AND ANOTHER LAWYER AGREES TO DISBARMENT FOR LOAN MODIFICATION ACTIVITIES
Media Contact: Diane Curtis 415-538-2028 email@example.com
San Francisco, Sept. 23, 2010 – Maintaining its momentum in protecting the public from lawyers who prey on distressed homeowners, the State Bar’s Office of Chief Trial Counsel today obtained an agreement to be disbarred from Orange County lawyer Mark Alan Shoemaker (bar number 134828).
Shoemaker, 50, from Santa Ana, becomes the sixth lawyer who agreed to be disbarred as a result of complaints from 18 homeowners who got little or nothing for their money when seeking help in trying to change the terms of their mortgage and avoid foreclosure.
“What the State Bar discipline system is doing to lawyers engaged in loan modification misconduct is historic,” said State Bar Chief Trial Counsel James Towery. “The bar has never so aggressively gone after a group of attorneys committing misconduct." Towery described as “remarkable” the results of State Bar prosecutors working to stop foreclosure-related unethical behavior.
As president of Advocate For Fair Lending (AFFL), Shoemaker promised homeowners “trapped in their mortgages,” that his company could “reduce your payments, interest and balance without refinancing your home.” Clients paid a minimum $1,000 a month for three months for the company’s services.
AFFL promised to audit loan documents, which, Shoemaker said in a stipulation, “had no value to clients.” Demand letters were sent to lenders and when they didn’t respond, AFFL said the client would need an attorney for an additional fee. Shoemaker never acted on any client’s behalf and many of the clients lost their homes. Shoemaker also admitted to knowing or being “grossly negligent in not knowing” that AFFL employees who were not lawyers were giving legal advice.
Shoemaker failed to perform legal services competently, failed to refund unearned fees, inadequately communicated with clients, failed to account for advanced fees and costs, charged an unconscionable fee, failed to deposit funds in a Client Trust Account and aided a non-attorney in the practice of law, the stipulation said. Shoemaker agreed that his misconduct “demonstrates a pattern of willfully failing to perform services and a habitual disregard for his clients.”
The State Bar’s Loan Modification Task Force, created in April 2009, has obtained six disbarments and 12 resignations of attorneys involved in loan modification misconduct. Six trials are pending and another 1,800 active investigations related to loan modification are underway; more than 4,000 complaints have come through the task force since it was formed.
The State Bar of California is an administrative arm of the California Supreme Court, serving the public and seeking to improve the justice system for more than 80 years. All lawyers practicing law in California must be members of the State Bar. By September 2010, membership reached 228,000.