This New York brokerage was just accused of predatory dual agency practices

Class-action lawsuit claims Houlihan Lawrence goes out of its way to hide brokers’ double roles

Houlihan Lawrence CEO Stephen Meyers and president Chris Meyers
Houlihan Lawrence CEO Stephen Meyers and president Chris Meyers

A Westchester homebuyer is the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit accusing Houlihan Lawrence of “predatory behavior” over its dual agency practices.

The lawsuit claims that the 1,300-agent-strong residential brokerage makes dual agency part of its fundamental business plan and obscures its agents’ roles, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Houlihan Lawrence also provides less disclosure than other brokerages about its agents’ dual roles, according to the lawsuit, which says the brokerage represented both sides of the deal in nine out of 10 of Houlihan Lawrence’s biggest Westchester sales.

A spokesperson for Houlihan Lawrence, which Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s HomeServices of America bought last year, told the Journal that the company had just learned of the lawsuit and was still going over it, adding the brokerage “is confident in its business practices.”

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Pamela Goldstein, the lead plaintiff in the case, bought a home in White Plains in 2017 for $637,000. She was surprised to find, though, that her broker at Houlihan Lawrence was part of the team that had listed the house for the seller. Her agent, Daniel Cezimbra, is also the brother-in-law of the listing agent.

Brokers in New York are allowed to work on both sides of the deal, so long as they disclose their dual roles. Goldstein said her broker sent her a disclosure only three days after she submitted her initial bid, and that the pre-checked boxes on the form were incorrect.

Cezimbra told the Journal that he worked “solely” on Goldstein’s behalf.

“She was well represented,” he said. “I feel everything we did was up to par. She had every disclosure laid out to her.” [WSJ]Rich Bockmann