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Home > Litigation, Property, Scams > How to Prey on Despair

How to Prey on Despair

November 15th, 2010

It is once again the opportunistic intuition of few: with the increasing number of property scandals in Spain, particularly those relating to failed off-plan investments, we are seeing how the legal profession is being invaded by so-called property action groups, which have started orchestrating aggressive and unethical campaigns of client poaching throughout the web and other platforms.

Among others, I can cite Spanish Property Action Group, Finca Parcs, Bulgaria-Property-Action-Group, Ramirez and Ramirez, organized and managed by non-legal professionals who cross pretty much every line when it comes to legal solicitation. The following prohibitions are flouted with ease by the below groups:

  1. Payment of referral fees: The first “irregularity” is blatant: these groups are selling legal services when they are not lawyers. This means, in practical terms, that the lawyers working for or with them are incurring in the illegal practice of setting up referral fee  agreements, more ordinarily called “kick-backs”. The Spanish Legal Professional Rules and Regulations specifically ban referral fees, allowing only fee-splitting agreements either between lawyers or between professionals within the same area of work (economists, financial advisors etc.). Article 19 of the Disciplinary Legal Code stipulates that lawyers will not be able to pay, demand or accept commissions or retribution from other lawyers, or any other person, for referring clients. If these groups are run by non-legal professionals, clearly they are taking a neat kickback from whoever they designate to file their cases, or vice versa.
  2. Utilization of third parties by lawyers to circumvent the provisions of the Disciplinary Legal Code. This is clearly the case with Finca Parcs: the latter is displaying a fierce and embarrassing campaign of client solicitation through various websites, where it is claimed that the group is legally represented by MC, director of CLL, and DCG Juridico, which consist of legal professionals including the father and two bothers of the former, who is also assisted by a Catedrático (translated here as a Civil Law Professor) from the University of Seville, as if this was going to make any difference.
  3. Utilization of illegal publicity to gather clients: particularly objectionable is the August 2010 “Press Release” by Finca Parcs, in clear breach of article 7e) of the aforementioned code: “It is deemed as illegal client solicitation to approach, either directly or via third parties, victims of accidents or misfortunes that lack full and calm freedom to choose a lawyer as a result of a personal or collective misfortune. Yes, clients need to be advised of their rights and yes, clients need legal advice when dealing with tragedies affecting their lives. But, clients do not need to be solicited directly by attorneys/lawyers/solicitors when they are grieving or dealing with the results of a tragic event. Clients should reach out to these professionals when they are ready to do so and they should not be besieged and bombarded by those seeking to profit from their misfortune.
  4. To generically or specifically encourage litigation: This is clear of all the above legal action groups, because it is their business! One example can be seen with Finca Parcs, for they have introduced an element of deceit and untruthfulness in their tormenting sales pitch: according to them, and the legal representation they have retained, abundant case law supports the unheard situation of banks being liable for clients’ deposit, regardless and irrespective of whether a bank guarantee line was ever approved by them or special accounts where used. According to the pitch, banks are always liable for refunding down payments made in respect of a failed off-plan project, for the simple (and simplistic) reason that the developer opened a bank account for them to operate: this is the essence of their strategy and their soon-to-achieve huge court windfall success, on the basis of some case law that as of yet, in spite of numerous requests, no lawyer has had sight of, unless they were referring to an isolated ruling of the Court of First Instance in Madrid (not deemed case law) where a bank is forced to indemnify a property buyer, on a failed development, since such funds were borrowed by the buyer from the developer’s bank (and hence, should have ensured that such funds were paid into a special account, protected by a guarantee, and not a normal account, in breach of the 57/1968 Act).  This ruling, which has already been analysed on a previous post, cannot be relied upon as applicable case law or jurisprudence unless it is ratified by a superior Court. Should this happen, not even then it could be of general application due to the very particular set of circumstances that surround the case.
  5. Promising the achievement of results that are not exclusively dependent upon the activity of the lawyer that is publicising himself, and using means and expressions, audio-visual or in writing, that are discrediting, denigrating and scornful of the Legal Profession, the Justice and its symbols. The Spanish Property Action Group knows a bit about this, when advertising (or those of their undisclosed lawyers, for that matter) their “Get Your Money Back” seminars. They then go on to claim that people have lost their life savings or retirement funds and are all victims of the illegal activities or unscrupulous developers and the lawyers representing them, and promise, in return for a fee, a miraculous formula to recover this money (without even establishing, as one has to do, the legal position of these people they are pitching to!). The Action Group then state that those involved know how to recover funds because they have already done successfully and know the pitfalls to avoid: realistically, can anyone possibly envisage a more disgraceful and indecent way to make money?
  6. All of the above in one. Finally, a special bullet point has to be dedicated to fraudulent companies known as ‘recovery rooms’, a particular type of boiler roooms specialised in fraud recovery fraud, which use registered lawyers to add appearance of legitimacy. The most prominent one is currently Ramirez and Ramirez Asesores (www.specialist-lawyers.com). Its owner, Fabian Ramirez Marcelo, an ex-timeshare reseller, in spite of the domain name he uses for his activities and his total detachment from the legal profession (as an astronaut orbiting the earth can possibly be), considers his Fuengirola recovery room, of all places, to be a specialist leading firm. But not any firm: one that cold calls thousands of victims of all sorts of scams, their names and numbers on illegal lists (sucker lists) bought in the black market, purporting to be leading lawyers in the matter and promising a quick result through the courts. Needless to say, never do these clients get anywhere because never the cases are followed up: all they do is fill out a form, take it to the courts or the police, ensure they get a stamp on it and then on to rip off the next one. The lawyer they allegedly use, Damian Vazquez, seems to not remember who Fabian Marcelo is, and when asked about his connections with Ramirez and Ramirez, claims that only occasionally has he collaborated with them. Two other lawyers I contacted also appeared to be losing memory fast when our conversation went into detail. Needless to say, again, Ramirez and Ramirez falls foul of all the above bullet points, their activities being dismissive of the most elementary rules of decency and honesty.

About Antonio Flores

Antonio Flores is the head lawyer at Lawbird, a Spanish law firm specialised in property and litigation. More on .

Litigation, Property, Scams , , , , , , , , ,

  1. Sandra
    December 1st, 2010 at 00:15 | #1

    This seems to be the ramblings of an unprofessional and desperate lawyer spouting a load of unsubstantiated nonsense. Are you not concerned about being sued for libellous defamation by one of your fellow lawyers?

  2. aflores
    December 1st, 2010 at 08:31 | #2

    Hello Sandra,

    I am not particularly concerned about being sued for libel (please note that although “libellous defamation” sounds more punchy, you ought to use the shorter term “libel”), as in fact I am already being sued by one of the individuals mentioned. It’s just the price one has to pay for uncovering illegal and unethical practices.

    In any event, your criticism, which I fully accept, is broad and unspecific. Does this mean that you find my blog post unprofessional, completely mistaken, in essence wrong from a legal point of view? Is there nothing in it you consider to be true? Do you feel that everything I write about is absolute nonsense?

  3. goodstich44
    December 1st, 2010 at 15:37 | #3

    Antonio
    I have only been alerted to this blog today, and I must say I am shocked!
    Why are you attacking one of many people who have been cheated, but is trying to do something about it by raising awareness in the form of petition. Why are you not supporting their cause?. You know as well as anyone the total disregard of law 57/58 by the banks, and the misery it has caused on top of all the other misery caused with the huge number of cases of fraud/corruption/deception/court delays etc, that’s hurt so many. Have you taken time to speak to the person involved to sort out any misunderstandings or difference of opinion?
    The reason i’m so shocked is that those on the petition have very genuine cases and needs support from genuine people, especially those in the legal proffession. Some of the names in the petition (myself included)have used Lawbird’s services and have praised them when we thought it was right and proper, so why are you turning your back on us now?

    If I’ve got this all wrong and there is something sinister going on with the petition that you can explain on here, then I will be the first to apologise, but at the moment I can’t see why you are attacking someone who is giving up their time and money free of charge to improve the lot of many of those cheated that you yourself have evidence of? Surely the call for change will be much louder if we all join together on this?.

  4. aflores
    December 1st, 2010 at 20:30 | #4

    Hello,

    I am aware that you have been a client of the firm, but this cannot make me change my opinion on what I see as a commercial venture, purely. This action has claimed that it was being supported by case law that no lawyer came accross, as far as I know, but even if such case law existed, would you not think that by sharing it´s knowledge more aggrieved people would benefit from it, rather than trying to monopolize it?

    The only ruling I am aware of, as well as most property lawyers in Spain, is a Court of First Instance ruling obtained by a Madrid lawyer on a specific case, which we published. If I am wrong I would love to be corrected, for the sake of the hapiness of hundreds of victims of the Spanish property off-plan fiasco.

    Please don’t get me wrong, I am not against taking legal action (I am a lawyer, after all!), but would you not think that people deserve to get the facts right before embarking on a costly legal case, in a different country and with little or no knowledge of the Spanish legal system? The fact that this group action is marketed by lawyers and viceversa does away, in my opinion, with it´s genuiness as an altruistic venture. There is no such thing, as you know, as a free lunch.

    The Spanish Property Scandal Petition is in my opinion the only group stripped from any commercial interest.

  5. goodstich44
    December 3rd, 2010 at 09:18 | #5

    Antonio

    while I share your caution on trying to get justice through law 57/58 due to a historic lack of success, surely that points to something else very wrong in the system as a requirement for a BG is the law?. Why are the banks not being taken to task and punished for not providing a BG?.

    As Keith’s petition provides a huge amount of evidence to support claims against the banks who haven’t provided a BG, then surely everyone on the right side of justice should be trying to get this ineffective law changed, so that it has a useful purpose!

    As you said ‘there is no such thing as a free lunch’ so I would think any petition must be funded by someone at some stage if it’s ever going to have teeth.

    Why is this being left for the cheated public to draw up petitions though, when lawyers have had the evidence for years?. I feel it’s about time all decent lawyers in Spain got together and spent a little of their money gained through countless cases of litigation, (mostly taken on due to the lack of regulation and hopeless laws like the BG one we are talking about) on trying to get the laws changed so that common sense regulation and punishment for the crime would go hand in hand. Although this would hugely reduce Spanish lawyers work load,I would think at least some lawyers would prefer to work on genuine cases of injustice, rather than working for most people who are merely victims of lack of regulation followed by the very poor legal/justice system many of us have been cheated by.

    I don’t know the answer?, but all the victims of this system need to be heard, not through more expensive and often painfully slow litigation that often leads to nothing, even when cases are won, but through enough people pulling together and shouting loud enough not to ignored any longer by those who can make the changes!!

  6. Sandra
    December 9th, 2010 at 20:35 | #6

    Such arrogance!

    “”( please note that although “libellous defamation” sounds more punchy, you ought to use the shorter term “libel”””

    Do you always accuse people of using a hyperbolic form of the English language when you do not like what they are saying? I was merely using the adjective ‘libelous’ (written) as opposed to ‘slanderous'(spoken) to differentiate between the two types of ‘defamation’.

    Your article may have won a ‘pat on the back’ from older Spanish lawyers and judges but, like yourself, they may be confused, shocked or even suspicious of any actions that challenge or attempt to simplify the outdated and unworkable system that sees many judges’ decisions completely at odds and out of touch with the law of the land.

    It does not take a bucketful of intelligence to criticise and belittle the efforts of others whilst raking in thousands of euros for providing a legal service which appears spurred only by gross complacency and a desire to keep the status quo.

    Perhaps if you spent your time searching for legal solutions to the many irregularities flagged up by the Spanish property ‘Boom’ instead of ridiculing those trying to win justice for those wronged, you might command the same sort of support and respect reserved for those you try to defame.

  7. roneill
    December 13th, 2010 at 14:28 | #7

    I have to agree with Antonio. I guess there are more ethical and law abiding ways “to win justice for those wronged” other than embarking on ambulance chasing tactics, like the ones used by these so-called petitions.

    Antonio, I am following this matter with interest:

    http://www.lawbird.com/wordpress/case-against-ocean-view-properties-and-sun-golf-grabs-media-attention/

    Thanks for all your efforts.

  8. goodstich44
    December 13th, 2010 at 18:07 | #8

    roneill
    what on earth do you mean ‘more law abiding and ethical’? Those of us on those petitions are genuine people with genuine issues, some that Antonio knows all about. We were never provided a BG,and by law should have been, so why shouldn’t we have a good case, or are we are saying the justice system is so bent it’ wouldn’t even be worth lawyers taking a case on? I don’t think we are getting to the truth here?, but there’s plain enough evedence on the petitions for the banks involved to be paying back many people they have cheated by not providing a BG.

  9. simon boldock
    January 3rd, 2011 at 00:56 | #9

    A little unfair i feel to have a go at Keith from the Finca Parks action group who has put a hell of a lot of time and effort into his quest for justice. He has provided me and many many others with advice and hope and never asked for a single cent and neither has he pushed or offered the services of any lawyers.

  10. aflores
    January 3rd, 2011 at 10:42 | #10

    Any action you come up with, so long as it is not tied up with a particular law firm, will be acceptable. If you break this rule, you then risk being perceived as indulging in ambulance-chasing. Just have a look at any Spanish real consumer group or association and you will know what I am talking about.

    If the action group is a mercantile venture spearheaded by lawyer, or by a person with ties to, or endorsed by, a particular law firm, then this needs to be made clear.

  11. Norman Sands
    January 3rd, 2011 at 12:12 | #11

    Ads: There is no need of unsolvency for the action against the Bank to be used. Just the delay and the lack of Bank Guarantee is needed.

    As an addition, I would like to point out that as even this Court decission is the most courageous of all, the essential statements on Bank liabilities were already made by the Navarre Court back in 2008 so….Case Law is not beginning but increasing. That Court in Navarre, in a Decission with same value as Supreme Court ones established that it is the Bank that receives deposits that is obligued to request the developer, under the Bank´s liability, to obtain the Guarantees for the buyers/depositers.

    This was also included in a couple of more Court decissions after the Navarre one and before the Cantabria one.

    It is also very important to note the big difference on the importance of Case Law between your system ( Commun Law or Case Law based) and our system ( Civil Law or Code based), where Court Decsissions are not even a source of Law but, according to provision 1.6 of our Civil code , «complementará el ordenamiento jurídico con la doctrina que, de modo reiterado, establezca el Tribunal Supremo al interpretar y aplicar la ley, la costumbre y los principios generales del derecho», a complement of the Legal order made out of the reiterated doctrine of the Supreme Court when interpreting and applying Law, uses and General Principles of Law.

    In our case, the rights are clear since 1968 when this ” Public Order protection” Law was passed and which has been expressly made enforceable in 1999 by the Building Act.

    The above couple of paragraphs are to say that the fight does not need express Court decissions in place if it is correctly and well fundamented in Law and General Principles of Law. If some lawyers have attacked us because of lack fo express case Law I need to say that those statements have not same relevance in our legal order as they have in the Commun Law one. Of course, it is very important, for easying a decission by the Judge, to furnish your lawsuits with relevant precedents and Jurisprudencia, but, in pure terms, they are not necessary for a case to be brought to Courts and be won.

    Yes, Keith, the tide is changing ang again I want to express my most sincere acknowledgement and respect to your sense of Justice and your fight for the rights of all in your group. This, together with the clear sense of abuses by financial bodies of the last decade was the main engine of my paassion for this topic.

    Yes, Keith, let´s keep fighting an working as there is much to do and say.

    Best regards,

    Maria

  12. aflores
    January 3rd, 2011 at 15:02 | #12

    Norman,

    I think I know what your post is about but I cannot opine on it given that it is a bit disjointed and choppy in the reading and as you can understand, I will not discuss legal matters unless I know full well what is it that I am being asked or told.

    I am not against collective consumer actions by people who have lost money, on the contrary, I fully support legitimate propositions aimed at making banks responsible for their involvement in the Spanish off-plan fiasco. What I am against is in lawyers being behind so-called altruistic ventures without disclosing it.

    And this I believe is the case given:

    a) striking similarities between the form proposed by Keith in his website and that of Costa Luz lawyers in their “Data request chart”, on the link below:

    http://belegal.com/blog-by-antonio-flores/files/2011/01/LCOM001-INITIAL-CANCELLATION-DATA-REQUEST.pdf

    b) the blind, almost fanatical support for the particular lawyer/firm as if you were all a group of fanatical cult missionaires, notwithstanding the string of infractions being commited by such lawyer/firm, from a Law Society practice rules’ point of view.

    The last, but not least, is the use of the Cadiz Law Society emblem on her firm´s paperwork, something expressly forbidden by article 7g of the Spanish Legal Profession Practice Rules.

  13. Norman Sands
    January 3rd, 2011 at 16:38 | #13

    Thank you,

    I have no fanatical support of any lawyer myself, in fact I regard them as largely unnecessary to a proper and efficient legal system in the main. If laws cannot be made readily understandable and usable for the ordinary citizen then they should not be made at all.

    Unfortunately we only have an inefficient, cumbersome and ridiculously expensive system in both countries but Spain seems to be worse at the moment.

    Thousands of Spanish lawyers signed or agreed these off-plan contracts without sensible checks and then advised disatisfied clients that they should complete or lose their deposits. This has led to the common perception that they were in fact corrupt with the developers throughout.

    All are then faced with extraordinary difficulties and costs to seek satisfaction, only to be advised by “their” lawyer that they have no case under the contract and Spanish law.

    In these circumstances it is only natural that they should attempt to band together to reduce costs in employing the most expensive “professional” they are ever likely to use. Even better if they can put together a petition that will assist or achieve their just recompense without involving the courts.

    I know nothing of “union” infractions and have little interest in such protectionism. It is an offence to free trade and should be disallowed.

    I have sought Maria’s advice on my own case which is not directly connected to Keiths and concluded that action would be too expensive and because of cases like Goodstitch’s unlikely to succed in a worthwhile settlement.

    Spain needs “no win no fee” lawyers.

    Norman

  14. aflores
    January 3rd, 2011 at 17:30 | #14

    Norman,

    I appreciate what you say and I can only provide you my moral support in your plight. By the way, for your information Doña Regina Flores Yurasek is not connected to me and no, I am not married :)

  15. Norman Sands
    January 3rd, 2011 at 20:57 | #15

    Thanks again,
    but that doesn’t excuse your attack on Keith and the rest of us who are reluctant to employ lawyers, the most expensive clerical workers on the planet.
    Norman