A New York Supreme Court judge is backing away from a nearly three-year-old legal battle between Realogy and Compass over an apparent conflict of interest.
Justice Barry Ostrager, who until this week had been presiding over an agent-poaching lawsuit brought by Realogy against Compass in 2019, filed for a recusal on Tuesday.
“I have a dispute with Compass, Inc. in connection with a real estate transaction and therefore must recuse myself,” Ostrager wrote.
The exact dispute between Ostrager and Compass has not been revealed, but property records show the judge has owned a co-op at 930 Fifth Avenue since 2015. The unit was put on the market for $1.4 million with Compass agent Michael Franco in November, and went into contract in January, according to the listing.
Franco declined to comment. Realogy and a representative for the New York State Unified Court System did not respond to requests for comment. A Compass spokesperson responded only with a statement regarding the ongoing lawsuit.
“We continue to believe that Realogy must be held accountable,” the spokesperson said. “We look forward to continuing to prove our claims in court.”
Realogy’s lawsuit, filed in July 2019, accused Compass of engaging in “illegal schemes to gain market share at all costs and to damage, or even eliminate, competition.” Realogy, parent company of Coldwell Banker and Corcoran, among others, labeled Compass’ use of commission splits and non-competes “predatory recruiting and poaching” practices.
The complaint also accused Compass CEO Robert Reffkin of soliciting Realogy to enter into an illegal price-fixing agreement. Compass shot back with a series of counterclaims last year, accusing Realogy of waging “a war of disinformation” against it and impeding “the free movement of agents and employees” in a 77-page complaint.
It’s not the first time Judge Ostrager has recused himself from a high-profile real estate proceeding. After initially overseeing a lawsuit brought by Stuyvesant Town tenants in 2020 against Blackstone, Ostrager recused himself last year, noting that his former employer had performed work for the investment firm and his pension is “derived at least in part from the substantial revenue the firm receives from Blackstone.”
Kathryn Brenzel contributed reporting.