Pasadena attorney Stephen Rawliegh Golden face a year of suspension and an order to pay restitution in what he allegedly called foreclosure defense litigation that turned out to be an illegal loan modification services, according to a recent California State Bar filing.
Golden allegedly charged and collected upfront fees for loan modification services, which is a violation of California's civil code, according to the 31-page decision filed June 28 by the state bar. In addition to the suspension, Golden must pay nearly $280,000 in restitution plus interest, according to the decision.
Golden was charged with 26 counts of professional misconduct in 11 client matters, according to the decision. The state bar's court found Golden culpable of all but one of those counts.
The state bar's decision is pending final action by the California Supreme Court, an appeal before the state bar's Review Department or expiration of time in which parties to may request further review within the State Bar Court.
The State Bar Court found that Golden and his staff "lacked credibility", according to the decision. "This conclusion was based on, among other things, the fact that their testimony directly contradicted the overwhelming credible evidence before this court on various issues," the decision said.
Two examples cited in the decision were staff assertions that clients were told Golden "does not do loan modifications" and that he "never told clients not to pay their mortgage".
Golden was admitted to the bar in California on Jan. 4, 1993, according to his profile at the state bar website.
The allegations against Golden stemmed from California Senate Bill No. 94, laws enacted in 2009 to protect homeowners facing foreclosures. The legislation was intended to curb abuses by "a cottage industry that has sprung up to exploit borrowers who are having trouble affording their mortgages, and are facing default, and possible foreclosure, if they are unable to negotiate a loan modification or any other form of mortgage loan forbearance with their lender."
The state bar's chief trial counsel filed a notice of disciplinary charges against Golden in October 2015, according to the decision. The following July, the state bar petitioned for Golden to be disbarred, which later was denied by the state bar's hearing department. The state bar filed a second notice of disciplinary charges the following September. A five-day trial in March included a state bar motion for the charges to conform to the proof at trial, which was granted and the court took the matter under submission in May.