Second Lawsuit Accuses eXp Realty Of Enabling A Culture Of Sexual Assault
Five women are now accusing eXp Realty of creating a culture that enabled them to be drugged and assaulted, according to a second lawsuit filed Thursday.
The women worked as agents for eXp Realty, a multilevel marketing-style company that earns agents money when their underlings make a sale and charges agents a monthly fee. This structure means the highest earners are given special treatment and allegations of misconduct are ignored, according to The New York Times, which interviewed more than 30 current and former eXp employees.
A federal lawsuit filed in California by four women in February accuses two agents, Michael Bjorkman and David Golden, of drugging and sexually assaulting them during alcohol-fueled eXp recruiting events, Bisnow reported.
The second lawsuit, filed Thursday, points fingers at the same agents, according to the NYT. A Florida real estate agent filed the second lawsuit, also in California federal court, according to Law360.
The plaintiffs claim eXp executives largely ignored complaints about the men and only acted after the first lawsuit was filed.
One of the men stopped working with the company in 2020, and the other left in March when eXp CEO Glenn Sanford was added to the lawsuits, the NYT reported.
“EXp Realty has zero tolerance for abuse, harassment, or exploitation of any kind — including by the independent real estate agents who use our services,” an eXp representative said in a statement emailed to the NYT. “The claims in this case stem from alleged assaults by independent real estate agents who were never eXp employees — which we handled with speed, seriousness, and deep respect as soon as the accusers brought it to our attention, in line with our values and with the law.”
Because of its structure, all eXp agents are independent contractors, not company employees, according to an eXp representative. The company deals with primarily residential assets, but it also has a commercial division.
Sanford told investors during a November earnings call that the company believed there were two bad apples in its agent base.
“[With] 89,000 agents, there's some bad actors,” Sanford said. “Bottom line is … we investigate any of these things. And if we find credible evidence that says that people are doing things that are on the wrong side of the law, then we do release agents regularly for various different reasons.”
Sanford also referenced new media coverage that was underway during that earnings call, saying, “We're not sure if it's just because it gets headlines and gets readership or if there's some angle that we haven't even thought about.”
Sanford said he hoped eXp would have the opportunity to address its issues before the articles were published.
Sanford declined to comment to the NYT because he is a defendant in the lawsuits.
Five women described having a cocktail at alcohol-heavy work events and later waking with little recollection of what had happened, in some cases naked. All pointed to Bjorkman and Golden as the ones who had drugged and assaulted them. Both men have maintained their innocence and called the charges untrue.
The real estate company knew about the issues with Bjorkman and Golden as early as late 2019, according to the first lawsuit, because three of the plaintiffs and at least one other woman who experienced a similar situation with the men told superiors about their experiences.
Agent Fabiola Acevedo said she was assaulted during a networking and recruiting event in Newport Beach, California, in July 2018. Acevedo asked the company to take action against Golden and remove Bjorkman as her sponsor on at least eight occasions, according to documentation reviewed by the NYT.
In May of this year, a female broker said she was drugged and assaulted by a vendor during a conference in Florida, the NYT reported.
Dozens of women told the NYT in interviews that eXp’s culture had a seamy underbelly, with one Houston-based former broker saying its agents acted only as recruiters instead of selling homes and representing clients.
“The ones that grow their teams the fastest are the center of attention for the company and the cheerleaders for the company,” the broker, Tricia Turner, said. “And unfortunately, it’s like they can do no wrong.”
The structure of eXp allows the company to make money off of new recruits to the company through fees and a 20% cut of commissions on their deals. The required fee is $85 a month, amounting to more than $7.4M each month in revenue for eXp. Some have called the accredited brokerage a pyramid scheme, the NYT reported.