A lawsuit in which a former employee of Move Inc., the parent company overseeing realtor.com, accused the company of defrauding agents by charging them for services they never ordered or received has been settled.
An attorney for the plaintiff, former Move sales rep Brian Bobik, filed the notice of settlement with California’s state court in Los Angeles on March 7. According to the filing, the settlement is “conditional” and depends on “the satisfactory completion of specified terms.” Bobik’s attorney said he would file a request for dismissal no later than May 10, 2019.
Asked about the settlement and its conditions, Move declined to comment for this story. Bobik did not respond to requests for comment.
The settlement means that a jury trial, previously scheduled for Aug. 19, 2019, will no longer happen, which may disappoint some agents. Following the publication of Inman’s story on Bobik’s lawsuit, several dozen agents commented on Inman’s website claiming they experienced similar fraudulent acts after purchasing leads from realtor.com. Inman also received at least two dozen unsolicited emails and Facebook messages from agents with similar claims.
Bobik originally filed the lawsuit against Move in October 2017. He later amended the complaint, twice, and alleged that he was wrongfully terminated from Move, a News Corp. subsidiary, in March 2017, in retaliation for objecting to and refusing to participate in what he believed to be unlawful conduct.
He told Inman that Move sales reps were told to lie to agents that advertised with realtor.com, including telling agents they were not entering into a contract when they were; that they could cancel the service any time, which they couldn’t; and that the leads they got would not be shared with any other agents, which they were.
Bobik also said that if agents cancelled a credit card after being unhappy with the leads realtor.com provided for a particular ZIP code, Move’s vice president of sales, Leo Jay, would instruct Move sales reps to continue charging the agent for the underperforming ZIP code using another credit card the agent had on file — without the agent’s permission.
Bobik also alleged he was terminated because he requested accommodations for a disability, but the court determined his harassment claim was time-barred because the alleged harassment happened more than a year before he lodged a complaint.
In its answer to Bobik’s eight-count second amended complaint, Move denied the allegations and offered a whopping 49 affirmative defenses against the complaint.
These included “legitimate, non-retaliatory business reasons” for actions taken by Move with respect to Bobik and his employment, that the plaintiff was allegedly “not qualified or could not perform the essential duties of his position” and had breached his employment obligations, the plaintiff’s alleged “failure to take advantage of any preventative or corrective opportunities to avoid the alleged harm, if any,” and “evidence of plaintiff’s misconduct that has been, or may be, discovered.”
Attorneys for Move also said the company’s acts and statements were protected as “free speech,” that its conduct was “without malice,” and that Move “did not willfully fail to comply with the provisions of California and federal law, but rather acted in good faith and had reasonable grounds for believing that it did not violate relevant laws or the specified provisions.”
Bobik told Inman in January 2018 that he believed Move would settle the lawsuit, but that he hoped that sharing his experience would prompt a change in the culture on the sales floor at realtor.com and impel the National Association of Realtors (NAR) to take “swift action.” NAR owns realtor.com, but Move subsidiary RealSelect runs the site on behalf of the 1.3 million-member trade group under the terms of a 1996 operating agreement, amended multiple times over the years.
NAR told Inman at the time that the realtor.com operating agreement “does not address Move employment matters or the conduct of Move sales staff in any way, nor do we think it would be appropriate for NAR to be involved in such internal Move operational matters.” NAR declined to comment for this story.
This lawsuit is not the only one Move has faced recently regarding its leads. Nearly a year ago, two real estate agents filed a class-action lawsuit against Move alleging the company has defrauded thousands of agents by failing to deliver the number of viable leads from realtor.com it promises. In August, that case was stayed by the court pending arbitration.