Realogy ropes top agent Charlie Attias into Compass lawsuit

Corcoran parent’s case accuses SoftBank-backed firm of “predatory” poaching

Feb.February 26, 2020 04:00 PM
Compass CEO Robert Reffkin, broker Charlie Attias and Realogy CEO Ryan Schneider (Credit: Getty Images)
Compass CEO Robert Reffkin, broker Charlie Attias and Realogy CEO Ryan Schneider (Credit: Getty Images)

Three months after Charlie Attias left the Corcoran Group for Compass, the top Manhattan sales agent is being drawn into an epic courtroom battle between the firms.

According to court documents, Attias was subpoenaed by Corcoran’s parent company, Realogy Holdings, which last summer accused Compass of “illicit” business practices and “predatory” recruiting in an explosive lawsuit.

But in a February 24 letter to Judge Barry Ostrager, an attorney for Attias and Compass said Realogy has made “abusive” and “overbroad” requests for information from Attias “with the evident purpose of harassing” him and his clients.

For its part, Realogy believes Compass interfered with exclusive listing agreements between Corcoran and property owners, court documents show.

In the letter, Attias’ attorney said the subpoena requested information “with no plausible connection to the claims in the case,” including all of Attias’ communications with property owners and Compass over a 10-month period.

“In this light, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that Plaintiffs’ purpose in serving Mr. Attias personally and requesting irrelevant personal documents and communications has been to harass and embarrass him and his clients — essentially to punish a high-performing, prominent agent who exercised his right to leave Corcoran for Compass,” the letter said.

Compass said it would not comment on pending litigation. Neither Attias nor Realogy could be reached for comment.

The top agent, who speaks four languages, closed $91 million in sell-side deals last year, according to The Real Deal’s ranking of Manhattan agents. His pipeline of business is one of the biggest in the city, with $230 million in listings as of last spring.
According to the February 24 letter, Attias offered to review his emails and text messages and turn over communications with Compass and property owners related to the termination of exclusives. But Realogy was unwilling to discuss any limits on the discovery, his lawyer wrote.
Over the past few years, residential brokerages have sharpened clawback policies against agents who leave for rival firms. (Corcoran, for example, required some agents who had negotiated higher-than-typical splits to return a portion of their commissions.)  A handful of firms have also sued departing agents and managers for allegedly violating non-compete clauses.

In its own letter to the judge, Realogy said it believes Attias was “improperly recruited, inducing breaches of several contracts.” (In a second letter, Attias’ lawyer called that claim “entirely false.”) Realogy’s lawyer also said Compass is refusing to comply with the subpoena. “Compass has taken the untenable positions to delay discovery” in the hope that the court would rule the parties should work it out in arbitration, the letter said.

Compass in November asked the court to send the case to arbitration. In addition to a slew of unsavory business tactics, the suit accused Compass CEO Robert Reffkin of attempts at price-fixing.

Compass struck back with claims that Realogy CEO Ryan Schneider considered selling the brokerage to Compass but Compass rejected the offer.

In its Feb. 24 letter, the lawyer for Attias and Compass agreed that both parties are at an impasse over discovery. According to the letter, Realogy has also withheld files, particularly materials related to a potential sale of the company.

“Plaintiffs allege that certain statements attributed to Compass were false and defamatory,” the lawyer wrote. “Truth is a complete defense to defamation. Thus, Compass is seeking discovery that would prove that these statements are true.”

Write to E.B. Solomont at [email protected]

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