Former Compass agent Jill Schwartz has dropped a lawsuit against Compass alleging that the heavily funded brokerage conspired with her former team members to steal her listings and their associated commissions. The lawsuit continues against those former team members and one member has hit back with a multimillion-dollar countersuit alleging Schwartz defamed her and falsely took credit for her listings.
Jill Schwartz, team leader of the Jill Schwartz Group in the Washington D.C. area, filed a lawsuit in February 2019 against Compass and three former team members — Ray Ferrara, Alexandra Thomas Schwartz and Danielle Spira — alleging the team members unlawfully conspired to form their own team at Compass while breaking oral and written agreements with her and continuing to use her technology, tools, apps, website, customer base and leads.
Schwartz alleged Compass failed to support her by not terminating the team members and by not assisting her in getting the commissions she believes she’s entitled to from listings she procured for the team. At the time the lawsuit was first filed, a Compass spokesperson told Inman that Compass had fired Schwartz. Schwartz was an agent at Keller Williams Capital Properties in Bethesda, Maryland, when she filed the suit and has since moved to RLAH Real Estate in Chevy Chase.
On April 20, 2020, Schwartz amended her complaint to only make one claim against Compass: breach of contract, for allegedly failing to protect her “interest in her fees and commission.” The complaint sought “compensatory damages in the amount of not less than $500,000” from Compass. That same date, the court ordered that claim into arbitration, per a clause in Schwartz’s independent contractor agreement with Compass.
On Oct. 15, Schwartz and Compass informed the court that the claim against Compass was dismissed with prejudice, meaning permanently. Compass declined to comment on whether the brokerage had reached a settlement with Schwartz.
Meanwhile, Schwartz’s amended claims against her former team members — breach of contract, conspiracy, breach of fiduciary duty and tortious interference with contract — continue to stand.
“Ms. Thomas, Ms. Spira, and Mr. Ferrara have no comment on Jill Schwartz’s recent dismissal of her claims against Compass. They continue to maintain that the allegations by Jill Schwartz are frivolous, and anticipate a favorable outcome in this case,” their attorneys told Inman in an emailed statement.
On May 4, in an answer to the amended complaint, the former team members denied the allegations against them. One of the team members, Thomas Schwartz, also re-lodged a counterclaim against Schwartz that she had previously filed in response to Schwartz’s original complaint.
The new counterclaim alleged that Schwartz ,”[o]n numerous occasions” in 2018, had demanded that Compass management terminate Thomas Schwartz’s employment contract “based on false and derogatory allegations relating to [Thomas Schwartz’s] conduct, methods, and professional ethics and qualifications.”
According to the filing, this included a Sept. 11, 2018 email to Kimberly Harris, the regional president of Compass for Maryland, Virginia, and D.C., accusing Thomas Schwartz of unlawfully downloading Schwartz’s database and stating that Thomas Schwartz’s “business model is to steal the JillSchwartz group Listings,” and that “[t]his alone is grounds for firing” Thomas Schwartz.
“Such statements imputed to [Thomas Schwartz] the criminal offense of theft and otherwise attacked her fitness for her profession and trade, and her ability to perform her work within the standards of her employer,” the counterclaim said.
“[Schwartz’s] false statements caused injury to [Thomas Schwartz] in her trade and profession, as they have caused reputational damage to [Thomas Schwartz] in addition to cognizable harm in an amount to be proven at trial, including medical and health care expenses, and severe emotional and mental distress.”
Schwartz and Thomas Schwartz are not related in any way, according to Thomas Schwartz’s attorney.
In the counterclaim, Thomas Schwartz also alleged that in February 2019 Schwartz deleted one of Thomas Schwartz’s sold listings in the region’s multiple listing service, Bright MLS, and then published a new listing naming herself as the agent and her new brokerage, Keller Williams Capital Properties, as the broker.
“Counter-Defendant Jill Schwartz stole the Counter-Plaintiff’s credit and published the false listing to inflate her sales history in the public record so that she would receive an award from the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors (GCAAR) based on transaction volume,” the counterclaim said.
The association’s website shows Schwartz won a 2020 GCAAR Recognition Award in the “Gold” category for individual agents who closed at least $20 million in sales volume or 60 transactions.
The counterclaim also alleged that Schwartz had falsely claimed credit on Zillow and Trulia for eight listings that Thomas Schwartz closed while she was an agent at Sotheby’s before joining Compass or the Jill Schwartz Group in February 2017.
“[Schwartz] continues to actively promote her services with this false information, which remains published as of the date herein on Counter-Defendant’s Zillow.com page as her ‘past sales,'” the counterclaim said.
Attorneys for Thomas Schwartz alleged Schwartz continues to publicly claim Schwartz’s “professional successes as her own” in order to promote her own real estate agent services, attract clients and qualify for industry recognition and awards.
“In total, [Schwartz] has publicly stolen [Thomas Schwartz’s] credit for $7,379,099 in transactions,” they wrote.
The counterclaim alleged false advertising under the Lanham Act, defamation, intentional interference with prospective economic opportunities and unfair competition.
“[Schwartz’s] false statements misrepresent the origin, nature and characteristics of [her] services and commercial activities with regard to these properties. She claims [Thomas Schwartz’s] services and commercial activities as her own work to gain a competitive advantage and attract business,” the filing said.
“[Thomas Schwartz] is or is likely to be damaged by [Schwartz’s] false advertising, in losing professional recognition for her own services and in losing prospective customers and commissions.”
The counterclaim asks for “an award of compensatory, special, and punitive damages in an amount not less than $1,000,000” each for the false advertising and defamation claims. It asks for unspecified compensatory damages and punitive damages for the other two claims.
In a May 19 answer to the counterclaim, Schwartz denied the allegations against her. “We have reviewed the allegations in her Counterclaim and they have no merit. We will address them at the appropriate time with the Court,” Schwartz’s attorney, Chap Petersen, told Inman in an emailed statement.
Both lawsuits are ongoing.
Read the counterclaim:
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to note that Schwartz and Thomas Schwartz are not related in any way.