A Richmond real estate agent claims she is owed more than $435,000 in lost commissions by a realty firm at the heart of a controversy over so-called "shadow flipping."
In a notice of civil claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court last month, Wendy Yang claims New Coast Realty owes her money from more than two dozen sales, many of which completed after she says she was pressured into leaving for a competitor.
In the lawsuit, Yang claims New Coast owner Ze Yu Wu encouraged agents to convince clients to accept lower offers from "friendly buyers (friends, neighbours or relatives)" who would then assign the contract to a "bona fide purchaser" so that New Coast and the agent would "obtain two commissions on one real estate deal."
"Wendy Yang was of the view that this practice was blatantly unethical and it ran contrary, not only to real estate rules but fairness and [honesty] and refused to agree to such practices," the notice of claim reads.
'Entirely without merit'
In a statement to CBC, Rosario Setticasi, the chief compliance officer for New Coast, said the company has had an ongoing legal dispute with Yang since her departure in 2016.
"Her allegations are entirely without merit and are vehemently denied by New Coast and Mr. Wu," Setticasi wrote. "Ms. Yang left New Coast in breach of her contract and in circumstances that allow New Coast to retain any unpaid commissions pursuant to the terms of the contract."
In 2016, the Real Estate Council of B.C. commenced an investigation into New Coast's operations after reports in the media about the practice of "shadow flipping" — in which agents allegedly pocketed multiple commissions on the same property through the assignment of a contract for a higher price before the finalization of a sale.
At the time, the company issued a rebuttal of the allegations and claimed that it followed all necessary rules and regulations.
The controversy ultimately sparked a public discussion that led to the provincial government's decision to end self-regulation of the real estate industry.
'Friendly buyers' or no referrals
The latest lawsuit is not the first tangle between Yang and New Coast. A Supreme Court claim filed by the company is set to go to trial this year.
In that claim, New Coast accused Yang of forging her managing broker's signature on 11 listings before leaving the company for a competitor in January 2016. She then allegedly relisted nine of the contracts with Metro Edge Realty the next month.
New Coast allegedly complained to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver which handed back eight of the contracts.
In her response to that suit, Yang denied the allegations and claimed it was "common practice" for team leaders to sign brokers' names and that "she had the consent of the vendors."
In the claim filed last month, Yang says she was advised that if she did not follow advice about the finding of "friendly buyers" for the assigning of contracts "she would receive no further referrals from New Coast."
She claims that listings stopped coming her way and that she was then provided with a new contract limiting her commissions. Yang claims she was told she would be fired if she didn't sign.
Yang still works with Metro Edge Realty. Her lawsuit lists 29 house sales with commissions ranging from $1,500 to $50,000; she claims she is owed a total of $435,963.70.
None of the claims has been proven in court.