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The Real Deal Los Angeles

Mercer Vine to shut down permanently amid legal storm: sources

The brokerage was named a “relief defendant” in a massive SEC lawsuit against Woodbridge last month
By Natalie Hoberman | January 25, 2018 06:09PM

From left: Kyle Giese, Justin Mandile, Adam Rosenfeld, Robert Shapiro (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Mercer Vine, the luxury residential brokerage embroiled in a federal investigation into the business dealings of its main backer, is shutting shop permanently, The Real Deal has learned.

Effective Friday, the brokerage will cease operations, according to several sources familiar with the discussions. Agents were informed of the decision Thursday, and one of its co-founders is said to have accepted a job at a competing firm. Agents have been making calls to firms around town looking for new positions.

Corporate registration documents for Mercer Vine are no longer available on a state database.

The company has been suffering the backlash of an SEC investigation into its purported founder, Robert Shapiro, which turned into a government lawsuit. Shapiro, former chief executive of Woodbridge Group of Companies, resigned from his post in December amid accusations that he has been duping more than 8,000 investors in a $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme. At the time, Woodbridge announced it had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. On Tuesday, a federal bankruptcy court judge approved a new board of directors to shepherd the company through the process of restructuring its debt.

Through the drama, Mercer Vine has stayed open, though defections of prominent agents began soon after the news of the Woodbridge investigation broke.

Two of Mercer Vine’s co-founders, Adam Rosenfeld and Kyle Giese, are said to be joining Sotheby’s International Realty, along with a top-producing agent, Justin Mandile, sources said. Mandile previously worked at Sotheby’s before joining Mercer Vine. Now his father and brother work at Sotheby’s, according to its website. Representatives for Sotheby’s didn’t respond to requests for comment. Rosenfeld and Giese didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Mercer’s other co-founder and COO, Dominic Labriola, and agent Tara Hotchkis, are joining Compass, according to multiple sources. In a brief phone interview on Thursday night, Labriola denied he is leaving the company.

“My team is not going anywhere,” he said.

More than two dozen agents who were reached for comment declined to answer questions, referring a reporter to the co-founders. Representatives for Compass didn’t respond to requests for comment by press time.

In December, a TRD investigation revealed Shapiro as the leading figure behind the fast-growing brokerage, which operated with a suspended license from September to December. The SEC named Mercer Vine a “relief defendant” in a Dec. 20 complaint, on grounds that it allegedly profited off Woodbridge’s fraud.

Mercer Vine put its 9,100-square-foot headquarters at 8124 West 3rd Street in Beverly Grove for sale on Dec. 20 — the same day the lawsuit was made public and the SEC ordered Woodbridge to “freeze its assets.”