The Real Deal New York

TerraCRG sues Adam Hess for allegedly stealing clients, listings on his way to Meridian Capital Group

Suit claims Hess and team members were “caught red-handed”
By Eddie Small | November 19, 2018 02:45PM

Ofer Cohen and Adam Hess (Credit: Terra CRG and iStock)

TerraCRG is suing former brokers Adam Hess, Edward Setton and Aaron Birns for allegedly stealing confidential information and clients from the company before leaving for Meridian Capital Group.

Hess, Setton and Birns were “caught red-handed” with the information, as the junior member of Hess’ team Cameron Parsa confirmed what they had done in an affidavit, according to the lawsuit. It says that Birns told Parsa he took more than 30 property leads to Meridian with him, while Hess gave Parsa access to a spreadsheet downloaded to Meridian’s computer system with a list of Terra’s most valuable clients, the lawsuit says.

The suit also says a forensic expert found that Hess, Setton and Birns put USB devices and an application called Team Viewer into their computers before leaving for Meridian to access “invaluable” files from Terra’s network.

The trio is “using the information they stole to harm Terra’s business and “brazenly advertising on the open market one of the properties for which Terra prepared a confidential evaluation,” according to the suit.

All three brokers violated their nondisclosure agreements with TerraCRG, and the extent of what they took from the company is still unclear, the brokerage argued in court papers. The suit asks for expedited discovery in the case “to determine the full extent of their misconduct.”

Hess met with TerraCRG founder and CEO Ofer Cohen on Sept. 5 to tell him he was resigning immediately and taking his team with him, but did not say where they were going, the suit says. Setton said he was leaving on the same day, while Birns and Parsa just left the company without saying anything, according to court papers.

Hess had been a partner at TerraCRG, and his major deals at the company included the $84 million sale of Park Slope’s 1 Prospect Park West to Sugar Hill Capital Partners and the $23 million sale of Williamsburg’s 218 South 3rd Street to Millennium Venture Capital AG.

TerraCRG declined to comment on the suit. Hess and Setton did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Birns’ lawyer Tom Chase of Rottenberg Lipman Rich said they would fight the lawsuit.

“We think it’s frivolous,” he said. “We think it’s just an anticompetitive attempt to dissuade employees and independent contractors from leaving the firm.”