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Coldwell Banker has settled a discrimination lawsuit with the Office of the New York State Attorney General in the fallout of the bombshell 2019 Newsday investigation into Long Island real estate agents.
Coldwell Banker will pay $30,000 as part of a settlement, resulting from the attorney general’s office launching its own investigation into the brokerage along with other brokerages named in the Newsday report.
The state’s investigation found that Coldwell Banker agents may have subjected prospective homebuyers of color to different requirements than white homebuyers, according to an announcement made Wednesday by the attorney general’s office.
“There is zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind in New York state,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement. “My office’s investigation into Coldwell Banker uncovered a persistent pattern of prospective homebuyers receiving different treatment because of their race. Discriminating against people because of race is not just shameful — it is illegal. Housing is and always will be a human right, and my office will continue to address these pervasive and discriminatory practices statewide.”
The state’s investigation into Coldwell Banker involved paired tests conducted on five agents — two from the town of Great Neck and one each from the towns of East Setauket, Bellmore and Massapequa Park.
In one instance, an agent warned a white potential homebuyer about the diverse racial makeup of a particular neighborhood. When the same agent met with Black and Hispanic potential homebuyers, he did not make the same comments, according to the announcement.
In another instance, an agent was asked to show homes near the town of Garden City by a white prospective homebuyer and a Black prospective homebuyer. The agent showed the white homebuyer listings in a neighborhood that was 83 percent white and discouraged them from seeing properties in the neighborhood of Freeport, which is more racially diverse. The same agent showed the Black homebuyer multiple properties in Freeport, according to the attorney general’s office.
In yet another instance, an agent told a white homebuyer, “you don’t really know in certain areas what you’re going to get next door,” when speaking about a diverse neighborhood and did not make any similar comments when talking to a Black homebuyer.
In 2022, the Office of the New York State Attorney General announced settlements with Keller Wiliams Greater Nassau, Keller Williams Realty Elite and Laffey Real Estate for allegedly engaging in similar discriminatory behavior as documented in the Newsday report and investigations by the state.
The three brokerages have denied wrongdoing, and most of the agents named in the Newsday report have denied steering any customers away from certain neighborhoods based on race, with all but one of the 68 agents named in the probe boycotting a New York State Senate hearing on housing discrimination to which they were subpoenaed.
In a brief statement, a Coldwell Banker spokesperson told Inman that fair housing and equal access to housing are priorities for the brokerage.
“Upholding fair housing remains one of our highest priorities,” Coldwell Banker spokesperson Athena Snow said. “We applaud any effort which builds a future where all people have equal access to and opportunities for housing, no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or ethnic background.”
The only person who attended the senate hearing boycotted by agents was M. Ryan Gorman, who shortly after the Newsday investigation went on to lead Coldwell Banker as its CEO. At the time he was with NRT, another Realogy-owned company.