Friday, September 24, 2010
Sixth Attorney Agrees to Disbarment for Loan Modification Misconduct
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The State Bar of California said yesterday that Orange County attorney Mark Alan Shoemaker has agreed to be disbarred for loan modification misconduct.
Shoemaker, 50, did so as a result of complaints from 18 homeowners who received little or nothing for their money when seeking help in trying to change the terms of their mortgage and avoid foreclosure, the State Bar said.
He is the sixth lawyer to agree to disbarment since the group created its Loan Modification Task Force in April 2009.
“What the State Bar discipline system is doing to lawyers engaged in loan modification misconduct is historic,” State Bar Chief Trial Counsel James Towery said. “The [State Bar] has never so aggressively gone after a group of attorneys for misconduct.”
Towery described as “remarkable” the results of State Bar prosecutors working to stop foreclosure-related unethical behavior.
The State Bar said that Shoemaker, as president of Advocate For Fair Lending, 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.
The company promised to audit loan documents, which, Shoemaker said in a stipulation letter, “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, and admitted to knowing or being “grossly negligent in not knowing” that AFFL employees who were not lawyers were giving legal advice.
He also 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.
The State Bar said that Shoemaker agreed that his misconduct “demonstrates a pattern of willfully failing to perform services and a habitual disregard for his clients.”
A member of the State Bar since 1988, Shoemaker was placed on involuntary inactive status May 31. The State Bar’s website shows no prior public record of discipline.
In addition to the six disbarments, the State Bar’s Loan Modification Task Force has obtained 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.
Copyright 2010, Metropolitan News Company