When Florida attorney David Stern was at the height of his powers during the housing crisis, his firm employed 150 lawyers to process thousands of foreclosure cases for lenders, including Bank of America (BAC), Citibank (NYSE: C), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Those days appear to be long gone for the Law Office of David J. Stern, based in Plantation, Fla. Court referee Nancy Perez recommended that the Florida Supreme Court revoke Stern's law license and order him to pay roughly $50,000 to cover the Florida Bar's legal costs, according to a report filed Oct. 30. The recommendation that Stern be disbarred follows a 17-count complaint filed by the Florida Bar.
Stern has 60 days from Oct. 30 to ask the court to review his case or request the right to make an oral argument, according to a Florida Bar spokeswoman. Jeffrey Tew, Stern's lawyer, did not respond to calls seeking comment.
According to Perez's report Stern "created chaos on the courts of the state of Florida" by providing inadequate supervision of overworked and inexperienced employees. That resulted in his office mishandling foreclosure cases.
Stern took on more foreclosure cases than his staff could handle as part of a bid to sell his back-office document preparation services-a $58 million deal that was dependent in part on the volume of files his firm processed, according to Perez.
The emphasis on volume resulted in each of his attorneys being responsible for an average of 1,646 foreclosures in 2008. Stern's over-burdened staff missed court appearances, improperly reviewed and notarized files, filed forged affidavits and made numerous other errors, Perez said in her report. In one instance, an associate attorney failed to correct an error that resulted in lenders commencing foreclosure proceedings against the wrong person; in another, an attorney neglected to tell the court that a property was tenant-occupied. Stern's lead attorneys repeatedly asked him to cut down on the number of cases but he declined, according to court testimony.
"No training or skills could save [Stern's associates] from the tsunami of work they faced," Perez said.
Stern's mismanagement of the firm created extreme delays for the court system, made borrowers' attempts to settle or obtain mortgage modifications impossible and hobbled lenders' ability to collect collateral, Perez said. Stern also failed to address or withdraw from 100,000 cases after his firm closed in March 2011, her report added.