Nikki Mack is a former office assistant at DJSP Enterprises, David J. Stern's company, which is under investigation by the Florida attorney general for allegedly fraudulent foreclosure documentation. Mack lost her job -- and benefits -- in late October and after a period without insurance is now on her husband's plan but still cannot find work. Mack is on unemployment and is moving into a smaller house. She, along with other former employees, is suing Stern for not giving proper notice of employment termination, as her lawyer, Chandra Doucette, says is required by law. The Work Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) requires at least a 60-day grace period.
"I'm shocked at what's going on," Mack says. "I would never think
anything like this would happen." Mack had no idea of anything
fraudulent going on at the company that she had seen multiply in size in her 14
years of employment. When she began her career working for Stern, Mack says, the office was much smaller and she saw Stern
daily. Before her termination, she says, she had not seen him in three
years. Yet she had only nice things to say about the man she is suing.
"He was a nice person... I never had a problem with him," she says."I knew business was picking up and a lot of hiring was going on... I knew that he was a go-getter. I could see the growth." That is, until she watched that growth rapidly recede from September to November. And it may not be over yet.
"As time went on and we started seeing all these people getting laid off... it was like a day-to-day thing -- just go to work, see what happens, and come home," Mack says. Then, on October 22, it was her turn. Chris Simmons, the company spokesperson, called her into a meeting. "When I walked in, I was dumbfounded," Mack says. "There were about 40 people in there holding these papers [that said they were laid off]." Stern was not at the meeting, but the photocopied letter displayed his signature.
The meeting was in the main office, and by the time Mack returned to the nearby subsidiary office to collect her belongings, her security badge had been deactivated. She entered the building when someone exited, went to her desk, and realized that she could no longer access her phone or computer. Her ties to the place she worked for 14 years were cut in an instant.
Even more layoffs would come shortly after. According to Doucette, about 435 people were laid off on November 5 in one point-blank email. In total, nearly 800 employees from DJSP have been released in Broward County, which surely is not known for its employment opportunities these days.
Here is the November 5 email Stern sent to his employees, followed by the previous correspondence received by another batch of people on October 21.
As you are likely aware, recent turbulence in the mortgage industry
has had a profound impact on our business. The referral of new
business has decreased by over 90 percent in the last six months.
This week Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac announced that they will no
longer be utilizing our services. While we are doing everything
possible to guide the company successfully through these difficult
times, these developments mandate that we take immediate action to
align the business with current realities.
It is with a heavy heart that I must announce that due to the loss in
business, we regret to inform you that we are laying-off roughly 70%
of our staff across the company and you have been selected to be
part of the cutbacks.
Regretfully, due to how significant these cutbacks must be, many top
performing, tenured, and hard working people will be affected. This is
not a reflection upon the quality of any one individuals work rather, it
is a direct response to the significant decline in business.
I would like to personally thank you for your hard work and dedication
during your employment.
There are some instructions for you below regarding collecting your
person effects and some paper work you will need prior to leaving.
David J. Stern