Let me describe a few of the photos. In one, two Baum employees are dressed like homeless people. One is holding a bottle of liquor. The other has a sign around her neck that reads: â€œ3rd party squatter. I lost my home and I was never served.â€ My source said that â€œI was never servedâ€ is meant to mock â€œthe typical excuseâ€ of the homeowner trying to evade a foreclosure proceeding.
A second picture shows a coffin with a picture of a woman whose eyes have been cut out. A sign on the coffin reads: â€œRest in Peace. Crazy Susie.â€ The reference is to Susan Chana Lask, a lawyer who had filed a class-action suit against Steven J. Baum â€” and had posted a YouTube video denouncing the firmâ€™s foreclosure practices. â€œShe was a thorn in their side,â€ said my source.
A third photograph shows a corner of Baumâ€™s office decorated to look like a row of foreclosed homes. Another shows a sign that reads, â€œBaum Estatesâ€ â€” needless to say, itâ€™s also full of foreclosed houses. Most of the other pictures show either mock homeless camps or mock foreclosure signs â€” or both. My source told me that not every Baum department used the party to make fun of the troubled homeowners they made their living suing. But some clearly did. The adjective sheâ€™d used when she sent them to me â€” â€œappallingâ€ â€” struck me as exactly right.
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When I called a press spokesman for Steven J. Baum to ask about the photographs, he sent me a statement a few hours later. â€œIt has been suggested that some employees dress in … attire that mocks or attempts to belittle the plight of those who have lost their homes,â€ the statement read. â€œNothing could be further from the truth.â€ It described this column as â€œanother attempt by The New York Times to attack our firm and our work.â€
After the photos were posted online, the law firm apologized and said the party was in bad taste.
The head of the firm, Steven J. Baum, said in a statement to The Buffalo News on Saturday that the photos â€œobviously were in poor taste.â€
â€œOn behalf of the firm, I sincerely apologize for what happened last year at our Halloween party,â€ he said.