Cushman broker claims he was removed from 1 WTC leasing team because of his age

James Searl filed the latest in a string of recent discrimination lawsuits against the company
By Rich Bockmann | May 04, 2017 03:00PM

From left: Ron Lo Russo, Tara Stacom, One World Trade Center and James Searl

A Cushman & Wakefield broker who worked on Tara Stacom’s team overseeing leasing at One World Trade Center is suing the firm, claiming he was removed from the assignment due to his age.

The lawsuit is the most recent example of a string of discrimination claims against the private-equity backed brokerage, which is rumored to be preparing for an initial public offering.

James Searl, 70, filed a complaint in federal court Wednesday claiming that Cushman removed him and two other brokers from the assignment on the 3 million-square-foot tower in 2015 and replaced them younger team members.

“In recent years, C&W has become infamous for discriminating in employment against women, older people and minorities,” read the complaint, which went on to say that Searl has become “one more victim of the company’s discriminatory practices.”

Representatives for Cushman declined to comment on active litigation.

Searl joined Cushman in 2010, and although the company said he could continue to work on his own book of business, the World Trade Center assignment left him no time to work on anything else, his lawsuit claims.

Searl worked for the One World Trade Center leasing team, run by Cushman power broker Tara Stacom, for four years, and the firm agreed to give him a draw of $150,000 a year against commissions he would earn from future leases. Searl currently owes the company $400,000, according to the lawsuit.

In late 2014, Conde Nast inked a 1.2 million-square-foot deal at the property, but as more tenants started to show interest in the building, Cushman began withholding names of tenants who were inquiring about the building from Searl, he claims.

In October 2015, then-president Ron Lo Russo called Searl into his office and, using One World Trade Center co-owner the Durst Organization “as an excuse,” told the broker that he was being removed from the team, the suit claims. Searl said that two other brokers believed to be over the age of 50 were also removed and replaced with younger team members.

Searl said that if he didn’t receive credit for deals he had worked on up to that point he wouldn’t be able to pay back the $400,000 draw, and asked to have it forgiven. But Lo Russo told him that if he got a lawyer, C&W would “call in his entire draw immediately,” according the lawsuit.

Searl claims the commissions he is due were split between Stacom and executive director Justin Royce. His lawsuit says Cushman’s discriminatory actions led to physical and emotional distress – including the breakup of his 27-year marriage – and Searl is seeking unnamed damages at trial.

Cushman in recent years has been hit with a handful of similar lawsuits including one from former broker Hongmei “Janice” Li, who last year said she was fired by the firm, which “has become infamous for discriminating in employment against women, older people and minorities.”