Lawsuit Calls California A.G. a BofA Lackey
LOS ANGELES (CN) - More than 300 homebuyers accuse California Attorney General Kamala Harris of "doing Bank of America's bidding" by seizing legal files from their attorney, Mitchell Stein, denying them the right to the legal counsel of their choice.
They say Harris "acted as the pawn of America's most powerful banks, rather than in the interest of California homeowners," to silence their attorney in lawsuits against mortgage lenders.
Similar complaints have been filed in Miami and New York. The allegations in this article come from the 54-page complaint in Los Angeles Federal Court.
The plaintiffs claim that Harris' raid on their attorney's law firm is an attempt to prevent homeowners from gaining ground in lawsuits against Bank of America and other banks which, they claim, "have committed various types of mortgage fraud and then stolen, or tried to steal, the homes of these plaintiffs in violation of state and federal laws."
The plaintiffs include more than 300 homeowners from several states who hired Mitchell J. Stein's law firm to represent them in lawsuits against Bank of America and 13 other financial institutions.
According to the complaint: "On Aug. 17, 2011, defendant Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General for defendant State of California, grossly violated plaintiffs' civil rights by seizing plaintiffs' legal files and denying plaintiffs the right to the legal counsel of their choice. Defendant Harris did this under the cover of secrecy without any public airing of the facts, without proper court approval, and without allowing either plaintiffs or their counsel or any court a chance to respond. Harris did so based on an inadequate investigation while citing demonstrably false accusations against plaintiff Mitchell J. Stein, an attorney. And Harris did so at the behest of Bank of America, whose attorneys had been deeply alarmed by the substantive progress that attorney Stein has achieved in plaintiffs' mass joinder case against the bank.
"Defendant Harris took this action while making the transparently false claim that she was protecting 'consumers.' Plaintiffs herein are among the consumers she purports to be protecting and they hereby vigorously reject Harris' jaded interpretation of 'protection.' Plaintiffs' desire is to continue to be represented by the LLP - and one of its partners, Mr. Stein - and for him to continue to unravel the worst systematic fraud committed by any financial institution in United States history.
"On Aug. 17, 2011, defendants intentionally violated the due process of all plaintiffs herein when they invaded the offices of the LLP in Agoura Hills and seized plaintiffs' client files and personal property not belonging to the LLP, claiming to have a court order that allowed them to do so, when such court order did not even name the LLP as a defendant in the underlying action that defendant Harris had filed in superior court."
Harris sued several law firms and attorneys on Aug. 15, accusing them of using deceptive marketing to induce thousands of homeowners across the country into joining mass joinder lawsuits against mortgage lenders.
Stein's clients claim: "Rather than protecting consumers, defendant Harris' actions primarily benefitted Bank of America, which has sought repeatedly to discredit attorney Stein ever since he filed in the original lawsuit against Bank of America in 2009, a lawsuit that the attorney general herself described as the 'granddaddy' of mass joinder bank cases.
"Defendants' lawsuit against Stein and 26 other persons claimed, among other things, that attorney Stein had participated in illegal and unethical soliciting of clients through mail advertising. On Feb. 3, 2011, Bank of America lawyer Keith Klein went into Superior Court with the very same allegations, and was told that the bank had not presented a legitimate complaint against attorney Stein. Bank of America then took those same claims to defendant Harris and arranged for her to do their bidding, after Bank of America corruptly funneled money to Harris and other defendants through the bank's counsel of record against plaintiffs.
"Defendant Harris formed a mortgage fraud task force to great political fanfare just three months ago. Yet that task force has taken no action whatsoever against Bank of America or any other bank. Instead, Harris attacked Mitchell J. Stein, who has achieved the greatest progress in seeking to hold the large banks accountable for their misdeeds that helped to create the country's current economic crisis.
"Helped by attorney Stein's work and cooperation with federal authorities, the United States of America sued Bank of America again, on Friday, Aug. 2, 2011, alleging the same wrongdoings that attorney Stein alleged back in 2009. Thus, defendant Harris' and Bank of America's attempt to silence Stein - their most feared enemy - backfired."
Stein's clients claim that in her attempt to protect Bank of America, Harris failed to attend a meeting with the Department of Homeland Security to discuss California's compliance with federal directives affecting large banks.
"Defendant Harris disingenuously stated that 'her office takes no position as to the legal merits of any claims asserted in the mass joinder lawsuits filed by defendants,'" the complaint states. "Yet she clearly has taken a position by seeking to remove the single most effective lawyer in prosecuting those cases."
Stein's clients say that despite Bank of America's and Harris' efforts, Stein managed to expand the lawsuit against the bank by adding 160 more plaintiffs on Aug. 1.
To top it off, they say, Harris has allowed competing law firms, some of which have been prohibited from illegal marketing activities by the Federal Trade Commission, to publish and distribute "a blatantly illegal marketing mailer" to homeowners across the country.
The mailer, which Harris approved in July, "states unequivocally that anybody signing up with Brookstone Law will receive $75,000 from a 'class action settlement.' The facts are that such $75,000 'class action settlement' does not exist and is not close to existing," according to the complaint.
Brookstone Law is not named as a defendant.
"Defendant Harris has never explained why she is relying on testimony from discredited attorneys and their agents who have FTC Consent Orders against them for illegal marketing practices, all to build a case against Mr. Stein who she knows has been actively assisting the United States Department of Homeland Security," the complaint states. "Is it because Mr. Stein is the most serious threat to Bank of America?"
The homeowners claim that Harris authorized law enforcement agents, armed with guns and Tasers, to raid Stein's office and confiscate his firm's equipment, documents, employees' personal property, client files and files belonging to the Department of Homeland Security, without a court order.
They say Harris seized the records of homeowners from states in which she has no jurisdiction.
And they say Harris failed to contact Stein's firm before the raid or to verify Stein's involvement in illegal marketing practices.
"Harris' core substantive allegations are that Mr. Stein used deceptive and fraudulent advertising to get clients and then he failed to produce results for those clients," the complaint states. "Both allegations are false and were easily refutable had Harris bothered to conduct an adequate investigation. But Harris did not. Her investigator admitted that his primary focus was on attorney Phillip Kramer. The investigator did not interview Mr. Stein. He did not interview Mr. Stein's staff. He did not interview Mr. Stein's associates in other states. He did not interview Mr. Stein's partner in the LLP, [former Florida state prosecutor] Mike Riley. Thus, armed with no evidence, instead Harris decided that 'guilt by association' was a sufficient standard when seeking to achieve Bank of America's goals."
Stein's clients claim that, contrary to Harris' allegations, Stein has never participated in loan modifications and has not used illegal mailers or other deceptive marketing practices "to lure unsuspecting clients into 'scam lawsuits.'"
They say Harris never spoke with Stein's clients, most of whom were referred to Stein by the offices of Sen. Dianne Feinstein and the Department of Homeland Security.
And they say Stein is representing many hardship clients pro bono.
"In her zeal to protect Bank of America, defendant Kamala D. Harris simply threw attorney Stein in with dozens of lawyers, law firms, marketers and loan modification businesses and then tarnished him with the blanket accusation of fraud and conspiracy," the complaint states. "This is how Bank of America wanted it. With a little lying and cheating, the bank took a shot at removing from the playing field the superstar who had been beating the bank to a pulp for two and a half years."
Stein's clients claim Harris omitted from her complaint that a Superior Court judge supported the validity of Stein's claims against Bank of America, and that several state attorneys general have filed similar lawsuits against the bank.
The complaint states: "The simple truth is this: Mitchell Stein and his legal associates, who have built their case load not through fraudulent mailings but through tens of thousands of hours of detective work, are Bank of America's biggest nightmare. And while defendant Harris claims to be on the side of the California homeowner, she is effectively trying to provide Bank of America, one of the nation's worst corporate citizens in history, who is now being sued again by a very recent federal lawsuit, a 'get out of jail free card' by silencing attorney Stein."
Stein's clients add: "Since defendants unlawfully shut down the LLP by duping a superior court into believing that it was only shutting down Mitchell Stein's practice, the LLP's clients have not been given any information about their lawsuits from the attorney general or by defendant California State Bar, which has reportedly taken over their cases nationwide. Many plaintiffs are fearful that defendant Harris has shared their files with the very banks they are suing. Some have been told they cannot get their personal legal files for at least three years. By that time, if the evidence of fraud is correct, their homes will be long gone, Bank of America will no longer exist and they will have been denied their day in court."
They seek more than $1 billion in compensatory and punitive damages for civil rights violations, and want the defendants enjoined from prosecuting Stein and his clients.
Named as defendants are the State of California, Los Angeles County, the City of Los Angeles, Attorney General Kamala Harris, Deputy Attorneys General Benjamin Diehl and James Toma, and the State Bar of California.
The homeowners are represented by Erikson Davis, and by Mitchell Stein.