How MoJo Exposed David J. Stern and Launched a National Investigation
In November 2009, MoJo reporter Andy Kroll received a tip about a little-known yet powerful firm, the Law Offices of David J. Stern, which handled staggering numbers of foreclosures in southeastern Florida—the throbbing heart of nation's housing crisis. Among the allegations, the tipster had it from insiders that Stern employees were routinely falsifying legal paperwork in an effort to push borrowers out of their homes as quickly—and profitably—as possible.
Intrigued, Kroll started tracking down and interviewing people who'd worked for Stern. He pulled every public record he could find related to Stern's operation, and he called every foreclosure-defense attorney within the lawyer's Sunshine State empire. Taken together, the stories they told seemed unbelievable. Falsified evidence? Contests to see which employee could push a foreclosure case through the courts fastest? Court documents rubber stamped by rookie attorneys who hadn't even read them? Judges so swamped that they overlooked missing court filings? Foreclosures initiated on homeowners who had paid their mortgage bills on time? Lewd shenanigans by the boss? Each person Kroll contacted "gave me some new awful detail I hadn't heard yet," he says. "It just got worse and worse."