The Real Deal New York

Former top Queens broker sues CBRE for commission

By Adam Pincus | March 23, 2010 05:29PM

A former top broker in Queens and Brooklyn is suing commercial brokerage CB Richard Ellis for a nearly $40,000 commission that she claims is owed to her for a 2007 renewal transaction she only learned happened two months ago.

But the broker, Marjorie Seaman, is not accusing the firm of any impropriety. Instead, she says, the company’s poor record keeping practices have kept her, and the firm, too, from making any money on the transaction because it may never have invoiced the landlord at the time of the renewal.

She said her allegations of bad document management were important not only because of its impact on brokers but also for investors in the company, because the company was not maximizing revenue.

Seaman, a former managing director who led the Queens and Brooklyn office for Insignia/Edward S. Gordon, which was acquired in 2003, after she had left, by CBRE, says in her complaint filed March 3 in New York State Supreme Court, that the company should pay her 60 percent of a $64,215 commission, or $38,529, for a Sunnyside renewal lease at 39-24 43rd Street near Skillman Avenue inked in 2007.

“Seaman caused the owner of the property… to execute a brokerage agreement providing for a commission to be paid to ESG at the time of the execution of the lease, and at the time of a lease renewal pursuant to said lease,” the complaint says. 

In an interview, Seaman said CBRE has not maintained proper records.

“It is completely up to the procuring brokerage company to invoice for the residual commission and to stay on top of expirations or possible renewals,” Seaman said. The company never did and “left money on the table.”

This was the second suit this month by a broker against a large firm. Last week Paolo Zampolli filed suit against sales firm Massey Knakal Realty Services, claiming he was cut out of $212,500 in commission.

But real estate attorney Gary Wachtel, who is not involved in either case, said he was not aware of a cause of action that would allow a salesperson to sue a brokerage for a share of a commission that the firm had never invoiced for.

A spokesperson for CBRE declined to comment.

Seaman says she represented tenant Charmer Industries in 1997 for a 10-year lease for 50,000 square feet at the 43rd Street property. She only learned two months ago from the tenant that the lease had been renewed in February 2007 for another five years. 

She then called CBRE, seeking her commission check, but was surprised to learn that the company had not tried to collect its $64,215 commission for the renewal of the lease, which the landlord and tenant worked out alone, she told The Real Deal.

The landlord, Refron Corp./JKG Industries, would not provide Seaman with a copy of the lease, Seaman said. A representative from the company declined to comment.  

Because she was not permitted to take her own records from the company when she left in 2000, it is difficult to know when renewals are made. CBRE has paid her twice on renewals since she left, she said.

Seaman, who is now a director at the New Jersey-based Seller’s Realty Group, said her case was strong because she had a commission agreement for the 10-year lease in 1997 that had a renewal option, making the renewal a “commissionable event.”

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