Compass president Leonard Steinberg sues Elliman over unpaid commissions

Suit comes two years after broker and team left the firm

From left: Howard Lorber and Leonard Steinberg
From left: Howard Lorber and Leonard Steinberg

Leonard Steinberg and Herve Senequier are suing Douglas Elliman for unpaid commissions, more than two years after leaving the company for Compass.

The commissions are related to the closings of several new development deals brokered by the pair’s LuxuryLoft team before the move, according to the suit, which was filed Tuesday in New York State Supreme Court.

Steinberg  and Senequier claim they and their team are owed upwards of $500,000, though the complaint doesn’t identify which new development deals they claim to have brokered. The pair worked at Elliman from November 2001 until May 2014. Steinberg then became president of venture-capital backed brokerage Compass. 

A representative for Elliman did not immediately respond to a request for comment, while both Steinberg and a Compass spokesperson declined to comment.

The brokers allege that, when they left Elliman, they came to an arrangement with chairman Howard Lorber whereby the company would continue to pay them all outstanding commissions on transactions in contract at the agreed upon splits at the time they were earned. The deals were expected to take as long as two years to close, since they were in new development projects.

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Steinberg and Senequier argued that the arrangement was more than fair to Elliman, since they left behind numerous other listings they’d brought to the firm but had not yet sold. The commissions from those deals would go to Elliman brokers, they said in the complaint.

The brokers allege that Elliman kept its end of the bargain for one year and then began paying commissions at a much lower rate than was originally agreed upon. In November, Steinberg allegedly reached out to Lorber to discuss and put their agreement in writing, adding a provision that prohibited Steinberg and Senequier from poaching from Elliman for 18 months. But, by April, Elliman stopped paying commissions entirely, alleging the non-solicitation agreement had been breached, the suit claims.

“Rather than comply with its obligations, Douglas Elliman made vague and unsubstantiated accusations that plaintiffs Steinberg and Senequier violated their non-solicitation obligations,” the suit says.

Steinberg closed sales and signed contracts for over $500 million in 2013, the year before he and Senequier jumped ship to Compass, The Real Deal reported in its May 2015 issue.