Mark Bernet

Hoffman Law Group

On Monday, July 14, 2014, the federal Consumer Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) and the State of Florida, Office of the Attorney General (“FLAG”) jointly filed a civil lawsuit against, among others, The Hoffman Law Group, P.A. (“HLG”) and its principal, Marc H. Hoffman.  The lawsuit is pending in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, West Palm Beach Division.  In the lawsuit, CFPB and FLAG alleged that HLG, Hoffman, and others (discussed below) operated an “enterprise” that preyed on vulnerable homeowners by promising that the homeowners could obtain relief in “mass action” lawsuits against their mortgage lenders and servicers.  CFPB and FLAG charged that the tactic utilized by HLG, Hoffman and others violated federal and state law.

As part of the lawsuit, CFPB and FLAG also filed a motion for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction, to enjoin HLG, Hoffman, and others from continuing to engage in the conduct that formed the basis for the lawsuit.  On Wednesday, District Judge James I. Cohn granted the motion and entered an Ex Parte Temporary Restraining Order with Asset Freeze, Appointment of Temporary Receiver, and Other Equitable Relief and Order Setting Hearing on Motion for Preliminary Injunction (the "TRO"), a copy of which is posted to this website.  The TRO, among other things:

  • Enjoins the Defendants, in connection with selling, promoting or operating any mortgage assistance relief product or service, from making false representations concerning the results they would obtain for consumers relating to mortgage loan modifications, the degree of success the defendants have with regard to any mortgage assistance relief service, relationships that the Defendants have with any mortgage lender or servicer, or the amount of time it likely would take the defendants to obtain a successful result in connection with a mortgage assistance service;

  • Enjoins the Defendants from violating 12 CFR Part 1015, pertaining to prohibited representations relating to a mortgage assistance relief service, and pertaining to required disclosures relating to a mortgage assistance relief service, and pertaining to the prohibition of the collection of an advance fee from consumers in connection with a mortgage assistance relief service;

  • Enjoins the Defendants from asking for or receiving payment from consumers, in connection with mortgage assistance relief services, before consumers have executed a written agreement between the consumer and the mortgage loan servicer modifying the terms of the mortgage loan; and

  • Freezes the assets of the Defendants, and enjoins them from transferring, selling, or otherwise disposing of any of their assets.

In addition, in the TRO Judge Cohn appointed Mark J. Bernet as the Temporary Receiver of The Hoffman Law Group, Nationwide Management Solutions, Legal Intake Solutions, File Intake Solutions, and BM Marketing Group (the "Receivership Defendants").

The TRO directed the Receiver to take control of the Receivership Defendants and their assets.  On July 16, 2014 the Receiver took possession of the office premises of the Receivership Defendants, including the offices of The Hoffman Law Group.  To preserve the documents and other evidence located in the offices, the Receiver disconnected all internet and telephone access to the office, and changed the locks so that he and his staff are the only persons with access to the to the facility.  The Receiver is in the process of interviewing the employees and taking an inventory of the assets and documents located therein.  The Receiver has barred Mr. Hoffman, and all of The Hoffman Law Group's employees, from the office.  As a result, there is nobody presently in the office available to respond to telephone calls or e-mails.

The Receiver is speaking with the Florida Bar, the agency that regulates lawyers in Florida, and is preparing a protocol for communicating with the clients of The Hoffman Law Group.  Please check back at this website for updated information in that regard..

Judge Cohn has scheduled an evidentiary hearing for July 29, 2014, to determine whether the TRO should be extended.  The outcome of that hearing will be provided on this website.

Some frequently asked questions and their answers are set forth below.

  • Why did the CFPB and FLAG file a lawsuit against The Hoffman Law Group?
  • CFPB and FLAG received numerous complaints from consumers who claimed to have paid several thousand dollars to The Hoffman Law Group for legal representation against their mortgage lenders and servicers.  Consumers claimed that despite receiving payment The Hoffman Law Group did not file the promised lawsuits on a timely basis, if at all.  Further, many of the lawsuits that were filed were dismissed, or had parties severed, because of legal infirmities.  CFPB and FLAG also were aware of complaints from the State of New Mexico and the State of Idaho, and the Florida Bar had brought a disciplinary action against Marc Hoffman for violation of Florida Bar rules relating to attorney advertising.  

  • What is going to happen with my lawsuit?
  • The Hoffman Law Group filed lawsuits in various jurisdictions throughout the country.  Most of these lawsuits include multiple consumers as "Plaintiffs," or the persons initiating the lawsuits.  In all of the lawsuits filed, except for those filed in Florida, The Hoffman Law Group affiliated with local counsel.  Local counsel remains your attorney in the litigation, and is obligated to continue to represent you unless he or she obtains an order from the Court permitting her or him to withdraw as your counsel.  Local counsel will need to contact you prior to seeking to withdraw.  When you are contacted, you should speak with local counsel about whether you would like them to continue as your attorney.

    There are approximately 15 – 20 lawsuits filed in federal courts in the Middle and in the Southern Districts of Florida.  Most of these lawsuits involve multiple consumers as "Plaintiffs."  Marc H. Hoffman is the attorney of record in those cases.  The Receiver and the Florida Bar are working on a possible solution for those cases, involving, possibly, new counsel.  Please check back on this website for further information.

  • What is the hearing about on July 29, 2014?
  • Under the federal rules of civil procedure, a Temporary Restraining Order can remain in effect only for only a limited period of time.  The parties against whom the TRO are entered are entitled to appear in Court and present evidence to demonstrate that the TRO should not be extended, while the parties who obtained the TRO will be permitted to present evidence to show that the TRO should be extended.  The proceedings are like a trial:  The Court will take the testimony of witnesses, review documents presented into evidence, and listen to the arguments of the attorneys.  If the Court determines that the TRO should not be extended, then it will enter an order dissolving the TRO.  In that case, the parties against whom the TRO was entered will be permitted to return to their offices and resume their actions.  On the other hand, if the Court determines that the TRO should remain in place, it will enter a Preliminary Injunction that, in all likelihood, will be similar to or identical in effect with the TRO.

  • What about all the money I paid?
  • One of the issues raised by the CFPB and FLAG in their lawsuit concerns the fees charged by the Hoffman Law Group.  CFPB and FLAG assert, based on federal law, that The Hoffman Law Group was not permitted to charge "advance fees" for this type of representation in the manner in which it charged consumers.  If the lawsuit continues, and if the CFPB and FLAG ultimately are victorious, the Receiver will be charged with attempting to recover as much money as possible to return to consumers.  The Receiver cautions, however, that in prior cases in which he has served as receiver, recoveries generally are only a small fraction of the funds that were paid.

  • Should I continue to pay my $495 monthly maintenance fee?
  • No.

  • What about my initial $6,000 fee?  I was paying it in installments and I still have some of that left to pay. Should I pay it?
  • No.

  • Where can I find out more information?
  • Updates will be posted to this website. Already posted are the Complaint, the Motion requesting the TRO and the supporting materials, and the TRO.

  • How could I have fallen for this?
  • The case is just beginning, and The Hoffman Law Group intends to contest the allegations set out in the Complaint.  The Court could determine that The Hoffman Law Group is not engaging in any improper conduct, although it has already concluded, on a preliminary basis, to the contrary.  Mortgage-related scams are becoming all too common.  An attorney is a key participant in a mortgage scheme, says Craig Howland, chief of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's financial institutions fraud unit. That's because being able to point to a lawyer, who is sworn to uphold the law, "adds legitimacy" to the scam and thus can help ensnare potential victims.  Howland says there are a number of pending FBI probes concerning lawyers.

    An attorney is a key participant in a mortgage scheme, says Craig Howland, chief of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's financial institutions fraud unit. That's because being able to point to a lawyer, who is sworn to uphold the law, "adds legitimacy" to the scam and thus can help ensnare potential victims. Howland says there are a number of pending FBI probes concerning lawyers.

    A number of attorneys also have been held accountable, through attorney disciplinary cases and civil suits, for operating foreclosure-rescue businesses that reportedly obtain hefty up-front payments from owners trying to save their homes, but offer little in return.

    According to the Huffington Post:

    "The foreclosure epidemic that swept the U.S. after the financial crash has ebbed, but the business of preying on struggling homeowners remains a thriving concern. Since 2010, more than 40,000 homeowners have complained they were scammed by someone promising to offer foreclosure assistance or help them with a mortgage modification, according to an analysis of calls to the HOPE hotline, a resource for struggling borrowers.

    "The most costly of these foreclosure rescue scams -- and now the most pervasive -- involve or are directed by attorneys, according to the analysis, which was conducted by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a group that helps monitor the hotline.

    "Last year, nearly 60 percent of all complaint calls to the HOPE hotline involved a lawyer, the group found. That's up from 40 percent in 2010. The average loss claimed in schemes involving or directed by lawyers was $3,601 -- about $800 more than in other types of deceptions, according to the analysis.

    "The schemes exploit the needs of untold thousands of people who have tried to refinance their mortgage under a government-sponsored program like the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP), only to be met with endless and costly frustrations -- including issues like lost paperwork and overcharges that in some cases have led to wrongful foreclosures. A recent report by the California Reinvestment Coalition found that banks continue to make foreclosure-related mistakes, despite many pledges of reform. 

    "In phone calls and direct mailings, lawyers claim they can help. 'We have special relationships with banks that can speed up the approval process,' reads one such ad, cited by the Federal Trade Commission in a bulletin warning against such offers. 

    "Recruiting clients to sue banks as a group is a variation on this scheme. Lawyers promise these "mass joinder" lawsuits will force banks to stop foreclosures and cut loan balances. Some borrowers have even been told they could walk away with the title to their home, free and clear of any debt. All of this could happen in a matter of months, the attorneys claim. 

    "But such claims are bogus, advocates warn. 'Run away as fast as you can' if approached to participate in such a case, said Linda Mullenbach, an attorney at the Lawyers' Committee. 

    "Valid mortgage fraud cases are filed only after extensive research into often messy and confusing mortgage documentation. They typically take years to reach a conclusion. 

    ". . . The uptick in involvement by attorneys, who are being recruited to front what are essentially marketing operations, adds an extra wrinkle, making it even more difficult for prosecutors, and homeowners, to sniff out scams."