George Jepsen
George Jepsen ()

Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen and Florida’s attorney general have filed suit against a Greenwich law firm accused of masterminding a scam aimed at mortgage holders.

Jepsen and others say that Greenwich’s Resolution Law Group and its principal, Robert Geoffrey Broderick, collected nearly $5 million in fees from struggling borrowers who were charged upfront fees in order to join a “mass-joinder” lawsuit against their lenders. Borrowers typically were charged $6,000 up front, and some were asked to make additional payments of $500 per month, alleges the complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Florida.

In the end, those who paid the fees received no legal assistance, officials allege.

“To convince consumers to pay a large up-front fee and additional monthly fees,” Jepsen said, “the defendants promised that the ‘mass-joinder’ lawsuits would induce banks to give them mortgage modifications, help them avoid foreclosure, reduce their interest rates and loan balances, and entitle them to monetary compensation – when, in fact, they did little or nothing to assist with mortgage problems – and often exacerbated the consumers’ financial issues.”

Resolution Law Group’s web page indicates the firm has two attorneys — Broderick, who is licensed to practice in Connecticut, New Jersey and the District of Columbia, and Stephen Kopolow, who is of counsel and is licensed in Arizona and the District of Columbia.

The website makes no mention of the lawsuit by by the attorneys general, but under a section labeled “lender litigation,” the firm discusses its “complex tort plaintiff litigation.” In essence, it repeats many of the widespread complaints made against financial institutions during the recent economic crisis, specifically that the banks securitized loans and sold them as investments. That “evolved into a comprehensive scheme to inflate property values as a means of inflating their profits,” according to the website.

“Further, the banks concealed that their individual loans were part of a massive, fraudulent scheme to inflate property values,” the website state. Using a series of bullet points, it also made the following charges: “The banks were under a duty to disclose these details to each borrower… The bubble eventually popped, in 2008, and devastated homeowners….The bank defendants thus systematically destroyed home values across the nation…Plaintiffs lost equity in their homes, suffered damage to their credit profiles, an incurred other damage.”

The law firm indicates that its legal claims against the banks include fraudulent concealment, intentional misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation, unfair competition and breach of contract. It makes a claim that have been used by other foreclosure defense attorneys — that when mortgage loans are securitized, it’s not clear who has the legal right to enforce a foreclosure.

The attorneys general say that the Resolution Law Group later operated as the Florida-based Berger Law Group and has been collecting fees from homeowners since 2011. In all, officials say, four companies and four individuals were involved in the scam, which targeted mortgage holders nationwide, including those in Connecticut.

The two states brought the joint suit under their unfair trade practices acts, as well as the AGs’ authority under a federal rule that prohibits collection of up-front fees before granting a loan modification.

The two states recently won a temporary restraining order against the lawyers and business entities. The are seeking a permanent order, restitution for victims and other penalties.