Women Who Claim They Were Sexually Assaulted by eXp Recruiters Say Company Is Liable

Four women who are suing eXp, along with former and current influencers at the company, recently amended their lawsuit with more details about several sexual assaults allegedly carried out by influencers at eXp events, along with reiterating arguments that the company is culpable for the behavior—and misconduct—of agents who act as recruiters.

Filed late last week, the complaint primarily attempts to address what the judge in the case called “brief and unclear” allegations that eXp and CEO Glenn Sanford are legally responsible for the two influencers—David Golden and Michael Bjorkman—who had a previous history of drugging and abusing women, but were personally solicited by Sanford to join the company.

“eXp Realty and Sanford knew or should have known that Golden and Bjorkman were and/or became unfit and that this unfitness created a particular risk to others,” the lawsuit claimed. “These defendants knew of each other well before their employment of (sic) eXp Realty, as such they…should have known about Bjorkman and Golden’s behavior prior to hiring.”

Just over a year ago, four women—three of whom were at that point anonymous—came forward with allegations that Golden and Bjorkman had lured them to various eXp events between 2018 and 2020, slipped date rape drugs in their drinks and sexually assaulted them. The men used their influence as high-profile, high-earning eXp agents to lure the women into vulnerable positions, the lawsuit claims, and also to recruit them into the company for their own financial benefit.

In this most recent complaint, two of the former “Jane Does” chose to come forward under their real names—Tami Sims and Christiana Lundy—with one woman still remaining anonymous.

Bjorkman was arrested in 2021 for one of the alleged assaults, with a 27-page report describing multiple incidents of rape or misconduct going back to 2000. The charges were later dropped, though the plaintiffs claim another eXp influencer—Brent Gove, who is a defendant in the suit—intervened in the investigation to protect Golden and Bjorkman, as he depended on their recruiting for his own financial benefit.

The women also allege that Sanford and other eXp executives ignored numerous complaints and reports from the women, and sought to protect their own bottom line by keeping the men affiliated with the company.

Back in January, Judge Andre Birotte Jr. dismissed a handful of the numerous complaints in the lawsuit, including that Sanford and eXp were negligent in hiring and retaining Golden and Bjorkman, but allowed many others to go forward.

But the plaintiffs refiled those allegations, continuing to claim that due to the recruitment aspect of the company’s business, people like Bjorkman and Golden should be treated as employees rather than independent contractors.

“eXp Realty, created by Glenn Sanford, has two businesses. One business is the traditional real estate business of buying and selling homes. The other business is a multi-level-marketing pyramid scheme which financially rewards the participants for recruitment of new agents, not for selling real estate,” the plaintiffs wrote.

The latest filing also includes more information from the police report on Bjorkman, including allegations from other women (all former or current eXp agents) that they were drugged, threatened, assaulted or stalked by Bjorkman and Golden, with one woman claiming she had to lock herself in a room as the men tried to “wiggle” the door open in the middle of the night, and another saying Bjorkman put alcohol powder in her drink, sending her to the hospital.

RISMedia reached out to Bjorkman, Golden and Gove, as well as lawyers representing them, but did not receive a response. Gove, who is also named in a separate case filed by another woman with similar accusations, recently switched lawyers, according to court documents.

While Bjorkman and Golden are no longer with the company, the plaintiffs’ lawyers have continued to allege that Bjorkman is still participating in the company’s “revenue share” program, despite significant evidence of misconduct.

They reiterated this in the latest complaint, filed on Feb. 28, claiming that Sims, in fact, was entitled to half of Bjorkman’s revenue share, and that the company bent the rules to give Bjorkman revenue share in the first place.

On March 5, an eXp spokesperson told RISMedia via email that Bjorkman “is not receiving compensation or revenue share from eXp,” without addressing whether he was initially entitled to join the program, or when he stopped receiving those benefits.

“The Venture”

Besides the new information about Bjorkman’s and Golden’s alleged abuse, the plaintiffs spend significant time in the new complaint arguing that the eXp’s unique recruiting and compensation model makes agents like Bjorkman and Golden more like employees than independent contractors, meaning the company can be held legally liable for allowing them to perpetuate the alleged assaults.

“Gove, Sanford and eXp Realty maintained and controlled Bjorkman’s and Golden’s recruitment activities sufficient to establish vicarious or agency liability under (the relevant statute),” the plaintiffs wrote.

The law in question, known as the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), is meant to allow civil litigation against entities that are complicit in sex trafficking ventures—allowing victims to sue everyone from people who actively participate in sex crimes, to hotels that fail to report obvious signs of exploitation.

Gove in particular was “keenly aware” of the “methods” Bjorkman and Golden employed to appear successful and recruit agents to the company, according to the plaintiffs, and he continued to directly financially benefit from their efforts as part of their pyramid—as did Sanford.

But the plaintiffs were also seeking to hold Gove, eXp and Sanford liable as employers of Bjorkman and Golden, and continued to push forward with these arguments despite the earlier dismissal.

In his January ruling, Birotte noted that a California Supreme Court decision offers a six-factor test to determine whether someone is an individual or independent contractor, saying that in previous complaints, plaintiffs failed to convincingly allege Golden and Bjorkman were employees.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs did not respond to emailed questions sent last week regarding the legal underpinnings of the case, and the impact it might have on the broader real estate industry.

But in this latest filing, they clearly were attempting to show that eXp’s business model should be treated as an employee-employer relationship—at least in California—by arguing that the company controls its agents; that agents need “managerial skill” to succeed; that the company invests significantly in the success of influencers and depends on them for its own survival and that there are no “special skills” required to be an eXp recruiter.

The plaintiffs also went on to list all the ways that eXp, Gove and Sanford benefitted from Bjorkman and Golden continuing to recruit for the company, and listed recruitment training, benefits and resources provided to top influencers, including required branding, seeking to separate that “venture” from the task of real estate agent, as “two different businesses.”

“eXp Realty controls all of its agents with respect to recruitment,” the lawsuit claims, adding that the company has a “symbiotic relationship” with top influencers.

“The services rendered by Golden and Bjorkman as ‘APEX agents’ was (sic) integral to the eXp business model,” the complaint added. “Without this role, eXp, and its multi-level marketing model fails.”

Some of the other aspects of the relationship cited by the plaintiffs are common across the industry, however, including the fact that eXp agents sign exclusive contracts with the company, and that the company can separate them at will.

While the lawsuit was originally intended to go to trial in October, it appears likely to be delayed, with both eXp and the plaintiffs recently requesting that date be pushed back five months into early 2025.

At a status conference yesterday, lawyers for both defendants and plaintiffs emphasized the complexity of the case and the number of potential witnesses as they worked out a protocol and schedule for discovery.

Another status hearing for the case is scheduled for March 19.

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top