Last year, the Steven J. Baum law firm hosted their annual Halloween party. The firm is most known for their work in foreclosures. They represent plaintiffs suing and evicting tenants that live on foreclosed property.
At last year’s Halloween party, some of the attendees (lawyers and staff) dressed up as poor tenants and former homeowners in a mocking/joking way. Their costumes were meant to make light of the defendants that they deal with. In the privacy of their own firm, do employees have a right to make fun of their opponents by dressing up as them and making fun of the foreclosure plight?
The New York Times received some pictures from last year’s Halloween party and wrote an opinion piece stating that,
“a former employee of Steven J. Baum recently sent me snapshots of last year’s party. 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.”
The article included pictures!
In response to all the bad press the firm was getting, the firm apologized for their behavior. Read more about their media response here in The Consumerist.
Would it have been a better media response if the firm apologized sooner instead of waiting so long?
UPDATE 12/11/2011: The Steven J. Baum law firm was shut down due to all the negative press received from last year’s Halloween party. Several governmental agencies opened investigations into the firm. The New York Times’ DealBook published an article that sums up the experience.
“After those photos surfaced, the mortgage giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae cut off the Baum firm, forbidding servicers of their mortgages from using Mr. Baum and his colleagues. That effectively served as the firm’s death knell.”
Peter Lattman, the author of the article, quotes a letter that was sent to the original Times columnist saying, “It took 40 years to build this firm and three weeks to tear down.”
In this case, a better public relations response probably would not have saved the firm’s ultimate demise.