Real estate brokers are in it for the money, and when they don’t get it, they’re often inclined to sue. So in 2011, when a five-man troupe of Cushman and Wakefield leasing agents left an expiring contract to head to competing brokerage JLL, they expected to take their final paychecks with them.
Instead, the agents — Mitchell Konsker, Paul Glickman, Matthew Astrachan, Mitti Liebersohn and Alexander Chudnoff — said they were given short shrift and sued for up to $8 million to recover unpaid wages. Cushman settled in the amount of $1.5 million for owed base commission three years later (plus another $1.4 million in damages), but apparently that settlement was not enough to compensate for all unpaid commissions and attorney fees, a New York Supreme Court judge said in a Monday ruling.
In her decision, Judge Andrea Masley said Cushman’s “purposeful failure to pay employees earned wages renders defendant a wage thief and the loser.”
Masley’s decision, which denied Cushman’s cross-motion for its own attorneys fees to be paid, ordered the brokerage to pay out more than $650,000, including damages.
“Cushman tried to ‘bleed out’ a team of top producing brokers, hoping to get them to take pennies on the dollar on millions in commissions, forced the brokers to sue, and only agreed to settle, in phases, each time Cushman was about to lose,” said Stephen Meister, the attorney for the brokers in the case. “Commissions are wages.”
A representative for Cushman and Wakefield declined to comment.
In April of last year, the company conceded that it still owed the brokers remaining commissions and damages, according to Masley’s written decision.
A source familiar with the litigation told The Real Deal that the remaining unpaid wages stemmed from unpaid bonuses on top of base commissions.
Liebersohn has since left JLL, departing for Avison Young in 2015.
This month, TRD ranked New York’s top office leasing brokerages by total square footage leased in the last year. Cushman placed second with 12 million square feet in completed deals and JLL, with 6.4 million, was third.