The man who once ruled over Florida’s massive foreclosure mire was disbarred Tuesday by the Florida Supreme Court, officially ending a decades-long legal career tarnished by accusations of fraud and misconduct.
The ruling against David J. Stern, who built his Plantation-based law firm on repossessing homes, was expected as the 53-year-old did not appeal a referee’s October recommendation for disbarment.
Stern’s attorney, Jeff Tew, said he had no comment about the decision, which was made public Thursday.
The Supreme Court order gives Stern 30 days to close his practice. But his company, which once handled more than 200,000 foreclosure cases statewide, effectively shut down in 2011 after he lost most of his clients amid allegations of notary fraud, robo-signing and shoddy legal work.
Speaking during an October hearing where the Florida Bar pursued 17 complaints against him, Stern said he wasn’t to blame for the problems at his firm and characterized the findings as unintended mistakes.
His refusal to accept responsibility was noted by Palm Beach County Circuit Court Judge Nancy Perez, who acted as referee in the case and recommended disbarment.
“Mr. Stern has not expressed any remorse in these proceedings,” Perez wrote in her recommendation. “He has taken no responsibility.”
Perez also scolded Stern for blaming his attorneys and paralegals for the flaws in foreclosure filings.
“The incidents were not isolated, but rather a representation of the culture of the firm, as to the low level of competence and ethics,” Perez wrote in her 35-page report. “(Stern) is the lawyer. It was his firm. Mr. Stern is responsible.”
As Florida’s foreclosure crisis swelled, Stern, a former college soccer player, grew his firm by taking on mega-bank clients and federal mortgage backers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. His office, once 800 square feet, ballooned to seven floors with 1,500 employees, including 150 attorneys.
In 2010, Stern sold the non-legal, back operations of his enterprise for $58 million.
Stern is also required to pay $49,125 to the Florida Bar for its investigation. Realtor.com shows Stern listed his six-bedroom, 17,000-square-foot waterfront home in Fort Laudersale for sale at $32 million in June.
Foreclosure defense attorneys reacted with indifference to the disbarment news.
Mike Wasylik, a foreclosure defense attorney who testified in the Bar’s case against Stern, said “he got off light.”
“Who really cares? What does it really matter,” said St. Petersburg area foreclosure defense attorney Matt Weidner. “I just returned from court today on an old David J. Stern case. Courts all across this state are still filled with the garbage poured into them.”