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Cushman & Wakefield Embroiled In Two Lawsuits Involving Former High-Ranking Execs

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Cushman & Wakefield is facing lawsuits from two former high-ranking executives who independently allege that the brokerage giant used race, gender and/or a baseless performance improvement plan to withhold promotions and ultimately end their employment.

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Former Cushman & Wakefield President of Valuation & Advisory Americas Monica Nicole Urquhart-Bradley filed a lawsuit against Cushman & Wakefield Tuesday with the United States District Court for the District of Columbia claiming discrimination based on gender and race in violation of the 1866 Civil Rights Act.

In November, Bryan Younge, formerly a managing director and national practice leader for Cushman & Wakefield’s Sports and Entertainment Group, filed a lawsuit in the Cook County Circuit Court of Illinois against Cushman & Wakefield and two executives — Eric Lewis and Michael Schaeffer — alleging they implemented a “bogus” performance improvement plan that ultimately led to his forced resignation.

Cushman & Wakefield filed a motion to dismiss Younge’s case in January, which was denied by Judge Diane J. Larsen in July.

The firm has previously declined to comment on the Younge suit. When reached on Tuesday for comment on the Urquhart-Bradley suit, a Cushman & Wakefield spokesperson said the firm does not discuss litigation.

Urquhart-Bradley alleges in her lawsuit that Cushman & Wakefield CEO of the Americas Shawn Mobley and Chief Operating Officer Todd Schwartz created a hostile work environment for her as a woman of color and did not afford her the same opportunities to attain global titles as her white, male counterparts.

Urquhart-Bradley claimed in court filings that Cushman & Wakefield’s decision to terminate her employment in January “is consistent with a pattern and practice of refusing to offer female executives global titles.”

It names former Head of North Americas Research Maria Sicola as another high-level woman at the company who was refused a global title that was granted to a male successor. Sicola filed a gender discrimination suit in 2015, one of several that have been filed against Cushman & Wakefield in the last five years, according to The Real Deal.

Urquhart-Bradley alleges in the lawsuit that she succeeded John Busi as president of Global Valuation and Advisory in August 2016, but was not given the same global title as her white, male predecessor even though her role was the same. Instead, she was named the president of V&A Americas, according to the filing.

In August 2017 when Busi began to court members of Cushman & Wakefield's V&A team to join him at Newmark Knight Frank, Urquhart-Bradley helped the company retain about two-thirds of the 100 professionals Newmark sought to hire, according to the court filing. Cushman & Wakefield issued retention bonuses of approximately $14M (including $1.1M to Rick Latella and $875K to Eric Lewis, two of Urquhart-Bradley’s white male subordinates).

Though Urquhart-Bradley did not seek to leave the firm, according to court documents, she reached out to Mobley in mid-December about updating the language in her contract.

“Urquhart-Bradley explained that she would not seek a monetary retention bonus, but instead wanted to build certain protections into her contract in the event of further changes in reporting or organization,” the complaint reads.

Her attempts to renegotiate her contract were met with hostility, according to court filings, and in early January, Mobley abruptly terminated her employment on the basis that she was negotiating a contract with a competing firm.

Urquhart-Bradley is seeking a jury trial and damages for lost compensation and job benefits of no less than $10M, in addition to punitive damages of no less than $20M.

Younge alleges in court filings that damaging information and a false performance improvement plan implemented by Lewis, the current president of Valuation & Advisory Americas, and Schaeffer, the current executive managing director of Valuation & Advisory, resulted in the loss of thousands of dollars in commissions, a demotion and Younge’s forced resignation.

He is seeking damages in excess of $50K. 

UPDATE, SEPT. 25, 1:20 P.M. ET:  This story has been updated to include additional details surrounding the claims outlined in Urquhart-Bradley’s lawsuit.