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Layoffs coming at Westbury firm

Eighteen workers at a Westbury legal document-handling office will lose their jobs this winter in a planned layoff when their employer, Pillar Processing Llc, goes out of business, a state workforce agency said.

The layoff notice was made public last week by the New York State Labor Department. It comes after a separate round of 20 layoffs last month at the Westbury office of a separate but related company, the Steven J. Baum law firm. Pillar processed legal documents for the Baum firm, which was once New York State's largest foreclosure firm.

The two firms also laid off more than 600 at their upstate Amherst headquarters, in addition to the combined 38 layoffs on Long Island. Pillar and the Baum firm shared some offices in Amherst and in Westbury, though the much-larger Pillar firm also had several separate offices and did work for firms other than Baum.

Pillar is not closing, but is eliminating those aspects of its business that served the Baum firm. A Pillar spokesman could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

The job losses at the Pillar firm come after a controversial Halloween party at the Baum firm, in which employees wore costumes mocking the homeless.

The law firm, which has publicly apologized for the costumes and related "homeless" party decorations, could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.

Photos taken by an employee at the Baum Halloween party in October 2010 were sent, a year later, in October 2011, to The New York Times, which promptly published them. The people in the photos were said to be employees of the Baum law firm, not Pillar Processing.

One of the photos shows a pair of Baum workers in ragged clothes, with smudged faces, holding a wine bottle in a brown paper bag and a cardboard sign that said "3rd party Squatter, I lost my home & I was NEVER Served!!"

News of the party, and publication of the photos, resulted in a congressional investigation and swift repercussions for the Baum and Pillar firms.

The photos went viral on the Internet and fueled anger at foreclosure abuses like robosigning and sewer service, a sham service of lawsuit notices.

The photos also led Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to ban the Baum firm from handling any of its mortgages, and led Bank of America and other major lenders to ban it from legal work.

The Baum law firm said in news releases said it was that sudden loss of business, due to the photos and reports of the company-sponsored Halloween party, that crippled both the Baum and Pillar companies, resulting in the layoffs upstate and in Westbury.

Last month a member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform requested that the Baum firm provide records and documents relating to the firm's foreclosure practices and its Halloween party, The Associated Press reported.

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