Homeowner tells Mandelman Matters of SCOVIS LAW GROUP, and I am DISGUSTED
Anyone who has read me for any time at all knows that I am an outspoken advocate for homeowners and an supporter of legitimate law firms, and other ethical, licensed professionals
I’ve heard from and spoken with many thousands of homeowners across the country, and I’ve heard the horrific stories of what it’s been like to deal with our nation’s banks and mortgage servicers. And I don’t think it’s a secret that I find it both shocking and disgusting that it has gone on as long as it has, and unforgivable that it is being allowed to continue even one more day, while the lives of millions more are being swept away, forever changed. We are allowing deep cuts into the fabric of this nation that are unlikely to heal for 50 years or more.
In my opinion, the lawyers and others who have continued to represent homeowners in need, while withstanding the onslaught of the media and banking industry PR machines, suffering under the ignorance of state and federal governments who have failed to recognize, understand, or address the crisis at every turn, are to be respected, and even admired. They continue to do what is not popular or easy, but is both necessary and right, in an attempt to protect those unable to stand alone against giant financial institutions that so clearly care nothing for matters that lie beyond their balance sheets.
That being said, there are few things I find as loathsome as those that view our national crisis as nothing more than an opportunity to profit from the misery of others, and are willing to break laws and intimidate those in distress, taking those profits from the bank accounts of those least able to withstand their attacks.
Well, yesterday a homeowner contacted me to ask about a law firm, and I use that term loosely, that she and her husband had considered hiring to assist them in getting their loan modified. The firm’s name is Scovis Law Group, and it is located in Newbury Park, California.
I won’t disclose the name of the homeowner, so let’s just call her Mary. Mary told me that she had applied for a loan modification with Bank of America in January in 2009… and she’s still waiting for an answer. And as if she doesn’t have enough to worry about, dealing with a bank that shouldn’t even be in business, and wouldn’t be were it not for taxpayers like her, stonewalling her requests to modify a loan, now she has to worry about a law firm that appears to be operating in violation of the law and entirely without ethics.
Mary and her husband received an email from Michael McDevitt, the Sales Manager hired by Scovis Law Group. Here’s what the firm’s website says about Mr. McDevitt:
Due to the constant influx of time-sensitive cases, Jenny Scovis, Lead Attorney (Bar Number 87026) has retained the services of Michael McDevitt as the Director of Sales to assist and monitor your case until completion. Mr. McDevitt is a best-selling author who is regularly sought out by the media to give expert opinions. Michael has been featured on NBC, CBS, ABC and FOX affiliates as well as seen in USA Today, Newsweek, and the Wall Street Journal. Michael has a passion for helping people and is active in speaking with clients regularly.
Here’s the email Michael sent to Mary and her husband:
From: Michael McDevitt
Sent: Tuesday, May 18, 2010 12:05 PM
To: MARY & HER HUSBAND
Subject: MARY’S ADDRESS – LOAN RESOLUTION
Please print, sign and fax back to number below. Also, please reply to let me know you received this e-mail.
After we receive this package, we will send you a welcome package within 5 days that will give you detailed instructions and a case timeline.
We look forward to improving your financial situation and please let me know if you have any questions.
The Scovis Law Group
810 Lawrence Drive, Suite 210
Newbury Park, CA 91320
310.807.9218 Secured Fax
Visit us at: www.scovislawgroup.com
A Professional Loan Modification Law Firm
This message and any attachments are for the intended recipient(s) only and may contain privileged, confidential and/or proprietary information about Scovis Law Group or its customers, which Scovis Law Group does not intend to disclose to the public. If you received this message by mistake, please notify the sender by reply e-mail and delete the message and attachments.
Okay, I guess so far so good. Nothing stands out there, right?
Well, not exactly: the California State Bar requires a written fee agreement for retainers over $1,000, and Ms. Scovis didn’t bother to provide one.
And, I would have thought that Scovis might be sensitive to the State Bar Rules, since the Cal Bar Website reflects that that in 1984 she suffered “discipline/w actual suspension,” although the Bar’s Website doesn’t set forth the reason. One more little item: In May of 2007, the State Bar filed charges against her alleging a number of fairly serious violations, See link. Scovis has denied the allegations, and the matter is pending according to the State Bar.
Well, what happened next was that Mary got a little nervous because, although Mr. McDevitt didn’t say so in his email, he had told her on the phone that she needed to send the firm a “cashier’s check” for $4,850 overnight. Mary had done her research and knew that law firms were not permitted to charge up front as a result of a bill passed last year, known as SB 94, which basically says that the lawyer cannot receive payment until he or she has completed each and every service he or she has contracted to perform.
So, the next day she and her husband sent back the following email:
From: MARY AND HER HUSBAND
Sent: Wednesday, May 19, 2010
To: Michael McDevitt
Subject: Re: MARY’S ADDRESS – LOAN RESOLUTION
I spoke with B of A today and they referred my file to the next step of the review process, and said I should receive a packet in 30 days with the decision and then the trial mod. So at this point, my husband and I decided to wait the 30 days to see if anything gets resolved.
MARY AND HER HUSBAND
AND HERE’S THE EMAIL SHE RECEIVED IN RESPONSE FROM MR. MCDEVITT:
I won’t have the same deal on the table at that time… the program we are putting you in will have expired… You can call me at that time but everything will change including cost of transaction. Once again, professional representation will get you much better terms than what you negotiate on your own and more than likely if they review the info you sent we are going to have a very hard time convincing them why your financial information has changed, etc etc. … IF you want to keep the home and know your [sic] getting the best deal… your [sic] going to have to pay for it unfortunately… but always pays for itself in the long run.
The Scovis Law Group
810 Lawrence Drive, Suite 210
Newbury Park, CA 91320
310.807.9218 Secured eFax
Visit us at: www.ScovisLawOnline.com
A Professional Loan Modification Law Firm
This message and any attachments are for the intended recipient(s) only and may contain privileged, confidential and/or proprietary information about The Scovis Law Group or its customers, which The Scovis Law Group does not intend to disclose to the public. If you received this message by mistake, please notify the sender by reply e-mail and delete the message and attachments.
Gee, Mikey I’m awful sorry about this “information” that you think “may” be privileged, confidential, or proprietary, and that your firm “does not intend to disclose to the public”. Because that’s exactly what I’m going to do with your information… disclose it to everyone on the planet.
And, really… you have a basis for saying you could do better? Mary didn’t even tell you the terms of the trial modification the bank said it would offer. (Oh, that’s right, you’re a loan mod wizard, I forgot.)
Now, in case you’re wondering why Mary’s husband isn’t writing these emails, maybe it’s because he’s been working two jobs, ever since being laid off by a Fortune 500 corporation where he was an executive for many years. Mary, on the other hand, was injured on her job and has been on disability and workers comp for seven months, so she’s got more time not only to fight with her bank, but also to fight off this jackass of a con man, Michael McDervitt. Of course, with two children who have special needs, she’s got other battles to wage as well, but who’s counting, right Mikey?
So, I looked up Scovis Law Group and have provided some highlights from their Website below:
About Scovis Law Group
We are a diverse team of experts and attorneys with experience in loan modification, loss mitigation, real estate, and mortgage lending. Members of our staff have experience working within the loss mitigation departments of major U.S. lenders and services. We have helped homeowners across the country secure a loan modification, which enabled them to stay in their homes.
Across the country? I thought you were a California law firm? If you are licensed only in California, how is it you are permitted to represent people in other States? To my knowledge, the State Bar of California has rules prohibiting that as well.
Yada, yada, yada… So, what about SB 94, Ms. Jenny Scovis? Here’s what the firm says about that:
SB 94 was signed into law October 12, 2009 to help consumers avoid companies that operate fraudulent loan modification services by barring the collection of advance fees. An advance fee is defined in SB 94 as a fee collected “from a principal before fully completing each and every service the licensee contracted to perform, or represented would be performed, as specified. “In other words, it is a fee collected before contracted work is performed.
Many types of legal representation and negotiation require a client to deposit advance funds into a law firm’s client trust account to retain a lawyer’s services. Until earned, those funds remain the property of the client. This avoids two problems: (1) the need for constant billing in cases of ongoing representation, and (2) the attorney ceasing work on a case until back payment has been received.
Because our clients aren’t paying for services up front, our 100% refund guarantee still stands. If we don’t deliver a successful loan modification, then we haven’t earned your fees, and any funds entrusted to our law office will be promptly returned.
Okay, well… here’s a newsflash… the California State Bar published its clarification on this issue roughly six months ago and stated clearly that lawyers are not allowed to accept funds in advance of work being performed into a trust account, because they said that under SB 94, the word “receive” is broad enough to include funds deposited into a client trust account.
Maybe she figures that her firm’s “100% refund guarantee” will take care of it. What’s the guarantee say exactly, I wondered? I found the answer in the FAQ section of the Scovis Law Group Website:
Do I get my money back if the loan modification is not successful?
We have a 100% money back guarantee, which basically means if we are not successful with your loan modification, we will return your money in full. This 100% money back guarantee however doesn’t apply to client’s who fail to disclose or intentionally misrepresent their information, or to partial paying clients. Partial paying clients are clients who terminate the attorney prior to law firm’s negotiations with the lender are concluded. [huh]
We guarantee a 100% refund of the service fee (minus a $500 cost), if you do not receive one the following solutions from your lender using our custom financial statements and analysis:
- Loan Modification
- Forbearance Agreement
- Repayment Plan
- Loan Restructure
- Short Sale Agreement Packaging & Monitoring
- Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure
- Converting ARM loans into Fixed Rates
- Prolonging the Foreclosure Process
Okay, so that’s the biggest pile of steaming freshness I’ve ever read in my life. Let’s see… what should I call a 100% guarantee that doesn’t apply to someone who “fails to disclose” something, or hasn’t paid all amounts in full, and no matter what deducts $500 for… well, for no reason at all, other than to line their pockets with cash they didn’t earn.
Let’s see: “if we are not successful with your loan modification we will return your money in full,” except if we succeed in “prolonging the foreclosure process” in which case we won’t give you your money back. My 14 year-old could “prolong the foreclosure process” in maybe two phone calls… and probably one. And she doesn’t even know what the words “foreclosure process” mean.
But that’s not even all of it… at the bottom of the page it isays:
*In the event a Notice of Sale is filed prior to submission or there is a breach of client agreement the money back guarantee does not apply.
Oh, there are more ways for me not to get my 100% guarantee minus $500. Great. So, what else might allow you guys at Scovis Law to rip me off? Here’s the Client Agreement:
During Loss Mitigation Process
1. To save all of your mortgage payments, during the process of procuring a loss mitigation alternative. These funds are NOT to be forwarded to the Lender until time needed. This is contingent case-to-case and may not apply to you.
So, how will I know? What if I don’t save every penny… like I’m a hundred bucks short, am I screwed then when you don’t accomplish anything and I ask for my $4,850?
2. To forward any correspondence received from the Lender, Attorney, Sheriff, Judicial Courts, etc. within 3 business days from receiving paperwork.
Oh, I’m sorry Mary… you didn’t get us that correspondence you received from your lender in June for four days… that’s going to cost you… $4,850 to be exact.
3. To avoid disclosing any personal financial information or agreeing to any workout option the bank offers directly. Avoid communication and/or calling for updates from any bank departments.
Damn it, Mary… you disclosed personal information to your bank… that’ll be $4,850, thank you very much.
4. To turn in all Documents to a professional loan consultant within 7 days.
Mary, how could you? When we say 7 days, we don’t mean 8 days, Mary. Ka-Ching!
5. To alert the loan consultant if your financial situation changes.
Mary, you didn’t tell us about that water bill of yours going up during the summer months… shame, shame.
6. To remain available for communication with your loan consultant.
It’s not our fault that you went out on that boat for the afternoon. You made your bed, now you have to…
7. To inform the loan consultant of any property sale dates or delinquency status or whether you have filed bankruptcy.
I don’t remember being informed of that, and neither does your loan consultant.
8. To not Cancel or stop the processing, for any reason, before time frame of 180 days.
You mean if I realize that you’re screwing me within 180 days I can’t get my 100% refund because I didn’t wait 180 days to try to stop from getting screwed?
9. Any form of non-payment; such as insufficient funds or checks that are declined / unsent will result in a suspended file along with any funds that do not cover the retainer cost.
I have no idea what that sentence means, and I don’t want to. You are free to draw your own conclusions.
I understand that breaching any of these provisions above is a violation of Client Responsibilities.
Oh, I most definitely understand what you’re saying there, and not that I needed anything else to become enraged about, related to this firm’s behavior, but here’s a few of the other gems on their site:
HUD does this for free. Why do I need to pay you anything?
We have a challenge for you. Contact HUD by going to www.hud.gov and finding your local office. When on the phone ask your HUD consultant how many modifications they do and how many banks they regularly talk to. If the answer is anything more than 0, don’t pay us a dime. You see, HUD is organized to help you on how the government programs are “supposed” to work, not on how they actually work! Did you know that despite the aggressive programs, most banks are only approving, at most, 9% of modification requests, and fewer than that result in perrmanent [sic] modifications. Don’t take our word for it, look at USA Today yourself. There’s a world of difference between knowing how modifications work and advising you on the mechanics of how the modifications should work. We don’t consult you on theory.
I only have two questions about that paragraph:
1. What the heck does “We don’t consult you on theory” mean? Please tell me that English is your second language.
2. How many ‘Rs’ are in permanent?
I’m not even going to mention the numerous other reasons that paragraph is offensive, inaccurate and in my view at least, in violation of SB 94’s intent, if not the letter of the law.
Then they print this fabulous statistic:
Over 87% of homeowners fail in their attempt to modify their mortgage.
Hey, McDevitt… you have no idea what you’re talking about most of the time, do you. Expert? Published author? As seen on television? What were you on T.V. for… oh yeah… were you one of the guys in that infomercial where they set the hood of a car on fire and then show how the amazing wax works?
And then they say this:
The reason so many people hire us to represent them we have experience in the industry. Unlike other companies, we are a law firm who knows how to structure a file to get it approved before we even submit it.
You know how to get a loan modification approved before you even submit it? Wow! No, I mean… Sham-Wow!
And this next one I should have known was going to be there:
Does your company perform forensic audits? What are forensic audits?
A Forensic Mortgage Loan Audit is performed by our attorney and a team of legal experts. The audit is basically an extensive and thorough examination of your loan documents that you signed when you first got your mortgage loan. Our experts examine your loan documents for violations of State and Federal laws, such as the Real Estate Settlement Procedure Act (RESPA) and the Truth In Lending Act (TILA). Examples of violations include:
- Inaccurate disclosure of your APR (common).
- Failure to provide Good Faith Estimate.
- Failure to provide 3 day right of rescission.
If there are significant violations, we can place additional leverage on the lenders to approve the loan modification.
Of course, what this law firm fails to mention is that many of the TILA violations have a one-year statute of limitations, so even if they were discovered, assuming you got your loan over a year ago… like everyone did… then there’s no assurance that you could bring a case. And rescission, which requires a homeowner to refinance and pay the money back in order to rescind the loan, might be interesting the borrowers applying for loan modifications were candidates for refinancing today. The FTC has a bulletin out on this scam too.
So, Michael… how long does it take to get a loan modification:
How long does a loan modification take?
It depends on the lender and your current loan. It could take anywhere from 30 days to 360 days.
Now there’s a range for you… one to 12 months. Meaning that you have absolutely no idea, right Mike? So, why should I hire Scovis to handle my loan modification, besides your fabulous 100% money back guarantee?
Get the data the insiders are using. Our Before and After Ratio Spectrum Spreadsheet presents a clear financial picture of where you are and where you need to be when presenting highly sensitive financial information to any banking institution.
What does “where you need to be” mean when applying for a loan modification? Ms. Scovis, does that mean you want to forget the facts and make up some so that the bank will approve the modification? What else could this mean, Jen?
And lastly… here’s the part of the Scovis paperwork that’s very clear… absolutely no confusion on this part:
Attention clients: When faxing your paperwork back, please include a PHOTO COPY of the check that you are mailing in to our office for our records.
PAY BY CHECK: Please make Cashier’s Check or Money Order payable to: “The Scovis Law Group”
Total Cost: $4,850.00
THE SCOVIS LAW GROUP
A Loss Mitigation Company
810 LAWRENCE DRIVE, SUITE 210, NEWBURY PARK, CA 91320
PH: 888.797.2266 FX: 888.675.4450
Well, after that I’m going to go take a long, hot shower… before I call the Attorney General, the California State Bar’s Task Force, and just for fun… the FTC.
As in: Yoohoo! Hey fellas’… look what I found! A real live… mess.
Want to see Michael McDevitt live in living color? I knew you would. Here he is being interviewed on a YouTube version of Who’s Who in America: