Broker suit alleges discrimination, bullying at Nest Seekers
Agent claims he was cheated of $1.5M in commissions after complaining about colleague
A Nest Seekers broker filed a lawsuit claiming he was taken off projects and cheated out of at least $1.5 million in commissions after complaining about discrimination and bullying by a fellow agent.
Natanel Malkoukian alleged in the suit against broker Michael Bethoney, Nest Seekers and CEO Eddie Shapiro that he faced retaliation after repeatedly complaining about Bethoney to Shapiro. Malkoukian accuses Bethoney of discrimination based on his religion, claiming the agent called him lazy and told other colleagues that he “barely works,” in reference to Malkoukian observing Sabbath and Jewish holidays.
The complaint further alleges that Bethoney “threatened and bullied plaintiff, yelling and screaming, spitting, and clenching his fist, to the extent that plaintiff felt threatened physically.”
The lawsuit describes similar conduct against another Orthodox Jewish broker, and alleges that Bethoney also has a “history of harassing women agents and employees… because they are women.”
“He has threatened, bullied, belittled, screamed at them, to the extent that they have feared for their physical safety, are uncomfortable in his presence, and do not want to be in the same room as, or at meetings with, him,” the lawsuit states. Messages reviewed by TRD from two of the women named in the lawsuit describe similar behavior. The women and other employees mentioned in the complaint are not parties to the lawsuit.
“Bethoney’s conduct and Shapiro’s refusal to do anything about it have created a hostile work environment at NS for women and Orthodox Jews,” the complaint says.
Malkoukian alleges that Shapiro assured him Bethoney would be fired, but the Nest Seekers CEO later changed his mind, informing Malkoukian that “Bethoney was very close to many of the developers that NS depended on for commissions.”
Following those exchanges, Bethoney took Malkoukian off group messages related to projects the broker was working on and told him that he would not receive commissions on contracts entered in after March 1, 2022, according to the complaint. Malkoukian claims he has missed out on $1.5 million in commissions as a result.
The Real Deal reported last year that Bethoney’s outbursts against other agents was the subject of an internal complaint. Shapiro tapped Bethoney to lead the firm’s new development division after Ryan Serhant left the firm in 2020, TRD reported at the time, but the agent’s role was somewhat ambiguous after the complaints.
Shapiro has since denied that Bethoney was ever in charge of new development, even though Bethoney’s website previously described him as “managing director of new development.” He is now listed as an associate broker.
Bethoney, who is also an attorney, did not respond to requests for comment.
Shapiro declined to comment when reached by email Friday, instead pointing to his previous remarks on the situation and saying “the legal process will run its course.”
When asked last year about the complaints, Shapiro told TRD that “everything is under control, and doing well. And Michael is working his projects.” He said the firm’s human resources department handles complaints as they arise.
“When you’re talking about millions of commissions at stake, people get emotional. People get personal about it,” Shapiro said at the time. “And so we work through the issues, and we guide everyone in the right way.”