My Experiences With Feldman Law Center
I first walked into Feldman Law Center more than six months ago. The doors to the law firm were open wide and the office, although quite nice, wasn’t anything remarkable… just what you’d expect from a small law firm. I wanted to meet with Steve Feldman, of Feldman Law Center, because several others told me that they were one of the larger firms helping homeowners at risk of losing their homes with loan modifications.
I’d heard that Feldman advertised a lot on radio and television, and that always makes people talk… law firms, I suppose, aren’t supposed to advertise, for some reason, although they’ve been doing it for many years now and are allowed to do it within certain parameters. Anyway, I wanted to go see this well-known loan modification firm to see if they were doing good things for people, or whether, as my government was telling everyone… they were “scammers”.
Now, before I got started on my journey into the world of loan modification firms, I had to decide what the definition of “scammer” really was, and I decided that it was someone who took your money and delivered nothing in return. Simple, right? I thought so.
So, I called Mr. Feldman. And he answered the phone. He was at dinner when I called; it was, apparently, his cousin’s 50th birthday and they were celebrating. Pretty normal, so far. We agreed to meet the following week and we did. He was in my neck of the woods visiting a client, so we decided to meet at a TGI Fridays for a drink and some potato skins. (Come on… their potato skins are the bomb.)
Steve’s a lawyer, and a nice guy. We talked for a couple of hours and frankly, there was nothing that indicated that he was doing anything but fighting with lenders and servicers on behalf of homeowners, which is no easy task, I might add.
It’s become a very unpopular job, by the way, which I’ve always found to be absolutely weird, to be entirely candid. I mean, doesn’t it sound weird to everyone else too? Why in the world would a lawyer who offers to help people save their homes from foreclosure be thought of as “unpopular”? Lawyers that take people’s homes away… I understand why they’d be unpopular, but the other way around? It’s really strange…
So, I arranged to visit Feldman Law Center a few days later. I got there in the late afternoon and Steve walked me around the office introducing me to the various members of his staff. The firm has several attorneys and each attorney has maybe 4-5 people assisting. It’s not a very big office; they use the space well. They’re also very organized and very technology driven. Each department is set up to work seamlessly with the others, and the whole operation works on a computer system that they had someone build from the ground up to meet their specifications. I have to tell you… it’s very cool.
When a potential client calls into Feldman Law Center the person they talk to is entering information into the system from the very beginning, and the system is designed to tell the lawyers at Feldman whether the homeowner is a likely candidate for a loan modification. If they are, fine, their case gets assigned to an attorney and the process starts. And if they’re not, then they talk to them about other alternatives to foreclosure, such as short sales and the like. It’s really very efficient and everyone that works on that client’s file has access to the system so they all know what’s happening at all times.
They know exactly when a client’s file went to the lender, when the lender responded and what was said. They can easily get the lender or servicer copies of whatever they lost… which happens all the time… and if the lender or servicer is following the rules of the government program, they say that they generally get the loan modified.
But the best part of my tour that day was when I was standing off to the side listening to one of the Feldman negotiators who was obviously talking with a bank employee. She was saying:
“No. No. My borrower cannot afford that! You have to make the monthly payment fit within their budget or what’s the point? Yes you can! No. No….”
She was relentless. And it went on for at least 10 minutes. There was no way this Feldman employee was going to let this bank give her client a modification that wouldn’t work. But she was having trouble getting the bank to see it her way. She placed the call on hold and went over to speak with Steve. I don’t know what she said to him because I was too far away to hear clearly. Steve heard though, and went to his desk and closed the door, while she transferred the call to him.
Steve was on the phone with that bank for 45 minutes. I know because I was waiting to talk with him and it seemed like it was taking forever. When he came out he was happy… he slammed the file down in front of me. “Got them to reduce the monthly payment by over $ 1300 a month. They initially wouldn’t come off of the 5 1/2 % number, but they finally did. I got them 3% fixed for 5 years. We just hit a home run, but you watch… the client won’t like it… they’ll complain that they wanted a principal reduction. This business is insane, ” he said.
Steve opined about how the clients want the world from their lenders but that the lenders don’t even want to give them what the President’s plan allows… let alone anything more. It must be very frustrating to do what he does day in and day out. I don’t think I could do it.
While I was there that afternoon, I saw nothing but dedicated people doing a thankless job while getting attacked by everyone… the banks… servicers… the government… the media… no one likes someone who’s helping a homeowner get their loan modified and like I said… it’s weird.
Feldman completes hundreds of loan modifications each month, and they’re not the least bit afraid of taking on the difficult cases, which I find to be admirable. I’ve seen them save homes that were already sold! Seriously… they’ve gotten cases overturned after the person’s home was sold… and they got it back for the homeowner.
I’ve even seen Feldman Law Center get principal reductions of more than a hundred thousand dollars! No, not everyday, or even every week, but at least half a dozen times… and that’s just when they’ve shown the case to me. I’m sure it’s happened more than that. And they almost always get modifications that are frankly amazing in my opinion. I haven’t needed to apply for a loan modification as yet, thank God, but some of the deals I’ve seen Feldman get would certainly help someone stay in their home. I mean, we’re talking many hundreds of dollars a month being shaved off of someone’s payment here… not twenty bucks.
Here’s the thing about Feldman Law Center that I think gets lost for some people… they are a big firm, in that they help a lot of people. Their records show that they’ve modified many hundreds of loans. And they’ve helped people with short sales, cash for keys, deeds in lieu, and whatever else they can arrange to help a homeowner avoid foreclosure. It’s a bad situation that people find themselves in today, but Feldman Law Center certainly does everything they can to make it the best it can be… and I don’t think you can ask for much more than that.
But when you deal with that many homeowners, especially during times like we’re experiencing in this country today, there will some you cannot please. There will be a few that won’t be satisfied with the amount of their loan modification… and there will be a few that will complain about their lawyer… even though in truth they really should be complaining about their banker or loan servicer. And I’m sure there will be times when the firm will fall short of expectations for other reasons.
I understand. I’d be pissed at the situation too. I can’t imagine what someone goes through when losing their home as a result of an economic meltdown that was caused by bankers in the first place. It makes me sick to my stomach every time I hear about another homeowner losing a home, and later that day I get to read about Citibank giving out billions in bonuses to the very same people who either caused this crisis, or watched it unfold without saying a word.
Growing up in this country, I would have said that what’s happening today would be impossible. Our government would never bail out the banks with trillions and then let the homeowners swing in the breeze. We’re the voters, remember? How can we be letting our government do what they’re doing? I don’t care whether you’re on the left or on the right… what’s happening to homeowners today is flat out wrong. Period. And to those that don’t think so… well, there’s no reason for us to talk, because we’re not going to be friends. Such people aren’t bright enough or caring enough to be my friend, how’s that for being clear about where I stand on this issue?
So, it’s understandable that people are upset at the situation. And it’s understandable a small percentage are going to complain. After all, Wells Fargo doesn’t have a complaint department for people unhappy with their loan modifications. But you can certainly go online and complain about your lawyer.
I’ve talked to many homeowners who were unhappy about the firm they hired to help them obtain a loan modification, and many, justifiably so. But, I also look at the data from the Treasury Department showing that lenders and servicers have only modified a tiny percentage of mortgages under the HAMP program. I also have looked at the number of lawsuits that have been filed against lenders and servicers, and the blunt truth is… the behavior of the lenders and servicers seems much more offensive than all but the worst of the private sector firms. Unquestionably, a lot worse than anything I’ve even heard anyone say about Feldman Law.
I looked at my watch that first day as I listened to various others talk with lenders and servicers… and it was 7:10pm… and everyone was still going strong, and seemed happy about what they were doing for a living. “Amazing, ” was all I could think at the time.
Then about a month ago, someone who Chairs a committee at the California State Bar invited me to come to the Bar’s annual meeting to attend a symposium on loan modifications in San Diego. I went and sat right up front ready to learn something about how the Bar saw the situation.
I was shocked. Not just at their obvious lack of empathy, but also at their appalling lack of knowledge of what was going on in real life today for millions of Americans. Honestly, it was sickening. If I had a fork at my table I would have stabbed it into my thigh just to stop the pain.
The speaker was an academic… a law school professor. He had never done a loan modification; never known anyone who got a loan modification… what he knew about the subject you could put in a thimble.
A week later the California State Bar published a list of attorneys they said were being investigated for some undefined type of “misconduct”. Some of the names on the list were lawyers who had already been shut down by the FTC and Attorney General’s office. But there, towards the bottom of the list was the name: Steve Feldman. And I have to tell you, I was taken aback.
First of all, I was surprised that Steve’s name would appear on such a list, but I was also shocked that the State Bar would publish such a list in the first place. It’s unbelievable to me that an organization that reports to the Supreme Court of the State of California… an organization supposedly dedicated to the laws in this country, which last time I checked included protections against being put on a list without knowing why or being found guilty of something… that kind of organization would do something like this… well, it’s just unconscionable.
I went to visit Steve the next day. I knew he’d be upset… who wouldn’t be. Steve’s been practicing law for like 25 years without appearing on any lists, so this was bound to be unsettling.
When I arrived, and he came into the office where I was waiting, he sat down, put his head into his hands and said to me: “Why am I on that list, Martin?”
I felt terrible for him. I’d feel terrible for anyone in that type of situation, who didn’t even know why he or she was on the list. How would any of us like to wake up one morning to find that someone had placed our name on a list saying that we were being investigated for some sort of wrongdoing? It would stress out anyone. And it’s unquestionably wrong.
Feldman isn’t hard to find or get a hold of… hell, their front door to their office is always wide open, just like it was the very first day I came for a tour. I’ve been there more than a dozen times since then and it’s always the same place. I’ve walked in unannounced on several occasions. Nothing exciting… just a law office with a bunch of people doing their jobs… helping homeowners save the most important possession in their lives… their homes.
In my way of thinking, if the State Bar wanted to investigate something about Feldman Law Center why couldn’t they have simply called or dropped by? You know… like normal people would.
Then I saw something that I thought helped explain things about the California State Bar. It was in the news:
Governor Schwarzenegger Refuses to Sign SB 641 to Allow the State Bar to Collect Dues From its Membership
It seems that the State Bar is a real mess. So much so, that the Governor wouldn’t sign the bill that would allow them to collect dues from its membership until things get fixed and back on track. Unbelievable.
Among other things, Governor Schwarzenegger said:
◦Salaries for staffers have risen significantly over the past five years.
◦Lack of internal controls led to embezzlement of $676k by former employee.
◦State Bar’s role in evaluation of judicial nominees suggest Bar’s political agenda continues.
◦Disciplinary costs up by $12 million, 2004 to 2008, while disciplinary inquiries have declined.
◦By failing to follow law, JNE Commission damaged its and State Bar’s reputation for impartiality.
◦Bar has become overly political, unresponsive to its membership, and inefficient.
And not only that, but the Chief Justice of the California State Supreme Court recently said that he no longer trusts the judicial nominations made by a committee of the State Bar… that they’ve failed to adhere to various statutes, and that they’ve become overtly political… at least that’s how I read it. You can decide for yourself because the actual letter from the Governor follows:
Here’s the letter from the Governor to the State Assembly:
To the Members of the California State Senate:
I am returning Senate Bill 641 without my signature.
This bill would, among other provisions, authorize the State Bar to collect annual bar dues from its members for 2010.
In 1997, Governor Pete Wilson vetoed the annual State Bar dues bill, citing numerous concerns that the State Bar had become overly political, unresponsive to its membership, and inefficient.
Unfortunately, twelve years later, inefficiencies remain unaddressed and questions about the State Bar’s role in the evaluation of judicial nominees suggest that the State Bar’s political agenda continues.
In July, the State Auditor released a report critical of the State Bar. Among the problems noted by the report: salaries for staff have risen significantly over the past five years; the costs of its disciplinary system have escalated by $12 million from 2004 to 2008 while the number of disciplinary inquiries opened has declined; and a lack of internal controls allowed the embezzlement of nearly $676, 000 by a former employee. As the organization charged with regulating the professional conduct of its members, the conduct of the State Bar itself must be above reproach. Regrettably, it is not.
In addition, recent actions by the State Bar’s Judicial Nominees Evaluation Commission (JNE) also call into question the State Bar’s impartiality in considering judicial appointments. All JNE Commission proceedings are required by law to be confidential and qualification ratings are not to be released to the public prior to the Governor considering an appointment. Unfortunately, recent events have required the State Bar to launch an official inquiry into the confidentiality of such proceedings.
Moreover, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court has recently questioned the reliability of the Commission’s recommendations by noting its failure to follow statutory guidelines when considering judicial nominees. By failing to follow the law, the JNE Commission has damaged its reputation for impartiality and, in turn, the State Bar’s.
There is no question the State Bar has an essential role in the state’s justice system and must continue to oversee the licensing, education, and discipline of California’s lawyers. However, I am returning this bill without my signature because the State Bar cannot continue with business as usual. It must take the time to reexamine the problems noted by the State Auditor and continue its investigation into the JNE Commission. I urge the State Bar to resolve these issues as soon as possible so the Legislature can reintroduce this measure early next year.
So, now I’m not at all sure that the State Bar should even be allowed to publish such a list. They’re obviously an organization whose judgment can’t always be trusted or relied upon… the Governor won’t even allow them to collect dues from their own members. So, why would I believe them when they list someone without saying why? Without any proof of anything… what country do we live in?
I think every American should be offended by this list of lawyers, many of whom I assume, don’t even know why their names are listed… I know that Steve Feldman certainly didn’t know why his name was there.
And I also know that a lot of people believe their lawyer should have done more to save their home… but there will be over 4 million foreclosures in this country this year alone. Are they all just victims of bad lawyers? No… homeowners should think about where they direct their anger… it’s the banks that are causing this national pain and we’re all suffering as a result. And the faster we wake up and realize what’s happening… and scream our heads off in the voting booth… the faster we’ll start to see a real recovery.
Yes, it’s not a popular thing for attorneys to do these days… try to help people save their homes from foreclosure… it’s certainly working against the odds. But when I think about these lawyers who are trying to help, I think about the following… and I hope Steve does too:
The only lawyers in this country that are honored and revered by history are the lawyers who stood up for others when it was unpopular to do so. In fact our country was founded by lawyers who stood up when it was unpopular to do so.
So, I for one have seen what Feldman Law has accomplished and continues to try to accomplish every day, and I for one am glad there are lawyers like Steve Feldman who push ahead for the rights of ordinary homeowners in this country. Because if not lawyers like Steve… then who?
In fact, I know at least one law firm that has stopped helping people obtain loan modifications because they’ve been… in a word… extorted by clients on several occasions. And I’ve seen some of the letters with my own eyes. In one case, a client who had received a loan modification after the law firm worked on the client’s file for six months, wrote in to say that they could have done it themselves and now wanted their money back… or they would complain to the State Bar.
I’ve tried to learn as much as possible about our foreclosure crisis over the last year and then some. And I haven’t seen anything in the way of answers that’s anywhere near perfect. Even the giant non-profit Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, which is led by Bruce Marks, has an ‘F’ rating with the Better Business Bureau, and a huge line of people who say that they were misled and ignored by the group who claims an “80% success rate, ” and “same day solution”.
A few months ago, I even read more than 600 complaints written by homeowners who did NOT hire anyone to help them with a loan modification, and they gave Barack Obama an ‘F’ with their own private version of the BBB.
So… so far, since this crisis began, I’ve seen just about everyone blamed for something egregious. I’ve seen the borrowers blamed, the brokers blamed, the lenders, the lawyers, the government, the president, the butcher, baker and candlestick maker. And I’m quite sure that there will be some who will want to blame me for advocating that people need help and should hire an attorney to help them obtain a loan modification. Maybe everyone is just mad. Maybe we all have the right to be mad.
But I’m not going to be mad at Steve Feldman, just because a handful of people have been unhappy with his firm’s performance for one reason or another. Considering that his firm has helped many hundreds of homeowners, if he was operating a “scam, ” there would certainly be hundreds of people complaining, which is not the case.
Are all lawyers perfect? Of course not. Are all ethical? No, I would think not. But most are ethical, and most do try to successfully resolve their client’s cases. In the case of loan modifications, lawyers all charge a flat fee, so were it up to them, getting a loan modification would take 72 hours and end in a principal reduction and reduced interest rate. Why? Because when working under a flat fee arrangement, that’s how you’d make the most money, that’s why.
Since SB94 has been signed into California law on October 12, 2009, Feldman Law Center is still helping homeowners avoid foreclosure and postpone trustee sale dates but operating much differently these days. Feldman no longer accepts advance fees for loan modifications and has adopted new policies and procedures for helping troubled homeowners.
My name is Martin Andelman and no one asked me to write this letter, nor was I compensated in any way for writing it. I just know people need help and Feldman is one attorney I would trust to help me. You can reach me by emailing: email@example.com or if you need help you can reach Feldman Law Center at www.feldmanlawcenter.com or just call them at 1-800-681-9230.