Real Estate

Plaintiffs end suit accusing companies of defrauding agents

Former sales reps drop claims that Move, its parent company News Corp. and the National Association of Realtors discriminated against them and used them to lie to agents.

Six former sales employees of operator Move Inc., who filed a lawsuit alleging they were the victims of an “abusive” and “toxic” work environment, have ended their case.

Michael Traylor, an attorney for the six, led by plaintiff Sarah Aharon filed a request to dismiss the entire suit with prejudice — meaning permanently — last month and the case has been closed. The filing did not specify whether the parties had settled.

Traylor declined to provide comment for this story. A spokesperson for Move and News Corp. also declined to provide comment for this story.

The March 9 complaint had alleged that Move, its parent company News Corp., the National Association of Realtors and former Move executives Sanjay K. Jaisingani, aka “Leo Jay”; and Bill Anthony Sperry, aka “William Sperry”; conspired to create a workplace where the plaintiffs were discriminated against on the basis of their age, religion, disability, sex and/or race.

In addition, the complaint alleged the defendants stole the sales reps’ commissions and distributed them amongst themselves.

The plaintiffs also said they were fed lies about Move’s products that they then “innocently” repeated to Realtors. Specifically, the complaint alleged that the defendants gave the sales reps information about the quality and quantity of their products and services including the “exclusive” nature of the products and told them to offer agents discounts, preferred pricing and other incentives in order to make sales.

However, that information was, unbeknownst to the sales reps, “frequently false” and part of a “scheme to defraud customers/clients through each plaintiff ” and then charge back or claw back the plaintiffs’ commissions, according to the complaint. This “claw-back policy” was “more harshly applied” to sales reps over the age of 40, according to the complaint.

The plaintiffs’ attorney also alleged sales commissions were deducted from wages when customers canceled sales after learning that they were lied to, thereby forcing the sales reps “to become an insurer of the employer’s business.”

A spokesperson for News Corp. and Move has previously told Inman the allegations were “without merit.” A spokesperson for NAR has previously told Inman that NAR had not been served and is not a joint employer of the plaintiffs as “incorrectly alleged” in the suit. Inman has reached out to these defendants for comment and will update this story if and when we hear back.

The discrimination alleged in the 88-page complaint includes providing the plaintiffs, on the basis of their membership in a protected class, with fewer resources, lesser quality assignments, lesser compensation and job benefits, less credit for accomplishments, harsher criticism and discipline, inaccurate and unfair performance reviews, fewer promotions and less respect for their professional opinions.

According to the complaint, News Corp., Move and NAR “produced a culture of racism, sexism, discrimination, harassment and retaliation” and failed to do the training, background checks and supervising that would have promoted a work environment free of discrimination and harassment.

The complaint alleged 20 counts against the defendants including negligence; breach of contract; theft of sales commissions; unfair competition; fraud and deceit; age, gender, race, religious and disability discrimination; intentional infliction of emotional distress; and whistleblower retaliation.

Former employees have made such allegations against Move before. In January 2018, former Move sales rep Brian Bobik alleged he was wrongfully terminated from Move, in retaliation for objecting to and refusing to participate in what he believed to be unlawful conduct as well as for requesting accommodations for a disability. Bobik alleged sales reps were instructed to sell agents bogus leads and lie to them about the terms of their contracts with the company and the exclusivity of the leads.

In addition, Bobik alleged that if agents canceled a credit card after being unhappy with the leads provided for a particular ZIP code, Jay would instruct Move sales reps to continue charging the agent for the underperforming ZIP code, using another credit card the agent had on file — without the agent’s permission.

And in September 2020, Suzanne Mueller, Move’s former senior vice president of industry relations, alleged the company discriminated against her on the basis of sex and age and failed to provide “a safe working environment and failed to adequately supervise employees.” She also alleged Move retaliated against her for participating in a sexual harassment investigation against a NAR executive.

Both lawsuits settled.

Email Andrea V. Brambila.

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