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Real Estate Corporate

Judge grants Move/NAR motion for contempt, prompts investigation into “Samuelson Memo”

Errol Samuelson became a Zillow exec the same day he left Move, leading to a drawn out legal battle between the companies, with a contempt of court charge now at the forefront.

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King County Superior Court’s Judge John H. Chun has granted a motion for contempt filed by Move, Inc. and the National Association of Realtors (NAR) against Zillow, Inc. and Errol Samuelson. This marks the latest in the drawn out drama after Samuelson left Move, Inc. abruptly without notice last year to become competitor, Zillow’s Chief Industry Development Officer.

The contentious departure spurred an ongoing lawsuit, and last summer, Washington State Superior Court Judge Barbara Linde granted a preliminary injunction in the case of Move, Inc. and the National Association of REALTORS® et al. vs. Zillow, Inc. and Errol Samuelson et al.

What the injunction prohibits

At the time, Judge Linde found Samuelson to have misappropriated trade secrets by acquiring it using improper means, and by copying it without authorization. It also enjoined Samuelson, a former Move employee, from using and sharing any trade secret and confidential information gained while employed at Move, Inc., and from specific activities relating to his new position.

The injunction prohibits activities relating to obtaining direct data feeds of listing data, prohibits activities relating to developing contact relationship management (CRM) tools, and prohibits activities which would circumvent ListHub.

Judge Chun orders an investigation

Judge Chun has granted Move and NAR’s motion for contempt of court, ruling that further investigation into a memo written by Samuelson is warranted. Within the month, Zillow is required to produce for deposition all employees related to the creation, distribution, and implementation of what court documents refer to as the “Samuelson Memo.”

Court documents do not include the memo, and we have reached out to Zillow and Errol directly to obtain a copy, but with this case ongoing, it is unlikely that a lawyer will allow it, whether information is redacted or not.

When contacted for comment or information on the Samuelson Memo, Move declined to comment, as is their policy for ongoing legal matters.

What now?

Because there is so much that the original injunction prohibited Samuelson from doing, it is difficult to speculate as to what the Samuelson Memo contains. On March 30th, Move/NAR will go before the judge for their opening brief, Zillow follows on April 6th, and Move/NAR will enter their reply on April 10th. Then, on April 24th, Zillow is ordered to show cause as to why they should not be held in contempt for violating the preliminary injunction.

Court records refer to redacted and unredacted versions of the memo, which is not part of the public record, but the judge will likely issue a ruling late April or early May, which will indicate which rule Samuelson broke, if any at all.

Final analysis: If these allegations are true, it is shocking that any moves would be made to make any waves, given how heated Zillow’s talent grab has been for the industry.

#SamuelsonMemo

Full court document available here.

UPDATE: Zillow tells us, “To be clear, what the court granted was Move’s request for further investigation and a hearing. For context, Errol has been on leave since July 1.
Beyond that, we cannot comment on this litigation.”

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The Real Daily and sister news outlet, The American Genius, and has been named in the Inman 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders several times, co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

Real Estate Corporate

STOP giving Zillow your ad money, listing data – today, they’re a competing brokerage

(REAL ESTATE) We’ve warned of this for years, the industry funded it, and Zillow Homes brokerage has launched, and there are serious questions at hand.

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Zillow Homes was announced today, a Zillow licensed brokerage that will be fully operational in 2021 in Phoenix, Tucson, and Atlanta.

Whoa, big huge yawn-inducing shocker, y’all.

We’ve been warning for more than a decade that this was the end game, and the company blackballed us for our screams (and other criticisms, despite praise when merited here and there).

Blog posts were penned in fiery effigy calling naysayers like us stupid and paranoid.

Well color me unsurprised that the clarity of the gameplan was clear as day all along over here, and the paid talking heads sent out to astroturf, gaslight, and threaten us are now all quiet.

They figuratively swore on their collective dead grandmothers’ graves that they’d never ever EVER ever ever practice real estate, but they’ve openly inched closer and closer to that status, with today marking the official date that no human can make that pinkie promise ever again.

Years ago, they began acquiring startups that pointed to this end game. Then they promised they were seeking brokers licenses across the nation so their operations and referral partnerships were more legit and they could do more than just soak up your ad budgets like an unworthy, moldy sponge, they could panhandle for your referral fees and inhale MLS feeds created by Realtors.

Fast forward to today, and they’re literally a traditional real estate brokerage.

Your ad dollars funded this.

Yawn. BUT…

How can anyone defend sending their listing data to Zillow? I mean they did swear on their dead grammy that they’d remain an entertainment media/search site in perpetuity.

How can any broker defend pouring ad money into a competitor? If you’re a KW broker, do you spend $10K to advertise on Coldwell Bankers’ main site or C21’s portal? OF COURSE NOT BECAUSE YOU HAVE A BRAIN. One that can read, write, and reason.

So why then would Zillow remain part of your marketing strategy now that they’ve pulled the final band aid off of the mound of band aids masking their subterfuge of your business?

Let’s say I haven’t convinced you because you like their logo, you think their leadership is geeky chic and you want to be like them. Okay, let’s watch the launch video together:

Such script. Much wow.

If you had “reimagine,” “innovation,” “streamline,” and “raising the bar” on your Real Estate Bullshit Buzzwords Bingo card, you win the chance to do one whole eyeroll, and I mean a really dramatic one. Go ahead, I’ll wait…

I want to be upset by this, but we’ve watched this ultimate trainwreck in super slow motion, so their explanation of the “hand off” being “confusing” as their inspiration is just laugh worthy. And sadly, expected.

What if your worry is that these big boys will use your data to find the “best” agents? Don’t worry, they swear again on their grammys’ graves that they won’t use their massive data to pinpoint talent and recruit agents from other brokerages, they’ll only use current employees and get ’em licensed up to stand “shoulder to shoulder” with you in your business. They can’t even come up with their own model, they’ve lifted yours and Redfin’s model. Oooh, innovative.

There’s no surprise in today’s news, but the excuses and delivery are overwhelmingly nauseating.

But hey, at least they no longer have to pretend that they took your money and data all of these years to benefit their eventual brokerage launch.

Next up, we’ll explain what this has to do with Zillow’s patent spree and how it will inevitably and irreversibly damage the real estate industry (these people really are evil geniuses, you’ve gotta give it to ’em).

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Real Estate Corporate

JPMorgan hurries to open and already has a case of COVID-19

(BUSINESS NEWS) JPMorgan has been eager to return employees to their office. But reopening has already resulted in a COVID-positive employee, raising staff concerns.

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JPMorgan interior office, hoping to return to normal.

JPMorgan’s New York branch is suffering reopening setbacks after a newly-returned employee already tested positive for COVID-19. After nearly six months of working at home, the company is eager to get workers back into the physical office and set a hard September 21st deadline for equity traders and senior management. In a report by Bloomberg, at least one unidentified worker has tested positive for the virus on the fifth floor of the 383 Madison Ave. building last week.

This case merely reflects the massive challenges facing companies across the world as workers are asked to return to office spaces. Some offices buildings are getting the coronavirus renovation treatment à la touch-less doors and faucets, improved air ventilation systems, and wet wipes and hand sanitizer galore. But the risk of exposure is never zero.

JPMorgan is one of the few banks putting pressure on reopening. Over this summer Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon has voiced concerns about the ramifications of extending remote work. He recently told Keefe, Bruyette & Woods analysts that productivity has slipped as employees work from home, with output primarily affected on Mondays and Fridays. He’s advocated for the government cautiously reopening cities in order to improve the economy.

Rightly, employees are concerned about their safety over the company incentive to bring back their pre-pandemic profits in-office. JPMorgan’s aggressive strategy is quite different from American Express. They hold about as much presence in NYC, and are allowing all its employees to work remotely until July 2021.

JPMorgan spokesman Brain Marchiony declined to to say how many workers tested positive this week though he said the company is “is following appropriate protocols when they occur.” Marchiony did not comment on whether the push to reopen would continue, or what percentage of employees were working in branch offices.

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Real Estate Corporate

Zillow hit with double whammy discrimination allegations

(CORPORATE) Zillow is facing new allegations of discrimination between employees based on their gender and how unequally they were treated during a crisis.

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Zillow discrimination suit

We can all agree that violating the Americans with Disabilities Act makes you a capital D D-bag, right?

When a company (or CITY – looking at you, every tilted, rampless sidewalk in Austin) refuses to build accessibility, accommodations, and human GD dignity into their physical, corporate, and digital infrastructure, not only are they breaking the law, they’re being a bunch of unwiped butts.

Today, it looks as though my favoritest real estate site, Zillow, stands accused of being among that skidmark-leaving number.

Now because I’m too cute for defamation suits, I need to be 100%, crystal clear, like clear enough for a bird to fly into it, that Zillow has not been found guilty of anything. We’re going to report on the allegations and the suit brought against the company, but until Zillow gets their day in court, neither this esteemed publication nor I myself can say what definitely did or didn’t happen.

Said allegations are being brought against Zillow by Mr. Michael Cerce, and they’re as such:

Jane Doe at Zillow had her phone stolen, and was being harassed by someone awful, who also made mention of Mr. Cerce in their threats. Zillow stepped up and offered her protection with a security detail, all the days off she needed and… asking Mr. Cerce to step into danger for her.

Mr. Cerce further alleges that while Jane Doe rightly got paid days off to deal with her trauma, he wasn’t afforded the same resources, having his time off requests to take care of his mental health denied, having his concerns about company security dismissed, and not being afforded his commission payments during a leave of absence related to the stalking.

It might actually behoove me to say “the assumed stalking” though, as Mr. Cerce has come to believe he may have been collateral or intentional damage in a hoax perpetrated by Jane Doe.

So. Allegedly. Mr. Cerce was, I repeat ALLEGEDLY, discriminated against on the basis of disability as he was diagnosed with PTSD during counseling related to these allegations, as well as on the basis of sex as he claims a female employee was treated with more respect during similar travails.

To paraphrase the kids these days,  that’s effed up if true.

It should be obvious, but because I know it’s not, I’ll say it anyway. Someone’s being a man doesn’t mean that said someone comes automatically equipped to shrug off being stalked, threatened, harassed, and denied opportunities for healing from an ordeal.

Furthermore, not all disabilities are easily visible, though according to witnesses named in the suit, Mr. Cerce was noticeably distressed for days at a time.

If the allegations are found to be true in a court of law, then Zillow’s got a pretty serious deal on its hands, and we’ll have more as the story develops.

No matter how things shake out in court, ideally, public spotlight of the case will lead more folks of the gentlemanly persuasion to continue standing up against ACTUAL unfair treatment regarding their physical safety and mental health.

Fingers crossed (and Covid triple washed) for justice.

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