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Law Firms Flocking to Florida
Law firms from all over the United States have been flocking to the state of Florida to take over foreclosure cases abandoned by the firm of David J. Stern and Ben-Ezra & Katz, which had to abandon its cases due to possible foreclosure fraud. One of the newest firms to hit Florida is McCalla Raymer, which is based out of Atlanta, and has four offices in the state of Florida. McCalla Raymer has 21 attorneys working at the four Florida offices, which is also under contract to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac in Florida.
Stern and Ben-Ezra Katz is one of the two largest foreclosure firms to operate in the state of Florida, handling nearly 70,000 foreclosure cases each year. The firm left tens of thousands of files up for grabs after being accused of ‘robo-signing’ and being let go by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The firm used to employ close to 200 attorneys to handle the 70,000 foreclosure cases that were filed with the company each year. Class action suits against the firm allege that the firm would rush through the foreclosure process without using proper documents, proper review, or proper process serving. According to RealtyTrac, Florida residential foreclosures dropped 59 percent in the first half of 2011 compared to the same time frame one year ago. One of the reasons for the slowdown was that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had to assign the cases to other firms.
The firms that have opened offices in Florida over the past year include the following:
- Atlanta-based McCalla Raymer
- North Carolina-based Brock & Scott
- Atlanta-based Aldridge Connors
- Massachusetts-based Ablitt Scofield
- New Jersey-based Mark J. Udren & Associates
- Atlanta-based Pendergast & Associates
- Philadelphia-based Phelan Hallinan & Schmieg
- Atlanta-based Johnson & Freedman
“When everything happened last fall with David Stern and the robo-signing investigations, there seemed to be an opening in the Florida market, and we found the right people to partner with,” said Marty Stone, managing partner of McCalla Raymer. “We want to try to mirror the success we’ve had in Georgia. We didn’t want to just hire a few people on the ground and manage everything remotely. That was one of the issues with Stern. He was too focused on Fort Lauderdale.”
Some of the local firms that were already operating in Florida decided to open divisions of foreclosure in their firms to handle some of the files that were left open. One of those firms, Tripp Scott, launched its foreclosure division after receiving a bid from Fannie Mae.
“We knew before we became involved in the process that there were serious issues that were well-documented,” Tripp Scott managing partner Ed Pozzuoli said. “We knew there would be challenges. However, despite those challenges we have moved forward, and it’s going pretty well.”
The new foreclosure firms in Florida are receiving anywhere from 3,500-5,000 transfer files at $1,200-$1,400 per file to expedite the foreclosure filings in the state.