Ex-Compass agent claims her former team conspired to cut her out of deals

In lawsuit, Jill Schwartz says the agents and firm were “motivated by greed”

Feb.February 13, 2019 06:00 PM

Jill Schwartz (Credit: iStock and Jill Schwartz Group)

Agent churn and broker poaching are commonplace in real estate. But one former Compass agent is suing the brokerage over more conspiratorial allegations. Jill Schwartz filed a lawsuit against Compass and three former team members, accusing them of breaking agreements and stealing her listings.

Schwartz, team leader of the Jill Schwartz Group in the Washington D.C. area, also alleged that Compass failed to support her by keeping the team members and by not helping her get the commissions she says she’s owed. The team members named in the suit are Ray Ferrara, Alexandra Thomas Schwartz and Danielle Spira, Inman reported.

“The Defendants acted in concert and as part of a coordinated plan, motivated by greed and self-interest, and in direct contravention of their duty of loyalty, and their duty to use their best efforts on behalf of Plaintiff,” the complaint said.

Schwartz alleges Compass owes her commissions on nine properties ranging in value between $835,000 to more than $5 million.

The lawsuit further accuses the team members of listing themselves as agents in jurisdictions where they weren’t licensed — and that the brokerage ignored any wrongdoing. The complaint is asking for a jury trial and alleges civic conspiracy, breach of contract, unjust enrichment, misappropriation of trade secrets and violation of the Lanham Act, which protects trademarks.

“This agent was asked to leave the company,” a Compass spokesperson told The Real Deal. “Our focus remains on building a world-class experience for all of our agents.”

Schwartz was with Compass from August 2016 to October 2018, but is now an agent at Keller Williams Capital Properties in Bethesda, Maryland. Ferrara, Thomas Schwartz and Spira joined Compass’ Jill Schwartz Group as team members in 2017, according to the complaint.

As part of joining the team, members agreed to work on Schwartz’s behalf — including using her custom digital intellectual property assets, including branded marketing material; to include her name as the team leader on all contracts; and to owe her a duty of loyalty, the complaint said. In exchange, Schwartz’s complaint said she provided them office space, resources and customer leads. But some time in 2018, she alleges the team members, “apparently unhappy or unwilling to share their commissions with Plaintiff” — entered into buyer agency agreements and sales contracts without putting her name on the contracts. They allegedly withheld contracts from her and entered into agreements with developers with whom Schwartz had pre-existing agreements, the report said.

Then, in August 2018, the complaint alleges that Thomas Schwartz downloaded Schwartz’s database of contacts without permission — and later told Schwartz the three members would be creating their own team.

“Compass management in effect condoned the conduct of the Defendant team members and failed to assist Plaintiff in putting a stop to it,” the suit said. “Motivated by its own greed and self-interest, Compass supported the Defendant team members rather than Plaintiff. Plaintiff provided Compass with detailed information as to the wrongdoing that the Defendant team members had committed.” [Inman]Meenal Vamburkar

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