The Real Deal New York

REBNY fines Nest Seekers $5,000 for improper listings

Company CEO Eddie Shapiro acknowledges violations, but says his firm was singled out
By Adam Pincus | February 10, 2011 01:27PM

From left: Nest Seeker’s CEO Eddie Shapiro and REBNY President Steven Spinola

In an unusual move, the Real Estate Board of New York sent a mass e-mail to more than 500 members notifying them that the trade group had fined the residential brokerage Nest Seekers International $5,000 for laying claim to another broker’s exclusive listing.

Several residential real estate insiders said it was the first time they had received a mass e-mail from REBNY notifying them publicly about a punishment. But at the same time, they said Nest Seekers was deserving of a sanction because it has often improperly put other firm’s exclusives on its own site.

REBNY, the city’s leading real estate trade organization, sent the notice of the fine yesterday afternoon to residential brokers.

“Please be advised that the REBNY Board of Governors has determined that Eddie Shapiro… the principal broker [and president and CEO] of Nest Seekers International violated,” the association’s rules against appropriating listings, the statement said.

“Nest Seekers International has been assessed a fine of $5,000. In addition, for a period of one year, any written complaint from a REBNY member firm alleging a violation of any REBNY rule by Nest Seekers shall be referred directly to the Board of Governors,” the statement continued.

It was unclear why REBNY took the unusual step to send out the notice of the violation widely when brokers say lots of firms are guilty of doing the same thing. And real estate pros said it was strange that REBNY would have identified Shapiro. REBNY did not respond to a request for comment.

Shapiro told The Real Dealthat several months ago two of his agents, Olivier Pomedio and Loic Kessl, had in fact improperly taken an exclusive listing from a competitor and put it on the agent’s page on the Nest Seeker’s site.

“We did advertise some listings [that] we were not supposed to. Now we have been trained… and we won’t do it again,” Pomedio said during a call with both agents.

In statement sent after the interview, Shapiro said, “Nest Seekers International has acknowledged to REBNY inadvertent violations made by two agents of the firm. As a result, Nest Seekers has amended its Internet platform to prevent any further infractions.” A spokesperson for Shapiro said the two agents plan to pay the $5,000 fine today.

To improve his firm’s control of its brokers’ listings, his company made changes to its website to tighten the reins on individual brokers’ pages. But it was in January, that he made his case in front of a REBNY subcommittee composed of “five or six” brokers from competing residential firms, Shapiro said. At first the trade group suggested as a punishment that it would block the firm’s access to REBNY’s listing service known as the RLS for 30 days, which would effectively choke the firm’s business for a month, Shapiro said. He said that amounted to disproportionate and collective punishment against scores of agents at his firm.

Shapiro said he was being unfairly singled out so that REBNY could make an example of him, because others in the industry do the same thing.

“I believe they picked on us specifically because we are sort of a firm that is coming up in the ranks,” Shapiro said. “So they just decided that we were going to be the scapegoats and they are using this idea to try and damage our reputation.”

He said the process, as well, was unfair, as the committee that judged him was made up of competitors.

Attorney Michele Peters, in private practice, said REBNY should enforce violations of the law and its rules, but she echoed his critiques of the complaint process.

“I can not state with confidence that a fair hearing may have been held since hearings are conducted by fellow brokers and not attorneys who are trained as mediators,” she said in an e-mail. “As a result, I believe any person found ‘guilty’ should have an opportunity of rebuttal which should accompany any notice such as was sent out.”

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