|"The Pimps of Mississippi" (banbalch.com)|
A number of unflattering adjectives -- "criminal" and "racist" are two that readily come to mind -- pop up in reporting about actions of the Balch & Bingham law firm since the North Birmingham Superfund bribery scandal broke. Now, it looks like we need to add a new adjective -- "hypocritical."
Why that word? It grows from recent reports about Balch's role in distributing $200-million in COVID-19 relief funds to help Mississippi residents avoid evictions. This from a law firm that touts its ability to help landlords execute on evictions and to help lenders collect on debts. In other words, Balch specializes in the kind of law that Mississippians, under the stress of possibly losing their homes, absolutely do NOT need. Here is more from banbalch.com, featuring a headline for the ages, "Pimps of Mississippi: Balch, the Evictor and Collector, Now Processing Housing Assistance." Writes Publisher K.B. Forbes:
Undoubtedly an absolute conflict of interest.
On their website, Balch & Bingham boasts, “Commercial landlords look to Balch for representation in evicting tenants and collecting unpaid rent.”
Balch also relishes their collection efforts, writing, “Balch is knowledgeable and experienced in locating assets and using garnishments, sheriff/marshal sales, and other collection tactics to turn a judgment into cash.”
As we reported yesterday, the Mississippi Housing Corporation has “outsourced” the processing of housing assistance to the the evictor and collector extraordinaire, Balch & Bingham, an alleged racist law firm.
Is it likely that quite a few of those who need help in Mississippi are people of color? I would say yes, which adds to the Balch hypocrisy. Writes Forbes:
Balch’s once esteemed ex-partner Joel I. Gilbert was convicted of bribery and money laundering in 2018 in a scheme to suppress poor African-Americans In North Birmingham from having their toxic property tested by the EPA. Balch has refused to apologize to the African-American community.
The housing assistance program in Mississippi has been plagued with delays and little payouts, according to NBC News.
The Rental Assistance for Mississippians Program (RAMP) is being administered by the Mississippi Home Corporation for the State of Mississippi, which received $186,696,633.80 in federal funds.
These funds were provided by the U.S. Department of Treasury through the CARES Act.
Do you see a pattern here? If the federal government seeks to help poor people, especially those of color, Balch is likely to perform unethically, incompetently -- or both. But if a creditor or landlord wants your money or your home, they can count on Balch to get the job done. Forbes adds perspective suggesting Balch might have stepped in doo-doo with the feds:
Two questions come to mind:
- Is Balch truly qualified to be processing housing assistance, or was this a “no-bid” contract handed off to political cronies?
- Have any of Balch’s clients and commercial landlords been given preferential treatment?
Thankfully the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Treasury Department can investigate and by law “is assigned responsibility to conduct monitoring and oversight of the receipt, disbursement, and uses of Coronavirus Relief Fund payments.”
The pimps of Mississippi may control the state politicians in the Magnolia State, as they do the political prostitutes of Alabama, but now that federal funds are involved, an independent, federal forensic audit is possible and could be obligatory as controversy escalates.