – one for her home in Norco, CA which saved her $3,347 per month and got her out of an ARM and another on her parent’s home in Garden Grove, CA, which got these senior citizens out of a predatory loan and saved them $925 per month.”
“Dr. Taylor’s aged parents were in a predatory loan with an interest rate of 9.5%,” said Mr. Stephen Broadhead, the CFO and spokesperson for Dr. Taylor. “Dr. Taylor’s loan wasn’t much better at over 8% with future adjustments on the horizon. The team we worked with from United Law Group did a phenomenal job. They got the banks to reduce the rates to 4.98% and 4.9% respectively. Unfortunately when I spoke to Paul Elias with AP news he wasn’t interested in hearing how the firm helped Dr. Taylor.”
United Law Group has a long-standing reputation for helping honest citizens to handle their legal challenges. The firm represents consumers in cases involving debt settlement, IRS settlement, auto loan payment relief, breaches of contract and violations of state and federal laws. They have several class action lawsuits pending against major lenders. Prior to the passage of SB 94 the firm represented homeowners in litigation and negotiation efforts with mortgage lenders and servicers. The firm posts stories highlighting its successful efforts on an ongoing basis.
Just so you can understand what’s going on here, here is the original AP story by Paul ELIAS.
Lawyer misconduct rises with foreclosure record
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Warren Jacobs was desperate when he received a “robo-call” promising to help him stave off foreclosure of his home near Dallas.
The father of six had lost his construction job, lacked health insurance and couldn’t pay bills for his 17-year-old daughter’s cancer treatment, let alone his mortgage.
So on Jan. 21, he dialed the return number and was connected to the United Law Group. Minutes later Jacobs agreed to scrape together $2,000 to pay the Irvine, Calif. law firm.
He unwittingly became one of the many thousands of homeowners authorities allege have been taken in by unscrupulous or incompetent loan modification attorneys who rushed into a burgeoning legal niche: helping financially struggling homeowners re-negotiate their mortgages.
Ripoffs of homeowners have become so commonplace that state bar associations from Florida to Arizona are warning their members of the many ethical pitfalls awaiting those who exploit the mortgage crisis. The California State Bar launched a task force a year ago to examine thousands of homeowner complaints about foreclosure lawyers.
Currently, the California Bar is investigating more than 400 attorneys who are suspected of ripping off thousands of homeowners across the country.
The organization that licenses and disciplines California’s more than 250,000 lawyers already has suspended or obtained the resignations of 15 lawyers while disciplinary charges are pending.
The first to be charged was Sean Rutledge, founder of the law firm that purported to represent Jacobs and 13 other homeowners.
Just months after securing a law license, Rutledge had been flying high. His United Law Group ramped up to several lawyers and opened offices in other states.
Today his license is suspended, his nascent career lies in tatters and he is under investigation in California and Ohio for taking fees of up to $3,500 from desperate homeowners then allegedly doing little — or nothing — to save their homes.
The California Bar formally charged Rutledge in July with not only failing to perform vital tasks to stop foreclosures, but calling his clients “losers” during the rare occasions they could get him to return their telephone calls.
Rutledge has denied the allegations and said he would contest the state Bar’s attempts to disbar him. He is appealing the dismissal of a lawsuit he filed against the state Bar, alleging that it violated federal laws protecting the disabled. He suffers from diabetes and alleges state Bar investigators ignored his need for treatment when scheduling meetings, among other claims.
He did not return e-mail messages seeking comment, and could not be reached through the United Law Group, which remains in business and calls the focus on its founder and firm a “witch hunt.”
January represented the 11th straight month of more than 300,000 properties receiving foreclosure filings in the country, according to Irvine-based RealtyTrac, which is predicting a record 3 million foreclosures this year.
There were a 190,360 foreclosure in California last year compared to 236,000 in 2008, according to MDA DataQuick.
The California Legislature in October passed a law barring attorneys from collecting advance fees for foreclosure work, an action that has prompted many to leave the field and soured others on entering it.
Meanwhile, some who have entered the field are looking at possible prison time, in addition to disciplinary action. Christopher Diener of Irvine is being held without bail in the Orange County Jail on 98 theft counts for allegedly scamming more than 400 homeowners out of $1.25 million.
“The complaints are still going through the roof,” said Suzan Anderson, the Bar’s lead mortgage fraud prosecutor, who receives more than 30 complaints daily and expects many more lawyers to lose their licenses.
Many of the complaints, like Texas homeowner Jacobs’, are about do-nothing attorneys.
Jacobs told Bar investigators that Rutledge’s law firm advised him to stop making mortgage payments and to cease communicating with the bank.
When the bank moved to seize the house for which Jacobs paid $175,000 in 2003, the law firm failed to formally request “forbearance,” as it promised, to delay foreclosure. On June 1, he hired another lawyer to file bankruptcy on his behalf to stave off foreclosure the next day. In September, he agreed to a new payment plan with his bank and continues to live in the 4,000 square-foot house in suburban Dallas.
“I nearly ended up in a homeless shelter,” Jacobs said.
Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray filed a lawsuit against Rutledge and the United Law Group earlier this month alleging they defrauded homeowners in that state.
United Law Group spokeswoman Nina Vultaggio and others contend that the crackdown on lawyers has been motivated by the financial industry. She alleged that the financial industry is the biggest villain in the mortgage crisis and wants to deprive their customers of legal representation during complicated negotiations to save homes.
“When you get into trouble, you need an attorney to talk to these negotiators,” Vultaggio said.
United Law Group has filed class action lawsuits against Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase and Washington Mutual, alleging unfair business practices, she said. The banks deny the allegations.
Rutledge resigned from the firm in December, saying in a press release that the state Bar’s investigation was too much of a distraction for the firm’s clients.
Legal experts still strongly recommend homeowners in peril hire attorneys to counsel them in how best to deal with their lenders. But state Bar officials warn clients to research a lawyer’s background to avoid the problems Jacobs and many other desperate homeowners said they encountered.
For his part, Jacobs says he is still waiting for United Law Group to refund the fee he paid in January.
“I truly need to be reimbursed for the $2000,” he said, “to help me get out the deeper hole ULG has dug for my family.”