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The Globe and Mail

Homeless a bad costume idea, foreclosure firm learns

A foreclosure sign sits in front of a home for sale April 29, 2008 in Stockton, California.

Justin Sullivan/Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

And the award for worst Halloween costume goes to Steven J. Baum, one of America's busiest foreclosure law firms.

On Friday, New York Times columnist Joe Nocera revealed what staffers at Baum got up to at their Halloween bash last year, and it's not pretty.

One female staffer clutches a bottle of booze in a paper bag, dirt smeared on her face. Next to her, another woman wears a cardboard sign around her neck: "3rd party squatter. I lost my home & was NEVER served!!" it reads. Another poses with a shopping cart: "WILL WORKE FOR FOOD," her (intentionally misspelled?) sign pleads.

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Employees at Baum also took it upon themselves to erect foreclosed homes in a corridor: "Baum Estates" read a poster overtop.

An appalled former staffer snapped photos of the 2010 party and leaked them to Mr. Nocera.

"In an e-mail, she said that she wanted me to see them because they showed an appalling lack of compassion toward the homeowners – invariably poor and down on their luck – that the Baum firm had brought foreclosure proceedings against," wrote Mr. Nocera, who has spent considerable time profiling homeowners in "foreclosure hell."

Speaking later by phone, the Baum source told him, "There is this really cavalier attitude."

Commonly referred to as a "foreclosure mill" firm, the company represents banks and mortgage lenders including Citigroup, Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase as they try to foreclose on homeowners and evict them from their homes.

The firm is currently under investigation by the New York attorney general, and recently agreed to pay $2-million to resolve a Department of Justice investigation into whether it had "filed misleading pleadings, affidavits and mortgage assignments" in New York.

A spokesman for Steven J. Baum denied the allegations, suggesting the column was "another attempt by The New York Times to attack our firm and our work."

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This year, the closest contender for heinous costume choice might be "Anna Rexia," a black dress emblazoned with a skeleton, complete with a tape measure around the waist. The Village Voice reports that one was yanked from store shelves after it was sniffed out by news media.

Other Halloween costumes to avoid? Gawker suggests a veto on Steve Jobs, Amy Winehouse (ditto for "zombie Amy Winehouse"), Casey Anthony and Amanda Knox, as well as Princess Beatrice's royal wedding hat/squid/toilet seat/portal to another universe.

Have you ever made a serious Halloween costume faux pas, or pointed one out on a doltish family member, friend or colleague?

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