Real estate agents facing subpoenas after failing to appear at hearing

The crackdown follows Newsday investigation revealing discriminatory practices

Democratic State Sen. James Skoufis (Credit: NY Senate)
New York State Senator James Skoufis (Credit: NY Senate)

Dozens of real estate agents and executives are facing subpoenas after failing to turn up to a hearing probing accusations of discriminatory practices.

“There’s an easy way and a hard way to do things,” Democratic State Sen. James Skoufis tweeted Thursday. “It’s unfortunate these 67 individuals chose the hard way.”

The hearing, which stemmed from a Newsday investigation revealing widepsread housing discrimination in Long Island, was reportedly attended by just one executive.

“The remaining 67 individuals either neglected to respond or outright refused to provide testimony,” said Skoufis, who also serves as the chairman of the Senate Committee on Investigations and Government Operations.

M. Ryan Gorman, NRT’s president and CEO, told senators the “Long Island Divided” series revealed a “pervasive” discrimination problem in the industry. He said he had offered a personal apology and committed his company to review its training practices.

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“I think what was uncovered in the Newsday investigation was severely disappointing,” he said.

After the investigation was published in November, The Real Deal contacted 26 brokerages to get their reactions to the article, and asked each how they ensured agents complied with fair housing laws. Four declined to comment and 11 did not respond, but among the 11 who did, most expressed outrage at the race-based steering of homebuyers — including 49 percent of black shoppers — that Newsday discovered.

While most of the firms to offer comments about the report expressed shock and outrage, Douglas Elliman, whose agents were tested in the report, attacked the newspaper’s methods.

“Newsday’s report is an unreliable, unethical, and unscientific attempt to create a news story where there is none,” a representative for the firm said in an email, adding that the firm had a “zero tolerance policy” toward unfair and illegal treatment of any individual or group.

[Newsday] — Sylvia Varnham O’Regan