Compass slams REBNY with antitrust suit

first_img Email Address* The complaint focuses on part of the agreement that governs communications between agents and their sellers if they move to a new firm. Specifically, agents are barred from further contact with their clients if they leave the firm where the exclusive listing agreement was signed.Compass claims this provision is enforced in a “discriminatory manner” against it, and claims this “directly limits” its recruitment efforts and ability to grow its market share in New York City.The firm singled out Howard Lorber, Elliman’s executive chairman, as being particularly “instrumental” in getting the provision adopted.While Compass has been in legal spats with competitors on and off since launching in 2013, its suit against REBNY is a direct rebuke of the industry’s main trade group at a particularly sensitive time for the IPO-bound brokerage.“Compass’ lawsuit is surprising, disappointing and misplaced,” REBNY president James Whelan said in a statement. “Compass’ point of contention is with New York State law. Instead, Compass takes issue with REBNY co-brokering rules which are based on current State law and which Compass has helped shape and enforce.”REBNY hasn’t been sued by a member since 2004.Compass agents and executives sit on several of REBNY’s residential committees, which oversee policies including the universal co-brokerage agreement. REBNY’s residential members must follow the agreement to access its syndicated listing feed, the Residential Listing Service.Three Compass employees are part of the REBNY committee dedicated to the regulating and enforcing the agreement: Valentina Shenderovich, Compass’ associate general counsel; Emily Whitney, senior legal counsel for the firm; and Rory Golod, Compass’ regional president of the Tri-State area, who has been on the committee for at least two years, according to a source familiar with the matter.In its complaint, Compass argues that Elliman and Corcoran have “disproportionate” representation on REBNY boards that allows them to “control any policy or rule changes.”Representatives for Compass and Elliman declined to comment. A spokesperson for Corcoran called Compass’ claims “fiction,” and pointed to Compass’ continued efforts to force its parent company’s lawsuit against it into arbitration at REBNY. “Yet, Compass now claims Corcoran is supposedly conspiring with REBNY,” the representative said.(Corcoran’s parent, Realogy, sued Compass in July 2019, alleging that Compass engaged in “illicit” business practices and “predatory” poaching. Compass filed a countersuit this January, accusing the company and its subsidiaries of unfair competition and defamation.)Tensions over listings between the firms, and REBNY’s involvement, are longstanding. It was previously reported that REBNY fined Compass $1,000 in 2018, but the complaint disclosed the total fines REBNY levied against the firm for UCBA violations that year was $34,000. Beyond the charges, competing firms have been urging the trade organization to take further action against Compass for years.In a heated 2018 meeting, REBNY president John Banks and brokerage heads discussed Compass’ alleged practice of giving its new recruits a form to share with clients to urge them to transfer the listing to their new firm. (In New York, when a client decides to sell their home, they sign an exclusive listing agreement with the brokerage, not the agent. When an agent switches firms, bringing their exclusive listings with them often becomes a point of negotiation.)The meeting, which was attended by Douglas Elliman’s Howard Lorber and Halstead’s Diane Ramirez among others, was the second meeting among REBNY leadership and brokerage heads regarding the issue in a matter of months.At the time, Ramirez said REBNY’s residential brokerage board of directors was taking action by introducing changes to the UCBA to include more specific rules and penalties in order to ensure greater compliance.In the complaint, Compass says it was barred from participating in the process: Golod was allegedly turned away from a 2019 meeting in which revisions to the UCBA were to be discussed. (Golod was trying to attend in the place of Compass’ designated representative, who was unable to attend due to personal reasons, according to the complaint.)The new measures, which penalize inaccurate data and bad business behavior, were adopted in early 2019. In the complaint, Compass argued the revisions were made to prevent property owners from choosing to continue working with their agent at their new firm, and in doing so hamper Compass recruitment efforts and stifle competition.Compass also alleged that Corcoran and Elliman frustrated its attempts to recruit specific agents by refusing to release former agents’ listings even when Compass offered to pay “exceptionally generous offers,” but would “routinely” release listings when agents moved to a firm other than Compass.Compass is seeking damages for lost business, defined in terms of recruitment and sales. The brokerage disclosed $270 million in losses last year and a 56 increase in revenue in its IPO prospectus.Contact Erin Hudson Compass’ Robert Reffkin and REBNY’s James Whelan. (Getty, Whelan ph: Anuja Shakya)The Real Estate Board of New York represents the interests of the city’s many residential brokerages. Compass says it’s not one of them.The brokerage alleges in a new lawsuit that REBNY has conspired with Douglas Elliman and the Corcoran Group to “thwart” its business in New York City. The complaint was filed in federal court for the Southern District of New York Friday afternoon. (Elliman and Corcoran are not defendants in the case, but are cited throughout.)Compass said it was bringing the suit to “halt REBNY and its co-conspirators’ anticompetitive scheme, release from their market dominance, and reinvigorate the competitive process.”At the core of the tension is the universal co-brokerage agreement (UCBA), which dictates how agents share listings. Compass alleges the UCBA and the REBNY committees tasked with enforcing it are being weaponized by Corcoran and Elliman to stymie Compass’ growth in a bid to keep the legacy brokerages and the trade organization on top.ADVERTISEMENTMeanwhile, REBNY — and Compass’ competitors — have claimed that the firm has repeatedly violated the agreement. In January, REBNY fined Compass $250,000, citing “repeated violations” of the agreement for improperly pursuing competitors’ exclusives. Compass managers were also required to undergo further training to learn about the agreement and REBNY’s code of ethics.Read moreREBNY slaps Compass with $250K fineCompass accuses Realogy of lying, cheating and stealingInside Compass’ S-1: How it measures the upside of its tech Tags Message* Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on LinkedinShare via Email Share via Shortlink Full Name* Share via Shortlink breakingcompassCorcoran GroupDouglas EllimanReal Estate LawsuitsREBNYResidential BrokerageResidential Real Estatelast_img read more

Read More »

Croman gets until 2023 to pay final $2M in tenant restitution

first_img Full Name* Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on LinkedinShare via Email Share via Shortlink Share via Shortlink Email Address* Tagscenter_img Steven Croman (Getty, Supreme Court of the State of New York/Illustration by Alexis Manrodt for The Real Deal)Landlord Steve Croman has bought himself extra time to pay off the remaining $2 million he owes tenants, thanks to hundreds of vacancies across his rental portfolio.Croman agreed in 2017 to pay tenants $8 million to settle allegations that he harassed them out of their rent-regulated apartments. The deadline for paying the final $2 million installment of the settlement was Dec. 31, 2020.In a Dec. 11 email, Croman’s attorneys said he couldn’t make the payment in a “timely manner,” due to the pandemic and its resulting economic downturn. The attorneys pointed to 450 rentals, representing 17 percent of Croman’s real estate portfolio, that are sitting vacant, the bulk of which are “free market and commercial.”ADVERTISEMENTAs a result, New York County Supreme Court Judge Shlomo Hagler set up a new schedule for Croman, allowing him to make 27 monthly payments of just over $74,000 between January 2021 and March 2023.But some are unhappy about the extension. Cynthia Chaffee, a founder of the Stop Croman Coalition who lives in one of the landlord’s buildings on East 18th Street, said she didn’t understand why the judge granted Croman’s request. She questioned what proof he was required to provide to demonstrate that he was financially hurting, noting that Croman has purchased more than a dozen properties since his release from prison.“How can he claim that he doesn’t have the money to pay the restitution?” she asked. “Are they just taking him on his word?”Assembly member Linda Rosenthal said the vacancies and resulting financial hardship are likely Croman’s own doing. The landlord has previously been accused of using illegal tactics to drive out tenants, then flipping the units, using a now-defunct provision of the state’s rent law that allowed the deregulation of vacant apartments.“I call this the orphan defense,” she said. “It’s like someone killed their parents, and are on trial and then say, ‘Have pity, I’m an orphan.’”She added, “We know that he has held units off the market for years.”Rosenthal said the state needs to investigate if Croman intentionally kept units vacant, a practice called warehousing that landlords warned would result from the 2019 changes to the rent law. New York doesn’t prohibit landlords from keeping apartments vacant, though Rosenthal has introduced legislation that would fine owners who keep rent-regulated apartments empty.An attorney for Croman’s company, which recently rebranded as Centennial Properties NY, said that the reason for the change in the payment schedule was provided to the state Attorney General’s office and the court.“The company remains focused on diligently implementing the settlement agreement in line with its focus on using best practices to provide quality housing for its residents,” the attorney said. He would not provide further details on the vacant rentals.A representative from the Attorney General’s office declined to comment.Earlier this month, Rosenthal wrote a letter calling on the state’s housing regulator to audit Croman’s portfolio to see if the units were vacant before the pandemic. A representative for the Division of Homes and Community Renewal said the agency was reviewing the letter but could not confirm or comment on any pending audits.“New York State has zero tolerance for landlords who harass, intimidate or unlawfully overcharge tenants,” an agency spokesperson said in a statement, which noted that HCR’s Tenant Protection Unit had made the criminal case referral that led to Croman’s conviction.Croman was convicted in 2017 on mortgage and tax fraud charges and served eight months of a one-year prison sentence. He subsequently settled harassment allegations in a civil case by agreeing to pay tenants $8 million, and temporarily turned over management of more than 100 buildings to New York City Management, a private company selected by the state.He has since faced several other lawsuits. Most recently, tenants of 159 Stanton Street have alleged that more than half of the building has been empty for more than five years and that the property is plagued by a rodent and roach infestation, the Village Sun reported.Under Croman’s consent decree with the court, the landlord could request to take back control of up to 20 buildings on the one- and three-year anniversary of the agreement. He is slated to resume management of all of his properties in 2023.“Not one building should be back to him until every penny of the restitution is paid,” Chaffee said. “The tenants feel that he has gotten off with a slap on the wrist.”Contact Kathryn Brenzel Message* CoronavirusPoliticsSteve Cromanlast_img read more

Read More »

Industry suffers setback in 421a class action suit

first_img Full Name* “This decision is a colossal setback, not just for the landlord in this case, but for the real estate lobby who tried and failed to get it dismissed,” Aaron Carr, the founder of HRI, said in an email. “The real estate lobby is concerned that if this class action is successful, our organization will investigate every single landlord that is cheating on their 421a tax benefits. And they are correct.”At the heart of the lawsuits is the question of whether it’s legal to offer concessions on the initial rent for a unit in the 421a program. If the tenants prevail, the outcome of these cases would have widespread implications for developers using 421a and offering concessions to renters.In a joint statement, Real Estate Board of New York, the Community Housing Improvement Program and the Rent Stabilization Association — which had filed a motion to appear in support of several of the landlords and argued for the tenants’ complaints to be dismissed — said the decision in Spruce Capital’s case was based on the “favorable presumptions afforded by law to the plaintiffs” and does not answer or address the legal arguments put forward by the landlords’ attorney or the industry.“As the case advances, we fully expect the Court to find that rent concessions are important government-endorsed tools to help recompense tenants in times of inconvenience,” the groups said in the statement.Nativ Winiarsky, a partner at Kucker Marino Winiarsky & Bittens, is representing a landlord in one of the other six cases. He said it’s concerning that the court did not defer to the “long-standing” precedent set by the Division of Homes and Community Renewal to permit limited rent concessions.“Needless to say, given the large-scale impact of these decisions, it will no doubt only ultimately be resolved at the appellate levels and possibly the Court of Appeals,” said Winiarsky in an email.A representative for Spruce Capital did not immediately respond to request for comment.Additional reporting by Kathryn BrenzelContact Erin Hudson Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on LinkedinShare via Email Share via Shortlink Message* Tags Share via Shortlink Email Address* 1209 Dekalb Avenue in Brooklyn. (iStock, Kutnicki Bernstein Architects)Tenants in a Bushwick building scored a victory against their landlord in court this week, which could be a harbinger of headaches to come for the real estate industry.A New York State Supreme Court judge ruled that the tenants’ suit, which accuses landlord Spruce Capital Partners of rent overcharges at 1209 Dekalb Avenue, would continue. The landlord and three influential trade groups had petitioned the court to dismiss the case.It’s one of seven separate cases where tenants are seeking class action status against landlords who received 421a tax abatements and then allegedly illegally inflated rents at their properties. The complaints were filed in the past seven months after investigations by the watchdog group Housing Rights Initiative.Though the judge’s decision in Spruce Capital’s case does not bind judges in the other cases, tenant advocates see it as a positive development.ADVERTISEMENTRead moreLawmakers vow to end 421a as tenants sue landlords getting tax breakFour Brooklyn landlords accused of illegally inflating rentsRent overcharge cases pile up 421abrooklynHousing MarketQueensReal Estate LawsuitsResidential Real Estatelast_img read more

Read More »

Assessment of the macrobenthos in an Antarctic environment following recent pollution abatement

first_imgQuantative population data for shallow Antarctic soft-bottom communities in King Edward Cove, South Georgia indicate that although once grossly polluted by organic effluent and fuel oil from a whaling station, the fauna recovered within some eight years after contamination ceased. The results are discussed in relation to comparable studies in other polar and temperate areas.last_img

Read More »

Weather forecasting for aviation and marine operations in the Antarctic Peninsula region

first_imgAn account is given of one Austral summer’s experience of forecasting for flying activities and marine operations around the Antarctic Peninsula. Data available included surface and upper-air observations, analyses and forecasts from the UK Meteorological Office global, 19-level model and AVHRR satellite imagery. The numerical analyses and forecasts provided good guidance and correctly represented most of the synoptic-scale features. A number of mesoscale disturbances affected the central Peninsula area and the AVHRR imagery was very valuable in allowing the development and track of these systems to be followed. The major problems were the absence of observations to the west of the Peninsula, the lack of radiosonde ascents from the Peninsula itself and the complexity of local wind systems as a result of the topography. Forecasting frontal activity over the ocean areas was also very difficult because of the unavailability of precipitation forecasts in the GRIB data.last_img read more

Read More »

Report on the First International Symposium on Operational Weather Forecasting in Antarctica

first_imgThe First International Symposium on Operational Weather Forecasting in Antarctica was held in Hobart, Australia, from 31 August to 3 September 1998. There were 40 attendees at the meeting from Australia, Belgium, Brazil, China, France, Italy, Russia, and the United Kingdom. In recent years there has been considerable growth in the requirement for weather forecasts for the Antarctic because of the increases in complex scientific research activities and the rapid growth of tourism to the continent. At many of the research stations there are now sophisticated forecasting operations that make use of the data available from drifting buoys and automatic weather stations, the output from numerical weather prediction systems, and high resolution satellite imagery. The models have considerable success at predicting the synoptic–scale depressions that occur over the ocean and in the coastal region. However, the many mesoscale systems that occur, which are very important for forecasting local conditions, are not well represented in the model fields and their movement is mainly predicted via the satellite data. In the future it is anticipated that high resolution, limited–area models will be run for selected parts of the continent. The symposium showed that great advances had been made during recent years in forecasting for the Antarctic as a result of our better understanding of atmospheric processes at high latitudes, along with the availability of high resolution satellite imagery and the output of numerical models. Outstanding problems include the difficulty of getting all of the observations to the main analysis centers outside the Antarctic in a timely fashion, the lack of upper air data from the Antarctic Peninsula and the interior of the continent, and the poor representation of the Antarctic orography and high latitude processes in numerical models. An outcome of the symposium will be a weather forecasting handbook dealing with the entire continent.last_img read more

Read More »

Rapid climate change: lessons from the recent geological past

first_imgRapid, or abrupt, climate change is regarded as a change in the climate system to a new state following the crossing of a threshold. It generally occurs at a rate exceeding that of the change in the underlying cause. Episodes of rapid climate change abound in the recent geological past (defined here as the interval between the last glacial maximum, dated to approximately 20,000 years ago, and the present). Rapid climate changes are known to have occurred over time periods equal to or even less than a human lifespan: moreover, their effects on the global system are sufficiently large to have had significant societal impacts. The potential for similar events to occur in the future provides an important impetus for investigating the nature and causes of rapid climate change. This paper provides a brief overview of rapid climate change and an introduction to this special issue, which presents results generated by the palaeoclimatic component of the UK Natural Environment Research Council’s rapid climate change programme, called RAPID. The papers in the special issue employ palaeoclimatic proxy data-sets obtained from marine, ice core and terrestrial archives to reconstruct rapid climate change during the last glacial cycle, its subsequent termination and the ensuing Holocene interglacial; some papers also report new attempts to match the palaeoclimate data to hypothesised causes through numerical modelling. The results confirm the importance of freshwater forcing in triggering changes in Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (MOC) and the close links between MOC and rapid climate change. While advancing our understanding of these linkages, the RAPID research has highlighted the need for further research in order to elucidate more specific details of the mechanisms involved.last_img read more

Read More »

Autochthonous vs. accreted terrane development of continental margins: a revised in situ tectonic history of the Antarctic Peninsula

first_imgThe allochthonous terrane accretion model previously proposed for the geological development of the Antarctic Peninsula continental margin arc is reviewed in light of recent data and the geology is reinterpreted as having evolved as an in situ continental arc. This is based upon the following factors: (1) the presence of Early Palaeozoic basement and stratigraphic correlation of sequences between the autochthonous and previously proposed allochthonous terranes; (2) isotopic evidence for similar deep crustal structure across the different terranes; (3) ocean island basalt magmas and deep marine sedimentary rocks formed during continental margin extension within the previously proposed accretionary wedge sequence (i.e. not formed against an active oceanic arc); (4) the distribution of magnetic susceptibility measurements and aeromagnetic data locating the palaeo-subduction zone along the west of the Peninsula; (5) a lack of clear palaeomagnetic distinction between the terranes. The following alternative tectonic history is proposed: (1) amalgamation and persistence of Gondwana; (2) subsequent silicic large igneous province magmatism and extension; (3) development and history of Andean subduction until its cessation in the Cenozoic. A number of features in the Antarctic Peninsula correlate with those of other circum-Pacific margins, supporting a global evaluation of allochthonous v. autochthonous margin development to aid our understanding of crustal growth mechanisms.last_img read more

Read More »

Effect of Heavy Metals and Other Xenobiotics on Biodegradation of Waste Canola Oil by Cold-Adapted Rhodococcus sp. AQ5-07

first_imgThe Antarctic is generally considered to be one of the most pristine areas in the world. However, both long and short-range pollutants are now known to be present in the Antarctic environment. Canola oil is an example of a polluting hydrocarbon that can be accidentally released into the Antarctic environment in oil wastewater treatment plants. The Antarctic soil bacterial strain Rhodococcus sp. AQ5-07, known to be capable of using waste canola oil (WCO) as its sole source of carbon, was tested for its ability to degrade canola oil in the presence of different heavy metals and xenobiotics. Rhodococcus sp. AQ5-07 was grown on minimum salt media containing different heavy metals (Zn, Co, Ni, Ag, Pb, Cu, Cr, Hg, Cd and As), xenobiotics (acrylamide and phenol) supplemented with 3% WCO. Three out of the 10 heavy metals tested (Hg, Cd and Ag) led a significant reduction in canola oil degradation at a concentration of 1 ppm. The IC50 values of Hg, Cd and Ag were 0.38, 0.45 and 0.32 ppm, respectively. The strain could also withstand 10 mg/L acrylamide, 50 mg/L phenol and 0.5% (v/v) diesel. This study confirmed the ability of Rhodococcus sp. AQ5-07 to degrade canola oil in the presence of various heavy metals and other xenobiotics, supporting its potential use in bioremediation of vegetable oil and wastewater treatments in low temperature environments.last_img read more

Read More »