Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Collection Calls Get Real

As a bankruptcy and reorganization attorney, I'm used to collection calls and how nasty and intrusive they can get.  Today may top them all though.  I'm riding the elevator in the City Library, and suddenly the speaker for the emergency phone system starts ringing.  Then a female robo-voice starts going through the FDCPA spiel and then requests that the recipient contact them at whatever number.  All sorts of questions came to mind.  I can't believe this system is a regular phone line, so how did a borrower get a number on it?  And how did the borrower then manage to foist it on a lender?  And how has the lender never caught on?

During the course of over 30 years of practice, I have seen very few loans that didn't involve stupid or crooked.  Frequently they involve both, and on both sides.  That's why I don't work up a load of moral outrage such as is often seen from both lender and borrower sides.  I'm like Joe Friday: Just the facts, ma'am.  I'll leave the crusading to the true believers.

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Friday, April 29, 2016

Harrison Barnes is a Shill

Harrison Barnes is a legal recruiter and Serious Person(TM).  He must be a Serious Person(TM), because I get a couple of pieces of spam from him and his firm every day.  It's always in a predictable format: Strawman (and probably fictitious) Attorney X is not successful.  If he would just follow my advice and do A, B, and C, he would be successful.  Voila!

This is crap.  It is malodorous BarnStuff.  Now gather 'round, kiddies, because Uncle Knute is going to lay out what it takes to be a successful attorney (By "successful" I mean "earning a really nice living."  I can't think of another reason to be an attorney.).  It's actually simpler than what Barnes is trying to sell, as it comes in just two flavors.  The first option is to be so blindingly brilliant that people will beat a path to your door.  As anyone with sufficient mental wattage to read this post will know, the number of people who can punch this ticket is minuscule.

The second option, and the one used by 99.999-with-a-bar-over-it% of successful attorneys, is to have a book of business.  And by "book of business" I don't mean "people who have work for you."  There are seven billion schlubs on this mudball who have work for you.  I mean "people who will PAY you to do work."  High-minded crapulescence about professional service notwithstanding (One of the roughly nine billion things about the Utah State Bar that make me think of Al Pacino in the courtroom in "Scent of a Woman" is its constant harping about doing pro bono work, when those of living in the mortal lands, as opposed to the Mt. Olympus of the Great Firms, end up doing boggling boatloads of free work for modest income people in our day to day practices.  But I digress.), law is a business, lawyers need to eat, and clients need to pay for it.

And just how big of a book, I hear you ask?  Big.  In the words of Donald Drumpf, YUUUUUGE!.  I spoke recently to the managing partner of a boutique firm downtown, and he said you can't get in the door with less than $250,000, and it had better be over $300,000 within a year, or you'd be right back out.  I remember thinking, "If I had a $250,000 book, I sure as HELL wouldn't be looking to share it with you," but being a dissembler par excellence, I just smiled and nodded.  The Mt. Olympus firms are worse, far worse.

And it's at this point in our story that along comes a spider.  What are the big, lucrative outfits really looking for?  That's where Barnes lives.  There are five firms in town that can afford him, and they're all headquartered elsewhere.  What do the gods want?  Brutally simple and brutally ugly: They want someone who, by the time they're a senior associate with five years in the firm will have that $300,000 book.  At least.  And how are they supposed to get that?  Only one way somebody who is 30 years old max has access to that: They were born to it.  Mummy and Daddy belonged to the right country club.  They spent their lives schmoozing together a network they can hand off to Junior.

Better than a decade ago, I flat out told this to the HR director for one of those five firms here that can afford Barnes.  They were having trouble retaining women and minority associates (not a problem singular to that firm) and were trying to figure out why.  I told her why, and she looked at me like I was blaspheming her religion.  Which in truth I was.  She, like Barnes, is peddling the snakeoil that the top echelons are accessible by merit.  Bollocks.  If you weren't born to the right circumstances, don't expect law to be a golden ticket.  You'd be better off becoming a plumber or electrician or machinist.  Or become a teacher.  At least that way you'll have health benefits and a pension plan, which is more than you'll have when Big Law gives you the bum's rush because you can only muster a paltry $200,000 book and you have to hang out your own shingle for hte rest of your career.


Monday, February 29, 2016

If Utah Is So Pro-Business...

...why is it effectively illegal to be a small business owner?

That really isn't much of an overstatement.  Don't believe me?  Let statutes be placed before a candid world.

First, a typical bad check statute, this one from Washington.  As is typical with such statutes, if you write a check with intent to defraud (i.e. you don't actually have such an account, or you know it doesn't have money but you're representing it does), you're subject to prosecution  and a felony conviction.  No big surprise.

Now let's look at Utah.  If you write a check and it bounces for whatever reason, and you fail to make good on it in 14 days, you are subject to prosecution and a felony conviction.  Big surprise.

Think this isn't a problem?  Say you're a construction contractor and you need materials.  The supplier says you're stretched to the limit and you need to make a payment before you can buy any more.  Fortunately, you just got paid on a project, so you deposit that check and write one to your supplier so you can keep working.  Unfortunately, the check to you was bad and bounces sky high.  Consequently, your check to the supplier does likewise.  The supplier demands that you cover, but there is no way you can do it within 14 days.  The supplier has political pull, and the next thing you know the DA has filed felony charges against you.

A slow-pay or no-pay that leaves a small business owner's account empty will do the trick just as well.  What the legislature has done here is make the DA the private collection attorney for anyone with enough political power.  In most places that's called corruption, or at least crony capitalism.  In Utah, though, it's called standard operating procedure.


Saturday, August 15, 2015

Draper Boom

In case you've had your head stuck in the sand, the prison move is a done deal.  The Draper site will be abandoned, and in a display of petty vindictiveness and short-sightedness on an effectively criminal level, The Powers are moving it to the airport (There's brilliance for you.  It isn't enough that everyone flying into or out of the principal airport in the state already has a comprehensive view of Jersey-grade industrial blight; now they'll get to see our leading growth industry as well.).  And the yokels who herd Draper down the sheep path are licking their chops.  700 acres of loose land.  It will look like the Oklahoma Land Rush.  And having learned nothing from the Sandcrest, er Suncrest Debacle, Draper will not make sure there is adequate infrastructure, performance bonds, or even a way for the schools to handle the influx.  The fun just never stops.

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Friday, August 14, 2015

I Come Here to Bury, not to Praise

And unlike Marc Antony, I mean it.  Karen Martinez has retired as local counsel for the SEC, and the hagiographies are everywhere.  Pardon me if I don't join in.

As I've said numerous times on this blog, its companion, and elsewhere, the 2007 crash was an obvious thing, and it happened because the regulators were ignoring what was going on.  Of course, the regulators had been ignoring most things since Reagan took office, ratcheted it up several notches with the introduction of derivatives in the late 80s, and went into full snooze mode after the repeal of Glass-Steagall.  By 2005, there were billboards and radio and TV ads for straw buyers, no doc liars' loans were everywhere, appraisers were making up values, and rating agencies were making up risk levels.  The banks knew their game was crooked, but they were making to much in commissions and fees to stop it.  I have no doubt they also gave orders to the regulators to look the other way.

Then in Fall 2007 the banks figured out the merry-go-round was coming to a halt, so they woke up Martinez and everyone like her, pulled a Louis Renault, "We're shocked, SHOCKED to find that mortgage fraud is going on here," threw them some of their own people as sacrificial lambs, pointed them to the smaller players and ordered them to crack down on the small graft because it was interfering with large graft, and reminded them to leave the large graft alone.  And Martinez and everyone like her dutifully obeyed.  And along the way they slandered me all over the territory because they had decided I was the kingpin of one operation because they flunked Corporations 101 by not being able to tell the difference between a registered agent and a principal.

Now she's retired with her federal pension.  I wish I were compensated so well for accomplishing so little.  So I shall not be praising Caesar, now or any time in the foreseeable future.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Warning to Blackberry Users

I use a Blackberry.  The reason is simple: I hate touch screens.  I have a bad attitude about them because I have a bad attitude about Apple in general, but aside from that, I just can't get the right touch for the screen.  I just want to scroll down or expand a view, and the next thing I know, I'm dialing the ISIS volunteer hotline or surfing bestiality sites or putting my kidneys up for sale on eBay.  So I stay with the keyboard.  Today out of the blue I get a text from T-Mobile telling me that in a month my Blackberry will turn into a paperweight.  As is typical with technoboobs, they've improved things so much that nothing works any more.  They're going entirely 4G, and of course that leaves no room for old 3G stuff.  Massive bilge, and of course entirely deliberate in good old American planned obsolescence fashion.  So for no good reason, I have to change phones.  And find a T-Mobile store out there that isn't full of idiots so that when I have them switch phones, they won't screw up both phones and my entire account the way they did the last time I tried to do this.

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Friday, June 26, 2015

Fair Housing Act Lives

The Supremes have come down with a trio of scorchers in the last two days.  In a 6-3 vote, they upheld the Affordable Care Act and at least arguably adequate health insurance for everyone (Roberts wrote the opinion and managed to stay away the "great powers" nonsense he used in his prior opinion upholding the Act.  Scalia went straight of the rails in his dissent, of course, basically repeating the Cato Institute's extreme shoveling which boils down to saying that the federal government doesn't have taxing authority in spite of the 16th Amendment and doesn't have general welfare powers in spite of the main text of the Constitution.).  Today gay rights won 5-4 (And although the dissenters claim to be all about original intent, they displayed a complete ignorance of it here.  This decision will not lead to discrimination against conservative denominations; it will end the conservative denominations' use of state authority to prevent liberal denominations from performing same-sex marriages.  And since the dissent was never taught it, I'll point out that preventing denominations from using state power to enforce their beliefs on other denominations was exactly why the Founding Fathers adopted the religion clauses in the First Amendment.  The Four Horsemen will never admit what hypocrites they are, though.).

And yesterday the Fair Housing Act was salvaged 5-4, with the same line-up.  Disparate impact can still be used to make a discrimination case.  Disparate impact means that, if you look at the figures (in this case financial assistance for affordable housing) and they show impermissible discrimination (race, religion, etc.), you can use that to show discrimination.  You don't need a smoking gun, such as an in-house memo saying, "Don't sell to minorities."  Disparate impact became a thing when I was much younger and there was obvious red-lining going on in sales and lending, but the banks, builders, and real estate companies weren't stupid enough to leave a trail.  It was happening with winks and nods, but it was definitely happening.  So statistics became the evidence to keep discrimination at bay.  The majority yesterday decided that was a good thing.  The dissent would rather make the discrimination laws a dead letter by making them unenforceable unless the discriminating party attains an "ain't gonna happen" level of stupidity.  In other words the dissent wants to make discrimination effectively legal.  And that's about all you need to know about Roberts, Scalia, Alito, and Thomas.