March 14, 2018

Profiles in Membership

Pamela, of the Law Office of Simmons & Purdy in Soquel, California, tells a tale of how she became a consumer mortgage law advocate. In 1997 an elderly woman, who was a victim of a “hard money” lender, made an appointment with Pamela at her new law offices. Pamela had recently left the Santa Cruz County District Attorney’s Office, where she had prosecuted consumer fraud cases. The woman, having done her own research, came into Pamela’s office carrying a book—Truth in Lending, written by the National Consumer Law Center. Pamela took the book and the case and began her journey into the complex and heavily regulated area of mortgage lending law.

Pamela D. Simmons

In the late 1980s, while in law school, Pamela worked at the Santa Clara County firm of Caputo, Liccardo, Rossi, Sturges & McNeil, on what was, at that time, the largest securities fraud case in California, the consolidated Technical Equities Corporation litigation. The litigation involved complex financial fraud stemming from a Ponzi scheme claiming hundreds of victims and which brought in as defendants the market maker and the company’s bankers and accountancy firm. During that case Pamela had the good fortune of being trained as an expert forensic accountant. The skills she learned then have come in very handy today when auditing mortgage lenders’ obtuse payment histories.

Pamela has found the relationships and networking that resulted from her RPTE membership over the years valuable and rewarding for her law practice and personally. She was featured in the ABA book, Marketing Success: How Did She Do That?, edited by Afi S. Johnson-Parris and Dee A. Schiavelli (2015). ABA connections, through one’s active membership, may be based in one Section, such as RPTE, but develop over a wide scope of the Association’s membership.

Debra Pogrund Stark

Debra, a professor at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago, fondly recalls her first RPTE Section meeting early in her career, and in particular the friendliness of the Section members she met at that meeting and so many that followed. “Are you dirt or are you death?” she was asked at a RPTE networking event, introducing her to the casual reference to the Section’s two divisions. Over the years she has appreciated the opportunities to work with excellent transactional lawyers as she served as vice-chair and subsequently chair of the Section’s Workouts, Foreclosures and Bankruptcy Committee, as an acquisitions editor for the Section’s Publications Committee, and as vice-chair of the Section’s Law Practice Management Group’s Pro Bono Committee. Debra truly enjoys “talking law” with colleagues, presenting CLE programs, and writing articles on topics such as interest rate swaps, prepayment charges, clogs on the borrower’s equitable right of redemption, and predatory lending.

After eight years in private practice in the real estate department of Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP in Chicago, she joined the faculty of The John Marshall Law School in 1994, teaching real estate and property law and researching and writing articles on predatory lending.

In pursuit of her goal to address the problem of predatory lending, Debra has developed law reform proposals based on empirical, interdisciplinary, and multi-state research, exploring the reason so many consumers entered into overpriced and unaffordable home loans and has developed strategies to improve home loan decision making. She and her spouse, Dr. Jessica Choplin, are co-recipients of a National Science Foundation grant exploring the reasons consumers are vulnerable to fraud and unfair business practices and strategies to mitigate this vulnerability.