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Hamptons Life

Dec 22, 2015 2:49 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Meg Salem Is Out At Compass After Saunders Suit

Andrew Saunders, founder and CEO of Saunders real estate, and Robert Reffkin, founder of Compass.
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Dec 22, 2015 3:01 PM

After being slapped with a restraining order by Saunders & Associates earlier this month, Compass apparently fired Meg Salem and Vanessa Bogan, formerly of Saunders, who were accused of hacking into Saunders’s password-protected database and stealing thousands of listings.

A Compass spokesperson confirmed on Friday, December 18, that Ms. Salem and Ms. Bogan were no longer working at Compass but declined to elaborate, releasing this statement: “Compass holds its agents to the very highest standards and has very clear company rules that are essential in building a company and culture with consistent values.”

“I think that her firing corroborates our claim that our system was hacked and thousands of listings were stolen by her,” Andrew Saunders, founder and CEO of the brokerage, said on Friday. “If that were not accurate she would still have a job there.”

On December 6, Federal Judge Leonard D. Wexler issued a temporary restraining order against Compass and a handful of employees in response to the Saunders lawsuit. In the complaint, the East End brokerage said that following Ms. Salem’s departure, three of her colleagues, Ms. Bogan, Jesse Spooner and marketing administrator Jessica Grainger-Rozzi, who had resigned from Saunders in July, joined Ms. Salem at Compass.

According to the suit, two weeks following the departure of Ms. Salem, she, Ms. Bogan and Mr. Spooner, the “Meg Salem Team,” apparently using stolen login credentials, hacked into Saunders’s password-protected system and copied more than 11,600 listings and associated confidential information over the course of three days, November 2, 3 and 17.

The complaint states that the breach was discovered by Saunders employee Anna Alexopoulos on November 17 while she was vacationing in the Carolinas. She told her colleague that someone had accessed the Saunders database using her personal login credentials.

The temporary restraining order requires the Meg Salem team to preserve the data taken and to cooperate with a forensic review of any phones, tablets and computers that may have been used during the breach.

On Friday, Mr. Saunders said that Compass confirmed it received the listings from Ms. Salem but had yet to return them. “The restraining order that we sought and received requires them to return them,” he said. “They have not yet returned them. They ought to move quicker.” On Tuesday he said they had still not been received.

Compass has been mired in lawsuits over the last two years, the most recent one involving Brown Harris Stevens, which sued former employee Ed Reale in November, a little more than a month after he left the firm for Compass. The suit alleges that Mr. Reale had violated a non-compete agreement and accuses the young real estate firm of “unlawfully ‘poaching’ competitors’ employees.”

In addition, Corcoran sued Compass earlier this year for poaching its talent, and in 2014, CitiHabitats also sued, accusing Compass agents of accessing its proprietary listing system. Both suits were settled.

In its complaint, Saunders is seeking monetary damages in an amount to be determined at trial. It is unclear how Ms. Salem’s exodus from Compass will affect the suit.

“I want our information returned to us, and until it’s returned, I’m not really interested in discussing anything,” said Mr. Saunders.

Phone calls to Ms. Salem and Ms. Bogan seeking comment were not returned.

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I understand Mr. Saunders indignation regarding the return of the listings. It seems that very valuable proprietary information was taken from his company. Isn't it also extremely likely that copies of the listings and client information exist digitally and are controlled by others outside of Saunders? What exactly can they return? Bankers boxes filled with documents (that may have been copied)? Far more likely this data is now on a hard drive(s) preserved and available to anyone who has access ...more
By Arnold Timer (315), Sag Harbor on Dec 23, 15 10:34 AM
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