Article Courtesy of The Palm Beach
By Kimberly Miller
Published July 21, 2014
NORTH PALM BEACH -- Law enforcement officials raided a North Palm Beach-based law firm Wednesday, freezing the company’s assets and issuing a temporary restraining order as stunned employees milled outside of the office.
The Hoffman Law Group, which has been the subject of nationwide complaints from homeowners who paid thousands of dollars to join so-called “mass litigation” lawsuits, had been under investigation by the Florida attorney general’s office for alleged violations of the state’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.
A federal complaint posted to the glass door of the law firm showed the asset freeze and restraining order were filed by the Washington, D.C.-based Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the attorney general’s office.
|Also named in the complaint were the firm’s lead attorney, Marc H. Hoffman, Michael Harper, Benn Willcox and related companies, Nationwide Management Solutions, Legal Intake Solutions and BM Marketing.
The Palm Beach Post first wrote about the Hoffman Law Group last year when the State of Idaho Department of Finance ordered the firm to stop sending “misleading” advertisements to Idaho homeowners. The Post followed with an April story about dozens of complaints lodged against the company with the Better Business Bureau and attorneys general nationwide.
At least two former employees also wrote formal complaints, alleging boiler room-style sales tactics that they said roped homeowners into joining the mass litigation lawsuits.
Financial Protection Bureau and Florida Office of the Attorney
General paperwork is taped to the front door of the Hoffman Law
Group, P.A. offices in North Palm Beach July 16, 2014.
Homeowners paid a $6,000 retainer and $495 per month in
fees” to be parties to the lawsuits, which have mostly floundered in
Some borrowers also allege they were promised foreclosure defense by
intake representatives at the firm, but either never received it or were
referred to another firm for an additional cost.
“They promised a reduction of the principal balance, 30 percent equity,
and erasure of all negative/late payments on my credit report,” wrote
Illinois resident Sarah Schoppman in a February 2013 letter to that
state’s attorney general. “However, I have found no evidence of this
group doing anything on my behalf.”
Hoffman, a 40-year member of the Florida Bar who is in good standing with
the regulatory group, could not be reached late Wednesday. A phone number
once listed on the Hoffman Law Group’s website has been disconnected for
at least a week, and no employees wanted to be interviewed Wednesday.
The federal complaint has been temporarily sealed so details of the
lawsuit remain unknown, but former Hoffman attorney Michele Stephens said
homeowners were solicited through mailings, TV commercials and phone
calls, and then signed up for electronic bank drafts for payments.
Stephens resigned in February after growing concerned that homeowners were
being duped and that she was expected to consult with clients from dozens
of states when she was licensed to practice law only in Kentucky.
According to her complaints, the mass-litigation lawsuits, which named
dozens of homeowners and multiple banks, were being voluntarily dismissed
by Hoffman attorneys working in New York or dismissed by federal judges
who found the plaintiffs not “logically connected.”
Consumer protection agencies have warned homeowners in recent years to be
wary of joining a mass litigation suit. In 2011, the Better Business
Bureau said homeowners should “steer clear” of mailings asking them to
join national lawsuits to force their mortgage companies to cut their loan
The Federal Trade Commission followed a year later with its own warning,
going so far as to call the lawsuits a “scam targeting financially
What The Post found
The Palm Beach Post reported in April that homeowners from the Pacific
Northwest to South Florida were complaining they paid thousands of dollars
to the Hoffman Law Group but felt duped by its sales pitch that they could
get a lower mortgage and better credit rating through mass litigation