The Real Deal New York

This brokerage is accused of forging signatures in a dual agency lawsuit

Houlihan Lawrence called the case “meritless”
November 30, 2018 06:16PM

(Credit: iStock)

Earlier this year, Houlihan Lawrence was hit with a lawsuit alleging the brokerage engaged in dual agency without proper disclosures. Now the firm is being accused of forging documents in the legal process.

Attorneys for homebuyers Pamela Goldstein and Paul Benjamin and home sellers Tony Berk and Dr. Ellyn Berk alleged that the signatures on a statutory disclosure form are fake, Inman reported. “The document shows that the signatures on that form were copied and pasted from a prior, differently marked form — all without the Berks’ knowledge or consent,” they said in a filing.

Creating “sham” statutory disclosure forms demonstrates the brokerage’s “culture of disregard for client consent,” they added. “And it is yet another reason why statutory disclosure forms, standing alone, cannot establish disclosure and informed consent as a matter of law.”

In a statement to Inman, Houlihan Lawrence dismissed the premise of the lawsuit.

“For more than 130 years, Houlihan Lawrence has had a reputation of responsible business practices and integrity,” a spokesperson told Inman. “We believe this lawsuit is meritless and intend to vigorously defend against plaintiffs’ claims.”

The initial class-action lawsuit against Houlihan Lawrence was filed in July. It accused the brokerage of representing both sides of the deal in nine out of 10 of its biggest Westchester sales. Since then, more clients signed on to the lawsuit. In October, an amended complaint alleged the firm “pays secret kickbacks” agents who secure double commissions through dual-agent transactions.

Brokers in New York are allowed to work on both sides of the deal, so long as they disclose their dual roles. The practice isn’t uncommon, but lack of transparency can make the arrangement unethical or illegal. [Inman] — Meenal Vamburkar