Complaint: $8,000 later for helping me with Bank of America, nothing has been done and they want $3,000 more.
May, 2012 advised to stop paying trial pmt $1500, now last Saturday, received foreclosure notice. Was told that all was in progress and no promise of a positive outcome was ever made. Was told that one client lost home even when they went to court. Now I feel stupid and I have to see my doctor for ck. Why, lost my husband last November, then lost 1/2 income. I'm really scared now.
Desired Settlement: Want my $8000 back, since no legal actions have been taken on my behalf, just stalling negotiations. Was told that they are researching successful court docs so they can take the wording and use it for my case. Meanwhile, I got a foreclosure notice.
Business' Initial Response
This letter is in response to the matter referenced above. I have enclosed a copy of the representation agreement signed by Ms. ****** for legal services she requested relating to her property located at **** ******** Way, Sacramento, CA XXXXX. Under the terms of the contract, Ms. ****** retained our firm to pursue a predatory lending action on her behalf against ****** of ****** and other defendants. Ms. ****** agreed to pay $3500.00 as a startup fee. The startup fee partially covers our firm's costs of undertaking a comprehensive review of the case brought to us. The comprehensive review consists of an extensive analysis of the facts and documents presented by our client in order to determine all potential causes of action, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the case. This review can take several weeks to complete, and usually involves input from several of our attorneys; the client's participation in this process is essential.
In addition to the startup fee, Ms. ****** agreed to pay a flat fee of $1,500.00 per month for legal services, plus costs of the litigation. This flat monthly fee arrangement is known as "Blocked Billing", which allows a person of limited means to retain the services of a highly qualified attorney without having to pay the usual hourly fees of $300-$600 charged by most attorneys. In our firm, our attorneys' hourly fees range from $350 per hour to $500 per hour. To handle the predatory lending cases on an hourly fee basis would be prohibitive, as none of our clients have the ability to pay such fees. This form of billing is approved by the California State Bar.
While we empathize with Ms. ******' situation, I do not believe she has provided you with you with all of the facts regarding her situation. Nor do I believe she truly understands how this process works, not withstanding our many, repeated attempts to explain it to her. Enclosed please find a billing statement from Julie ********* one of several attorneys working on the case for Ms. ******. As you can see, on several occasions Ms. ****** was undecided as to whether or not she wanted to proceed with her case. On June 11 - June 15, 2012, several phone calls were made to her in which we discussed going forward on the case, explaining to her the progress on her Complaint. She informed us that she would contact us to let us know whether we should proceed. This situation can be problematic. We are under an ethical obligation to continue with her case notwithstanding the fact that the client is uncertain of whether to proceed. If we did not continue, we could be putting her case in jeopardy. Therefore, we continued to work on the Complaint through the month of July, though her case was not a priority, since Ms. ****** had not given us any instruction to proceed.
Sure enough, on July 30th Ms. ****** left a message with Ms. ********* stating that she needed to "rush everything on the complaint." Ms. ********* informed her that she was working on the Complaint, that there was no need to rush given the status of her foreclosure and also because there are very complex legal issues that have to be addressed carefully and thoroughly, with the latest case law taken into consideration. We do not file complaints that are not well thought-out, comprehensive, and effective. After their telephone discussion, and several in-person meetings, it appeared that Ms. ****** was satisfied that the case was progressing and that carefully drafting the Complaint was a better strategy than slapping something together so that it can be filed quickly; filing the Complaint, by itself, was not going to stop the ****** from proceeding with collection or foreclosure, if that was its desire.
On or about August 26th, Ms. ****** received what she believed was a Notice of Foreclosure and was panicked that the house was going to be put up for auction. She did not bring us the document to review or explain to her. As it turned out, the document she received was what is known as a standard Notice of Acceleration from the ****** informing her that her loan was going to be referred to the ******'s Foreclosure Department should her arrearages not be paid. This is a routine letter sent by the banks when someone hasn't paid their mortgage. To the layperson, it appears to be a notice that the foreclosure has begun, and it seems to suggest that a sale is pending. In fact, the ****** did not put Ms. ****** into foreclosure, and that was not a notice stating that it had done so, as she believed.
Ms. ********* explained what the letter was, and also explained, again, the time required for the ****** to complete a foreclosure if it decided to record a Notice of Default. More than enough time was available to still prepare the complaint and obtain a preliminary injunction to stay a foreclosure. For example, after sending the Notice of Acceleration, the ****** would have to record and serve Ms. ****** with a Notice of Default. From that date until 5 days prior to the date first set for a trustee's sale, which is no less than 105 days later, she is permitted by California law to cure her default. That means that she can bring her loan current during that time. No less than 90 days after serving the Notice of Default the ****** can record a Notice of Trustee's Sale, which would give her a date upon which the house will be sold at auction, which can be no less than 21 days from the date she receives the Notice of Trustee's Sale.
We routinely stop foreclosures by means of a Temporary Restraining Order or a Preliminary Injunction long after the Notice of Acceleration is provided; on some occasions, just days before the sale date. Accordingly, Ms. ****** misunderstood the exact nature of letter she received. A very thorough explanation, in layman's terms was given to her regard the letter, yet she let her panic control her sense, and failed to recognize or listen to the instructions by her attorney. In Ms. Quiterros case, we strongly believe a preliminary injunction would be granted on her behalf. thereby stopping the foreclosure for the duration of the litigation, and allowing us to proceed with litigation without fear that she will be evicted.
Unfortunately, immediately upon instructing us to get the Complaint filed as soon as possible, and being assured that we would make her case a priority, she hastily filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau before we had the opportunity to carry through with our part of that exchange. We know that she lost her husband during the last year or so, and is still dealing with that grief. We also understand that she is nervous and scared and is uncertain as to what will happen. This is true with nearly every client we represent at United Law Center.
With regard to Ms. ******' complaint that "no promise of a positive outcome was ever made," that is true. Unfortunately, as with all other matters of law, we cannot guarantee that result. All litigation is uncertain and contains the risk of an unhappy resolution. We do not tell our clients otherwise, and Ms. ****** is no exception. We are not in the business of making outrageous claims about getting a house for free or getting million dollar verdicts. We are always forthright and honest with our clients with regard to the likelihood of success on their cases. We have a fiduciary responsibility to each and every person we represent, and we take that responsibility very seriously.
It is unethical and improper for an attorney to guarantee a satisfactory outcome of a case. No attorney can see into the future and tell you what a judge will do. That is one reason why we take great care in analyzing each case to determine whether or not there are meritorious claims. We do not take cases that we believe will not prevail. Nonetheless, I will not guarantee success as that would be violating my fiduciary responsibility. Given our vast experience in this area of law, we firmly believe that Ms. ****** would have been successful in reaching her goals of saving her house, which is why we agreed to represent her.
The money she has given us to date, while it is a significant amount of money, does not begin to cover the hours of work that have been spent on her case. Just the time spent by Ms. ********* on her case, if billed at an hourly rate, would amount to more than $8,500. This does not account for any other time spent by other attorneys and staff personnel, all of which would be a part of an accounting for work done on her behalf and at her direction.
It is important to note that, while Ms. ****** is going through this process, she is not paying her mortgage. Moreover, through our involvement she has been able to stay in her house without being foreclosed upon and would likely have continued doing so had she simply trusted that we know how to best proceed, and allowed us to continue. Frankly, I am puzzled by her complaint. All she needed to do was allow us to complete our work, which was already well under way. We likely would have kept her safely in her home and ****** well have been able to obtain for her a principal reduction and a lower, fixed interest rate. Unfortunately, I believe, the recent death of her husband and the pressure of potentially losing her home has caused her to act erratically. Her instructions to us were on and off, on and off, according to her state of mind. I am fully aware of the scams and fraud that plague this area of practice; I fight against it every day. I talk about how to avoid scams on my radio show, in my seminars, on our website and to each of the thousands of people to whom I provide free consultation. I believe this is the reason why, after nearly five years and having helped thousands of people, we have never before had a complaint filed with the State Bar or the Better Business Bureau.
We, obviously, cannot represent Ms. ****** further, since she has displayed a lack of faith in our judgment or abilities. If she desires a full accounting of our time and charges, we will gladly provide one. She is two months behind on the original contract, and she will owe us as a result of an accounting, anyway, since she has terminated our fee agreement, and our accounting will be an hourly billing based on all of the time spent by all of the persons in the firm who worked on her case, with the exception of my initial consultation with her, which, as with all initial consultations, was given free of any charge.
United Law Center has served thousands of people in the past; I have personal conducted more than three thousand one-on-one free consultations, without time limit, over the last three and one-half years. During that short time, we have saved hundreds of people from foreclosure, enabling them to keep their homes. We have settled claims with principal reductions and fixed interest rate reductions. Our "Asked ****** for Free" radio show is broadcasted on KFBK AM 1530 and FM 92.5 every Saturday at 6:00 p.m. While the radio show is a marketing tool, I have used it as a forum by which I am able to inform the public as to their rights in regards to foreclosure; so many people do not have the financial ability, or sufficient knowledge of the process, to seek the opinion of a qualified, experienced law firm to help with this stressful ordeal. In addition, our Ask ****** for Free program at United Law Center allows anyone to ask a legal question on our website and receive an answer within the next 24-hour period. Furthermore, I have been interviewed multiple times on KCRA Channel 3 and News 10 as an expert on the issue of predatory lending.
I hope this clarifies the matter for you. I will be more than willing to discuss this further, if you feel you need additional information.
Consumer's Final Response
Requested action against ****** of ******; 1/2 Loan Forgiveness, monthly payment around $1000+/-.
$8000.00 later was advised that they were preparing for litigation against ****** of ****** for predatory practices. They were waiting for a good argument that won a case in court so they could use the same wordage in the suit for the same judge. If judge OK'd one case, judge would probably contine to judge against BofA. Meanwhile, while they waited for the winning paperwork, I had to keep paying $1500.00 every month. Husbands insurance money is almost gone. I still have lots of repairs, fixes - house is more than 50 years old and largest fix is the entire roof. Shingles are arching all over. I'm 64, retired Nov 1, 2011. Husband died Nov 15, 2011. Income cut in half, plus other problems. Behind in payments due to my having two operations-2010, arthritis in lower back, 2011 total hip replacement (Left hip), then husband got sick and declined rather fast.
Didn't know or find out about the "predatory" suit until the last appt with Gustafson. She also admitted they had lost a case and man was homeless but found place to live (or something like that?). Scared me because all I ever asked for was Loan Modification (1/2 loan forgiveness) and monthly payment of $1000 more or less. I gave them more than 200 pieces of paper/evidence. I can't figure out what they were doing for that long period of time - Just Waiting is what I figure they were doing.
Business' Final Response
Dear Ms. Calvert:
Very few of Ms. Quinteros' statements regarding our representation of her have a basis in fact. She had an initial consultation with Stephen Foondos, our managing partner, for which she was charged nothing, despite the length of the meeting. Mr. Foondos asked questions about her case, discussed the litigation process regarding predatory lending lawsuits, and determined what, if any, valid claims could be raised on Ms. Quinteros' behalf. The documents she brought to the office had to be sorted and organized to determine whether or not they would support her predatory lending lawsuit. United Law Center does not handle loan modifications. At no time did anyone at United Law Center tell her that we would pursue a loan modification on her behalf. She was in the process of a loan modification when she hired us, and she was encouraged to continue with that process, as staying in the house was her desired result, and a permanent loan modification should produce that result.
Once Ms. Quinteros' documents were sorted and organized, which takes considerable time and is part of the initial set-up of every case, Mr. Foondos decides whether or not the case is one that the firm is willing to accept; we are not willing to pursue a case we believe is marginal. Ms. Quinteros had been put into a three-month trial modification plan, which had already been continuing for more than three months without B of A providing the permanent modification promised. Mr. Foondos agreed to take the case as a predatory lending case, a representation agreement was prepared, Ms. Quinteros signed the agreement, hiring the firm to proceed with a predatory lending lawsuit, and the case was assigned to me, Julie Gustavson. I joined the firm on April 30, 2012, moving from Fresno to do so. I have been licensed and practicing law since 1988 and have concentrated my law practice in real estate law for many years. I have also been a licensed real estate broker since 1980, and was a mortgage broker for five years in Fresno before returning to Sacramento. My background made me more than qualified to take on these lawsuits.
I spent my first few weeks at the firm familiarizing myself with the most recent case authorities that are binding on this area of litigation, while wading through stacks and stacks of documents in the 20+ cases I was assigned. On May 7, I tackled the documents for the Quinteros case, spending more than four hours reading the loan documents and modification documents, letters and other correspondence of significance to the litigation. On May 8, I started drafting the Complaint, including causes of action based on intentional fraud, negligence, promissory estoppel, violations of Business & Professions Code Â§Â§ 17200, equitable accounting, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, bad faith denial of contract, and others. On that day, alone, I spent more than four hours outlining the complaint, determining what causes of action should be included, and what facts needed to be explored. The file and file notes did not contain sufficient facts to properly fill in the details needed to state valid claims, as the facts must be alleged with ''specificity and particularity'', and on May 9, 2012, I called Ms. Quinteros at both a cellular telephone number and what appeared to be a home telephone number. I left messages on both phones introducing myself and stating that I needed to meet with Ms. Quinteros to go through the facts of her case.
A fact-finding meeting between the handling attorney and the clients is customary at United Law Center. No matter how much detail the client may have given to Mr. Foondos in the initial interview, the attorney who is going to draft the pleadings needs to hear the facts directly from the injured party, which allows him/her to ask additional questions to dig deeper into the facts to state a stronger claim for the client. In my voice message, I explained my need to meet with Ms. Quinteros as soon as possible, and left our telephone number. Ms. Quinteros never returned the calls.
I continued to research legal issues for this case and others, as I familiarized myself with all of my cases, and on May 15, I again called Ms. Quinteros on her cellular telephone number and her home phone and left a voice message at each. I did not discover that she had returned my call until the next day; for some reason her voicemail message did not register with my phone for more than 24 hours. I called her again at 2:20 on May 17, and left another voicemail message explaining my need to meet with her. When I arrived at the office the next day I found a voicemail message from Ms. Quinteros, left at 6:58 pm the previous evening. Her message stated that she had had dental surgery and would call me when she felt better.
I continued to work on the Complaint, researching the securitization history regarding her loan. When I had not heard from Ms. Quinteros by May 22, I called and left voice messages at both phone numbers, urging her to call me during normal business hours and to set an appointment so that we could go over the facts of her case. She did not respond. On June 6, I again called both numbers and left more messages, informing her that I could not move forward with the Complaint without discussing the facts of her case.
On June 11 Ms. Quinteros called the office after 11:00 pm and left a message on our general voicemail box, demanding her money back, because we ''hadn't done anything on her case''. This was the third time she had called after hours; it was apparent that she had no desire to actually speak with anyone at the office, since only one of her calls had been placed during normal business hours. Between June 11 and June 15 I called her repeatedly; I was finally successful on the 15th. I told her that she could terminate our representation if that was her desire, and that we would calculate her legal feels based on my hourly rate of $400, either reimbursing her any excess, or billing her for any deficiency. I again explained my need to go over the facts of the case so that I could move forward with the Complaint if she decided she wanted us to continue. I also reiterated the need for her to call during normal business hours, as she would not reach anyone after the switchboard closed at 5:00 pm. She was calm when the call ended and said she would get back to me with her decision in another week or two.
Again, I did not hear from Ms. Quinteros. On July 1, 2012, I sent her a letter reminding her that she had instructed us to hold off doing more work until she contacted us. I had continued to do some work on the Complaint, but did so with the knowledge that my time might be wasted if she decided to terminate our representation. On July 8 I finally heard from Ms. Quinteros in an email, and between that day and the next we exchanged emails, setting up a meeting date of July 16.
On July 16 we finally met in what I hoped would be my fact-finding appointment with the client. However, Ms. Quinteros was mainly concerned with a letter she received from NACA with a modification proposal. The proposal was ludicrous, since it said her interest and her payment would be $0, and all other entries were marked as $0. She wanted to call B of A, while I listened, to talk about this bizarre modification proposal, so I spent more than an hour listening to her conversations with two B of A representatives. The meeting with Ms. Quinteros lasted more than two hours and 40 minutes. At the end of that time, Ms. Quinteros left the office, with plans to return on Monday to again speak with one of the B of A Reps. I gathered no information about her case during our meeting, other than the knowledge that she was still trying to obtain a modification, and B of A was still making that difficult.
Ms. Quinteros returned to the office on Monday, July 16, and awaited a return call from B of A. Eventually she put a call through and spoke with one of the B of A representatives while I listened. Ms. Quintereos made it clear to me that modification was her priority, and she did not want to move forward with the litigation yet. This meeting lasted just over an hour. Linda was still hesitant to go forward with litigation for fear it would negatively impact her attempts to modify her loan.
Meanwhile, I was continuing to research new cases, wanting to have the most recent decisions in mind while I worked on my cases, and wanting to be prepared to draft them in accordance with the most recent rulings. On July 30, Ms. Quinteros left me a middle-of-the-night message instructing me to rush everything and get the Complaint filed. She still had not given me the factual details I needed. I returned her call and explained that I had been working on the Complaint and had been researching cases to help us successfully oppose the inevitable Demurrer, but that it had not been a priority since she had told us to stop, and had never told me she wanted to continue. I explained that I would get back to work on the Complaint and would file it when I felt it was adequate for purposes of a demurrer, but reiterated that I still needed her to go through the facts with me, which was essential for purposes of drafting a strong Complaint. She was behind on her payments to the firm, as well, and as previously explained, we could not provide legal services if we are not paid current.
On August 1, 2012, I sent Ms. Quinteros a letter with her billing statement, informing her that I would be out of the state and unavailable between August 3 and August 13, and also providing the names and phone numbers for my assistant and our litigation manager, in case she needed anything during my absence. I reminded her that she was two months in arrears on her legal fees. We did not receive payment, nor did Ms. Quinteros call me to discuss the facts in her case.
On August 26, I received a panicked telephone message from Ms. Quinteros, talking about receiving a notice foreclosure. She said it was our fault she received a notice of default and wanted to know what we were doing for the money she had paid to date. I was able to reach her by telephone, and we spoke for about 45 minutes, during which I explained the progress I had made on the Complaint, despite her failure to provide any facts, which I still needed, and despite her telling us more than once not to proceed. I further explained that after her call on July 30, I had put the Complaint back in my active list, but that her failure to discuss factual details really tied my hands, not to mention her failure to bring her legal fees current. I gave her full details about the time I had invested in her case, and gave her an accounting of the hours involved, to date. On an hourly basis, her fees would have been well beyond the amount billed, not to mention the amount she had actually paid.
I also explained during this conversation that the letter she had received from B of A was NOT a notice of default or any other indication that the bank had commenced foreclosure; the letter was a statutory requirement, after which the bank could proceed with foreclosure, if it desired to do so. I also explained the foreclosure process to Ms. Quinteros, again, and that the process does not begin until the bank records a Notice of Default. I also reminded her that Stephen Foondos had explained to her that it is foreseeable that the bank would at some point record a Notice of Default and begin foreclosure proceedings, since she is not making her mortgage payments, although the bank had not yet done so.
Ms Quinteros confirmed that she wanted to file the Complaint, and I promised to move her case to high priority and have it filed in about a week, if she would take time to give me the facts of the case. She agreed. I put more time into the Complaint, leaving holes where I would weave in the necessary facts. Ms. Quinteros did not call to tell me the facts of her case, nor did she make an appointment to meet with me about the facts. Her next move was to file the complaint with the BBB.
She is absolutely correct that we would not guarantee success on the legal action; that is an impossibility. No attorney can guarantee success. The legal process is too inconsistent and state of the laws in this area too much in flux. Ms. Quinteros claims that I told her we were waiting for ''winning paperwork'', which is an interesting interpretation of her continuing failure to provide me with the facts needed to draft her complaint. Furthermore, I never told her anything such as that we lost a case and a man was homeless, etc. That is neither true, nor did I ever say or imply such a thing.
Ms. Quinteros signed a representation agreement that states she is hiring United Law Center to pursue a predatory lending lawsuit, yet claims she did not know of such until her last appointment with me. If that were true, what law suit was she wanting us to file? First, we do not handle modification applications for clients. We sometimes obtain a modification as part of a settlement in a case, but we never suggested to her we would handle her ongoing modification efforts. Second, she repeatedly told us to hold off on the predatory lending case because of her fear that it would harm her efforts to obtain the modification. During our two meetings in which she spoke with B of A in my presence, I explained each time that the details concerning those conversations were additional evidence that we would be able to use in her predatory lending lawsuit.
During the telephone and in-person conversations I had with Ms. Quinteros, she vacillated between wanting to push forward with her modification, which was moving slowly, at best, and being totally panicked and ''scared'' because of her financial situation. Her desire for our firm to file the lawsuit vacillated with her fear. When panic struck her, she wanted it filed immediately. When she was calm, she wanted us to wait while she worked on her modification. Despite my numerous requests for a conversation about the facts of her case, and setting two meetings specifically to discuss the facts, she never gave me any details. When we met, all she wanted to do was talk with B of A and discuss the modification. During other discussions, she either complained about B of A, complained about the Complaint not being filed, or wanted to talk about modification. I could never convince her to give me any details about the history of her loan, including the history of her attempts to modify the loan. I could not file a complaint without that information, as any such complaint would not survive a demurrer and her case would have died a premature death as a result.
I did explain to Ms. Quinteros on one or more occasion that the one benefit we received from the delay in filing the Complaint was that new cases that were beneficial to our causes of action in her case had come out of the courts of appeals, which would help us when we had to draft an opposition to a demurrer. At no time did I tell her we were waiting for beneficial court decisions, or for cases to come out of the appellate courts that would help us win. Our delay was based on two things only: 1) we were waiting for Ms. Quinteros to give us the factual details we requested and needed to adequately state her claims against the bank, and 2) we were waiting for her to make up her mind about filing the action, since we cannot file a Complaint when someone tells us to stop.
When Ms. Quinteros told me on August 27 that she definitely wanted us to file the Complaint, I told her I would make that one of my highest priorities. I also told her that she needed to sit down with me right away and give me the factual history, as I had been requesting that since the first week of May. Instead of doing so, Ms. Quinteros apparently immediately filed this Complaint with the BBB. She claims we told her to stop making her trial modification plan payments, which never happened. It appears that she stopped making her modification payments in order to pay our fees. When her funds got low, she accused us of stalling so that she would have a basis for trying to get the legal fees returned. I have personally expended more than 30 hours working on her case, either drafting the Complaint, researching issues for recent updates, writing letters, talking with Ms. Quinteros on the telephone or meeting with her in person. My hourly billing rate is between $350 and $500. If she were billed on an hourly rate of $400 per hour, her legal fees would have exceeded $12,000, which far exceeds the amount she was billed.
We obviously cannot represent her further, but she needs to find alternate counsel so that any applicable statutes of limitations are not barriers to her claims. Her filing the complaint with the BBB acted as an indirect notice of termination to our firm, and we have not added any additional charges to her bill. Her indecisiveness and unwillingness to provide needed information made it impossible for us to file a lawsuit on her behalf. She was made aware of our need for this information in her initial meeting with Stephen Foondos, and repeatedly thereafter, beginning with my first telephone message to her on May 7, 2012. While she was paying her legal fees, I worked on her case, drafting what I could of the Complaint without the facts I needed to properly frame the causes of action, but she continued to avoid giving us any facts, and her complaint could not be filed as a result. She has not paid for all of the work that was already completed on her behalf. She needs to acknowledge her own responsibility for repeatedly telling us to stop working, for failing to pay her bill, and for refusing to provide the factual history needed to draft the complaint.
Ms. Quinteros also needs to accept responsibility for her own financial situation. United Law Center did not create her financial problems, nor did we encourage her to put herself in further peril. For her own reasons she stopped making her trial modification payments; reasons having nothing to do with United Law Center, no doubt. We have never, and will never, advise any client to stop making payments. We did and do explain what we understand is happening to those payments when they are received by the bank. That is not equivalent to telling her to stop making those payments.
Ms. Quinteros' fear is understandable; her fear, however, appears to rule her actions, and makes her decisions very inconsistent. We could not satisfy Ms. Quinteros because she changed her mind so frequently, and because her instructions continually contradicted one another. We could not help her because she refused to do her part in the process. There is nothing more we can do for her.
The dates contained in this letter are not based on my memory; I keep a log of the time I spend working on a legal matter for every client, including a brief detail of the subject of the work, and/or topic of discussion. I also log communications from clients. From that log, I am able to refresh my memory concerning certain details, as set forth herein.
Very truly yours,
UNITED LAW CENTER
A Professional Corporation
Julie B. Gustavson
Cc: Mr. Stephen J. Foondos, Managing Partner
Mr. Jon Oldenburg, Litigation Manager