New lawsuits raise question of who should pay homebuyer’s agent

A house with a real estate agent (Credit: iStock)

A house with a real estate agent (Credit: iStock)

The long knives are out again for one of American real estate’s oldest and most controversial traditions: requiring home sellers to pay the agents who represent the buyers of their properties.

A landmark suit filed in March alleged that the 1.3-million-member National Association of Realtors has conspired with local multiple listing services (MLSs) and with major realty brokerage companies to force sellers who list their homes on an MLS to pay a contractually specified percentage of the commissions to the broker/agent who brings in the ultimate buyer. Now two new class-action lawsuits have been filed with allegations along the same lines.

According to all the suits, an NAR rule prevents buyers from unilaterally altering the “split” stated in the listing contract. Say, for instance, you are a seller of a $500,000 home and agree at the listing to pay a total 5.5% commission, allocating 3% to the listing agent and 2.5% to the buyer’s agent. If the house sells for the full asking price of $500,000, that would mean the buyer’s agent would be due $12,500 at closing. If you thought this was more than you wanted to pay — especially given the fact that you knew part of the buyer’s agent’s job was to help your buyer obtain a lower price for your house — you might not be happy about having to shell out the $12,500. Shouldn’t the buyer pay this fee?

In March, the seller of a home in Shorewood, Minnesota, filed suit to challenge this NAR rule, arguing that, among other problems, this system of mandating compensation to the buyers’ agent raises total transaction costs. The rule “saddle[s] home sellers with a cost that would be borne by the buyer in a competitive market,” where buyers can opt to pay directly for their agents’ services. The U.S. market’s total transaction costs tend to be much higher than in most other industrial economies.

The original suit, which already ranks as the most significant antitrust litigation against Realtors in decades, is now pending in U.S. district court in Chicago, with NAR’s reply to the complaint expected shortly.

The two most recent class actions, filed in April, have different plaintiffs than the original suit but have nearly identical allegations. They come with proposed giant classes of alleged victims who have sold and paid millions of dollars in commissions via major MLSs to buyers’ agents across the country. NAR, which is the largest lobby in the real estate field, rejects the premises of the suits and pledges to fight them vigorously. The sheer costs for any single law firm to mount a credible antitrust case against a major lobby and the largest realty enterprises in the U.S. — plus no doubt the prospect of large payoffs and settlements — has apparently attracted the new actions. Sources tell me that it’s not unusual in wide-ranging cases like these for other law firms to jump in with nearly identical copy-cat filings.

Defendants in all three include NAR along with the giants of the brokerage industry: Home Services of America, Keller Williams Realty Inc., Realogy Holdings Corp. and RE/MAX Holdings Corp. Realtors tell me that an adverse decision in the cases would produce transformative changes in home-sale transactions nationwide. Some brokers say that it could create situations where first-time and other cash-short buyers might not be able to afford to pay for their agents’ services — creating a whole new obstacle to home ownership. Rather than buyers having their commissions paid for by the seller, they would now need to come up with that money themselves. Today, however, buyers don’t give it a thought, and in fact they often do not even know what commission split the buyer agent expects to receive.

In places like the United Kingdom and much of Europe, home sellers typically pay total realty fees of 1% to 3% versus the 5% to 6% average commonplace in the U.S. Critics of the American system have long argued that if home buyers paid the fees for the services rendered for them — and negotiated them with the buyers’ agents directly — total fees would be lower. On the other hand, sellers’ agents say that if the buyers-side commission is low under the current system, many buyers’ agents will not show houses because the compensation is not sufficient. In fact, discount realty firms have reported that sometimes they cannot get any of their listings presented to willing and able purchasers because buyers’ agents will not cooperate with them.

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Zillow faces legal action over its co-marketing program

Zillow's CEO Richard Barton

Zillow’s CEO Richard Barton

Zillow is back in hot water: A class-action suit against the online realty giant is moving forward after insider whistleblowers alleged that the company designed its controversial “co-marketing” program to violate federal anti-kickback laws.

Zillow termed the charges “without merit” and says it intends to “vigorously defend” itself.

Best known to the general public for its Zestimates property-valuation feature, Zillow is a multibillion dollar, publicly traded behemoth whose principal revenues come from advertising placed by realty agents. So-called “premier” agents and brokers, who receive prominent placement on Zillow-listed home sites, pay hundreds or thousands of dollars a month in advertising fees to the company. Premier agents need not be the highest volume or most successful agents in their area; they simply need to pay for the label. According to the company’s latest SEC filing, it earned nearly $900 million — two-thirds of its corporate revenue — in fees from agents paying for ads last year.

In 2013, Zillow rolled out a program whereby realty agents could have large portions of their advertising fees paid for by lenders who share advertising costs with them. Buyers interested in a particular property could then contact not only an agent but a lender to shepherd them through the financing process. The idea proved wildly popular among agents and lenders. For paying part of an agent’s Zillow advertising fees — initially up to a maximum of 90 percent, later revised to 50 percent — a lender could get hot leads directly to active buyers. For realty agents, the attraction was obvious. Hey, why not? Lenders will subsidize my costs.

However, a federal law known as RESPA — the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act — prohibits payment of fees for business referrals among realty, mortgage and title industry providers that are not for services actually rendered. In April 2017, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau informed Zillow that it was investigating whether its co-marketing program violated the law’s prohibition against kickbacks. Zillow negotiated with the CFPB, but last year, after the Trump administration appointed a new CFPB director, the agency abruptly dropped the case.

Meanwhile, investors who said they purchased Zillow stock at inflated prices relying on company executives’ statements that its co-marketing concept did not violate federal law filed a class-action suit alleging securities fraud. A district court judge later dismissed portions of the suit but allowed the plaintiffs to file an amended complaint if they presented conclusive evidence that the co-marketing scheme violated RESPA.

They appear to have done so successfully — at least enough to convince a federal district court judge to put the case back on track. Last November, the plaintiffs filed their amended complaint, bolstered by testimony from two unnamed Zillow insiders. The first: a regional sales manager for the company who alleged that lenders participated in the program because they “expected real estate agents to refer business.” The second: a sales and operations trainer who alleged that “every agent and lender knew that the co-marketing program was for the lender to get leads and referrals. … It was understood that lenders were paying for referrals.” Whenever the second insider “spoke to Zillow about potential concerns with the co-marketing program,” she was told “not to ask questions,” according to the court. She also alleged that she knew of a lender who had been paying 100 percent of a realty agent’s fees for 2 ½ years. Both whistleblowers provided “consistent testimony regarding how agents and lenders used the [program] to provide mortgage referrals in exchange for advertising payments,” according to the court.

In his decision, which was handed down April 19, Judge John C. Coughenour of the U.S. district court in Seattle said “the court can draw a reasonable inference that Zillow designed the co-marketing program to allow agents to provide referrals to lenders in violation of RESPA.”

Asked for his take on the case, Marx Sterbcow, a nationally known RESPA lawyer based in New Orleans, told me “the court certainly seems to suggest there is a lot of smoke involving the legality of Zillow’s” program. If the whistleblowers’ allegations are correct, he said, “it could cause

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and banks to pull completely out” of the program, for fear of violating RESPA themselves, and being exposed to major legal jeopardy.

The significance for buyers, sellers and owners? The case is still out on the alleged federal law violations, but now when you see “premier” agents linked up in marketing efforts with lenders, you have a better idea about what’s really going on.

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Will Flagstone Island Gardens continue its legal winning streak against the city of Miami?

Island Gardens development firm seeks to collect more than $100M from the city and continue Watson Island project

Rendering of Island Gardens with developer Mehmet Bayraktar

Rendering of Island Gardens with developer Mehmet Bayraktar

The city of Miami could be facing a losing — and very expensive — legal battle.

More than a year ago, a Miami-Dade Circuit Court judge ruled that the city of Miami illegally derailed Mehmet Bayraktar’s often-troubled $1 billion resort project on Watson Island. Since then, the city has made several unsuccessful attempts to limit the dollar amount in damages owed to the Turkish developer, who is seeking to recoup roughly $122 million he claims he has invested in Island Gardens, a mega yacht marina and resort that has been on the drawing board since the early 2000s.

In March, according to court documents reviewed by The Real Deal, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge William Thomas denied the city’s request to grant the local government sovereign immunity, and rejected Miami’s argument that Bayraktar’s company Flagstone Island Gardens is only entitled to a refund of a $1.5 million deposit per its development agreement.

In March of 2018, following a seven-day non-jury trial, Thomas determined Miami elected officials breached a development contract with Flagstone when the city commission voted to find the company in default in May 2017. Commissioners moved to cut ties with Flagstone because construction had allegedly not started on the $31 million parking garage and retail component phase of the project.

Next Wednesday, the city’s legal team is scheduled to provide city commissioners with an update on the case during an executive session that is closed to the public.

Another trial to determine the exact amount of damages Miami will have to pay Flagstone is scheduled for later this month.

In one of his recent rulings, Thomas determined the $1.5 million security deposit is not enough to remedy the damages Flagstone has suffered.

“No one can wind the clock back to when the city should have issued Flagstone its entitlement approval to avoid the injury Flagstone suffered directly from the city’s years of delay,” Thomas wrote on March 27. “The choice the agreement offers Flagstone…is a ‘heads-you-win-tails-you-lose’ scenario.”

Flagstone attorney Eugene Stearns, and Laura Besvinick, the city’s outside counsel handling the defense, did not immediately return phone messages seeking comment.

Flagstone completed and opened the mega yacht marina in 2016, roughly 14 years after Miami voters approved a referendum allowing Bayraktar to build his project on Watson Island.

In addition to the marina, the garage and the retail space, Flagstone planned to build two luxury hotels.

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Terra founder Pedro Martin’s former mistress files defamation suit; latest in ongoing feud

Martin won a temporary restraining order against Johanna Vibe Ener in 2017; his lawyers called her suit a “malicious attempt to extort and embarrass” him

Johanna Vibe Ener and Pedro Martin

Johanna Vibe Ener and Pedro Martin

The former mistress of Terra chairman and founder Pedro Martin is suing him for defamation in an ongoing feud that two years ago saw Martin secure a temporary restraining order against her.

Johanna Vibe Ener filed the suit on Tuesday from England — where she now lives after fleeing Miami three years ago — and is representing herself. She accuses the Miami developer of orchestrating an “elaborate concerted campaign to publicly defame and ruin” her. Ener said Martin did so in “a last-ditch effort to save his personal life, his marriage and business reputation.” Ener and Martin had two children together.

Ener claims Martin made “deceitful, scandalous and highly offensive statements” to media outlets when he sought and won the temporary restraining order against her in 2017. Ener did not respond to emails and a phone message seeking comment. She is seeking $200 million in damages, claiming that he owes her millions from a promised trust fund for their children and insurance policies.

David Duckenfield, a spokesperson for Martin, said Ener’s 96-page complaint is a brazen attempt to use the media as a platform to spread falsehoods and inflict pain on his client and his family for financial gain.

“Pedro Martin is the victim of extortion masqueraded as a lawsuit brought by Ms. Vibe Ener,” Duckenfield said. “She has evaded justice in the United States, flagrantly violated the law on several occasions, is currently a fugitive from justice for her failure to appear before a judge in a pending case and has subsequently fled the country.”

Duckenfield said Martin will vigorously defend himself. A Terra spokesperson said Ener’s lawsuit has nothing to do with the company or its chief executive, David Martin, Pedro’s eldest son. He declined further comment.

In a 74-page motion to dismiss filed Friday, Martin’s lawyers claim her complaint is “a vitriolic, malicious attempt to extort and embarrass the defendant from afar by regurgitating the same false allegations that have been repeatedly rejected by the family court.”

The on-and-off-again couple permanently split up three years ago when Martin petitioned Miami-Dade Circuit Court for the restraining order against the Finland born model. The two met in New York in 2009.

He alleged Ener was attempting to extort him and provided text messages from her threatening him if he didn’t pay. In 2013, Ener tried to get a temporary restraining order against Martin’s wife, but the judge found no cause.

Among the charges in Ener’s lawsuit are claims that she was forced to leave her home in Miami because of death threats against her, her mother and her children. She also said that Martin and his attorneys filed bogus criminal complaints against her and fed false information to media outlets that Ener was an exotic dancer.

According to the suit, she also claims Martin gave her a $100,000 engagement ring, and that they had a “spiritual wedding ceremony.” Ener accuses Martin of reneging on several agreements to take care of her, her son and the two children they had together, including a $60 million trust fund and a $3 million insurance policy for each child. Ener attached copies of the agreements bearing Martin’s signature with her lawsuit.

As part of Martin’s motion to dismiss, his lawyers included copies of judicial rulings in the restraining order case that found her in contempt of court for fleeing the U.S. to Europe with her three children in the summer of 2017. That October, then-Judge Ariana Fajardo Orshan — now the U.S. Attorney for South Florida — issued an order giving local law enforcement agencies the authority to seek an arrest warrant for Ener and return her to Miami.

The restraining order against Ener has since expired and Martin’s case was dismissed last year.

“After nearly two years in hiding, Vibe Ener has suddenly emerged to file what purports to be a civil complaint against Mr. Martin and a number of unnamed and unidentifiable so-called ‘co-conspirators,’” according to Martin’s dismissal motion. “Under the guise of a defamation claim, Ener attempts not only to rewrite history but also to re-write the very court orders that she has been violating for the past two years.”

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Brickell House condo owners reach $32M settlement over failed robotic parking

Brickell House condo owners reach $32M settlement over failed robotic parking

Harvey Hernandez-developed property scene of battle over botched technology

Brickell House and Harvey Hernandez

When Brickell House opened in 2014, condo owners thought they were buying into an ultra-modern luxury tower with panoramic views of Biscayne Bay and a new state-of-the-art robotic car elevator that would bring them their cars within 10 minutes.

Shortly after closing on their units, however, buyers realized the dream of hassle-free smart parking wasn’t to be: The technology flopped, the elevator’s manufacturer Boomerang Systems filed for bankruptcy and unit owners had to resort to parking their cars at a nearby garage.

Almost four years later, the Brickell House Condominium Association reached a $32 million settlement with the elevator’s insurer, the Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Co. The settlement, which appears to be one of the largest of its kind, is nearly half the $61 million policy the association took out to cover the elevator’s technology.

The confidential settlement was reached in October and appeared as a small footnote in a motion filed by executives with Boomerang Systems in November. Representatives for Hartford Steam declined to comment.

Still, litigation continues, though the settlement likely brought some relief for condo owners at the 374-unit tower at 1300 Brickell Bay Drive who have had to park at a nearby building’s garage. The association claims owners have lost an average of $70,000 in value per unit due to the parking garage’s malfunctions, according to the complaint.

Attorneys for the developer, Harvey Hernandez’s Newgard Development Group, did not immediately return a request for comment. Hernandez also did not return a request for comment, nor did the condo association.

The association is now seeking to collect more money from the developer, alleging that Newgard was negligent and knew that the Boomerang technology was not working properly. Attorneys for the developer denied the allegations in a motion.

The 46-story Brickell House was one of the first post-recession condo buildings constructed in Brickell. The developer sold 98 percent of the tower’s 374 units within three months of opening, property records show.

Boomerang’s technology was meant to move cars automatically into parking spots without drivers inside them. But condo owners allege that it would take hours to get their cars, and the system began malfunctioning as soon as residents moved in, according to the association’s complaint. The condo association also alleged that the system would often stall and malfunction and would only work properly under constant staff supervision.

The developer offered to fix the technology or to replace it, but the association declined the offers, according to an affidavit by Hernandez.

While Brickell House’s car elevator malfunctioned, a number of other self-driving car elevators in boutique condo and apartment projects remain in use and have become a potent marketing tool. Notably, Dezer Development’s Porsche Design Tower has a car elevator known as the “Dezervator” that takes cars to resident’s individual condo units. And in Boston, a recently completed luxury condo building called the Boulevard plans to use an automatic system to move cars into a 35-space underground garage.

44 EB-5 investors sue PNC Bank over Palm House Hotel losses

44 EB-5 investors sue PNC Bank over Palm House Hotel losses

The bank allegedly set up fake escrow accounts for the investors

The Palm House Hotel

Forty-four EB-5 investors from China, Iran and Turkey who lost money in the still unfinished Palm House Hotel project are now suing PNC Bank and a South Florida branch executive, alleging the defendants aided and abetted fraud.

The investors in the condo-hotel project in Palm Beach filed the civil suit in Palm Beach County Circuit Court earlier this month, alleging that PNC promised their investment would be protected in an escrow account until they secured their green cards. The plaintiffs were part of the federal EB-5 cash-for-visa program, which gives investors a green card in exchange for investing at least $500,000 in an American business and creating at least 10 jobs.

The suit also names Ruben Ramirez, a vice president at PNC Bank’s Boynton Beach branch.

In actuality, the investors claim that PNC Bank never held the money in an escrow account, but rather in a “fake escrow account” that operated as a business checking account.

By putting this money into the checking account as opposed to an escrow, the investors allege that the Palm House Hotel’s developer Robert Matthews and the South Atlantic Regional Center’s director Joe Walsh, were able to take money out when they pleased for personal expenditures such as a 151-foot yacht and luxury homes.

An attorney for PNC Bank and Ramirez did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The beleaguered Palm House Hotel project has now become a poster child for the risks of investing in an EB-5 project. After soliciting more than $40 million beginning in 2012, the project still remains unfinished and federal officials allege its developer Matthews defrauded investors by using the money to pay for personal expenses. Now, investors have lost their investment and are unable to receive their green cards because the project never met its job goals.

“None of the plaintiffs’ EB-5 investment funds were used to develop the project,” the complaint states.

Matthew’s development group allegedly went to great lengths to gain foreign investment. In marketing materials, it allegedly claimed that famous celebrities and politicians such as Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, Celine Dion and Bill Koch would serve on the Palm House’s advisory board. Other marketing information also said the project was receiving interest from Tommy Hilfiger to become a Hilfiger-branded project.

The new lawsuit shines a light into how investors can be attracted to EB-5 projects. Unlike some other EB-5 projects where the investor’s money is not protected in an escrow account, investors were assured through documents that their initial investment was safely tucked away in an escrow account, according to David George, an attorney at George Gesten McDonald, who represents the plaintiffs.

“That was one of the most important representations to cause them to invest [in the project],” since EB-5 legislation does not require that developers keep the money in an escrow, George said.

While the EB-5 investors are still looking to get their money back, a bankruptcy judge recently approved the sale of the project to a U.S. affiliate of London + Regional Properties for $39.6 million.

London + Regional Properties, a U.K.-based luxury hotel and resort company, beat Related Cos. to buy the former failed EB-5 project in Palm Beach, according to the Palm Beach Daily News.

AeroThrust CEO sued over alleged toxic mold at Dadeland condo

AeroThrust CEO sued over alleged toxic mold at Dadeland condo

Mario Abad is being sued for negligence and fraudulent misrepresentation

February 13, 2019 05:30PM

Mario Abad and Silver Palms (Credit: iStock)

The CEO of AeroThrust Holdings is being sued for negligence after allegedly allowing toxic mold to permeate throughout a condo unit his company managed.

Venus Lacalamita filed a lawsuit in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court against Mario Abad, his wife Claudia, their property management company, MGC Group Corp., and air conditioning maintenance business Frioclima Corp. Lacalamita claims that the mold got so bad in her Dadeland property it caused health problems, according to the Daily Business Review.

Lacalamita rented a unit at the Silver Palms at Dadeland from Abad in April 2016, according to the suit. But Lacalamita, who moved in with her 11-year-old son, said that by April 2018, the mold had moved to her clothes and personal belongings. Lacalamita’s lawyer, Jonathan B. Harris, told the Daily Business Review that the mold was 5 inches thick within the air duct, and it covered the walls, ceiling, floors, furniture and her clothes.

Lacalamita’s suit is seeking to recover for the loss of her personal belongings, as well as damages for pain and suffering.

Miami-based AeroThrust Holdings is one of the largest jet engine service companies in Florida. [DBR]Keith Larsen

Nightmare neighbors? Condo owners at the Mark on Brickell accused of harassment

1155 Brickell Bay Drive (Credit: CFE Architects)
The condo association at a Brickell luxury tower is accusing three owners of putting the board of directors, property management staff and fellow residents through a hellish ordeal, according to a lawsuit filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court.
The Mark Yacht Club on Brickell Bay Inc. earlier this month sued Nuri Munis, Pelin Munis Cakov and Seda Munis, who own two units in the 36-story condo building, the Mark on Brickell, at 1155 Brickell Bay Drive, for breach of contract and creating a nuisance.
Condo association attorney Joel Galkin did not respond to a phone message and email requesting comment. Efforts to reach Nuri Munis and his relatives were unsuccessful. Phone numbers listed for them were disconnected.
According to the lawsuit, Nuri Munis breached an Aug. 10 agreement with the condo association to provide construction workers with unhindered access into their condo on the 23rd floor from Monday through Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Munis has refused to abide by the agreement, the complaint states.
Furthermore, the lawsuit alleges that Nuri Munis and his relatives have engaged in a campaign to harass and intimidate condo association board members, property management employees and fellow condo owners. The suit claims the Munis’ have stalked residents by accusing them in a rude and threatening manner of violating the condo association’s governing documents.
“Nuri Munis shows up to the management office unannounced and pushes other residents out of the way so that he can get immediate access to the manager,” the lawsuit states. “He repeatedly and rudely interferes with conversations taking place between management and other residents concerning personal matters.”
Over one five week period, Munis made 21 unannounced visits to the property manager’s office without an appointment. He and Seda Munis also sent incessant emails making unreasonable demands and asserting false accusations to the condo’s board and property manager, the lawsuit alleges.
“During a 90-day period, Nuri Munis sent 230 emails to the board and management,” the complaint states. “Seda sent 88 emails during a 90-day period.”
The Mark Yacht Club on Brickell Bay Inc. is seeking an injunction against the Munis’ to stop them from going to the property management office without an appointment, sending emails and harrassing workers and residents.
Miami-Dade property records show Nuri Munis purchased a one-bedroom, one-bathroom condo on the building’s 23rd floor for $215,000 in 2002 and a two-bedroom, two-bathroom unit on the same floor a year later for $378,000.

Source: The Real Deal Miami

Legal wranglings swirl around Regalia condo project

Regalia in Sunny Isles Beach
Despite being sold out in 2015, two years after it was completed, controversy still swirls around the Regalia condo project in Sunny Isles Beach. Last week, Miami law firm do Campo & Thornton sued the project’s original developers and one of their creditors in Miami-Dade Circuit Court over unpaid attorney fees.
Robert Stok, partner for the Aventura law firm Stok Folk + Kohn, which represents defendants Abraham Cohen, Jerold Kaufman, Petr Viskovatykh, CK Regalia and La Mansion, told The Real Deal that do Campo’s complaint has no merit. “It is surprising to me that lawyers who created so much damage would put themselves into the line of fire,” Stok said. “We expect a jury to view do Campo & Thornton’s antics with great disfavor. Do Campo & Thornton is going to have to reimburse our clients for all the damages they caused.”
Do Campo’s attorney Alejandro Brito scoffed at Stok’s comments in a phone interview with TRD. “My clients provided legal services for which they are entitled to be compensated,” Brito said. It is ironic that the defendants are claiming that they intend to cooperate in paying my clients the money they are owed.”
The dispute arose in 2010 when Cohen retained do Campo to defend him against a foreclosure on the project’s construction loan that he had personally guaranteed. Cohen and Kaufman owned the voting interest in La Mansion, which was a creditor for the development, and CKR, which was a minority owner in the Regalia project at 19575 Collins Avenue. According to do Campo’s lawsuit, Kaufman subsequently pledged the equity interest in CKR to Viskovatykh.
By 2012, a year after the project was sold to a group led by Louis R. Montello, CKR and La Mansion were defunct and had no assets other than other than a minority stake in Regalia, the lawsuit says. A year later, Cohen, La Mansion and CKR signed a retainer agreement with do Campo for the firm to protect Cohen’s potential equity in 46-story tower once it was completed, according to the suit.
In 2013, Cohen, La Mansion, and CKR all entered into a retainer agreement with do Campo to protect Cohen’s potential equity. These retainer agreements were the product of additional negotiations with Kaufman. Viskovatykh was also aware of these agreements. Under the retainer, do Campo’s fees would be determined from Cohen’s net position once Regalia was finished, the suit says.
Consistent with the terms of the retainer agreement, do Campo represented the defendants in the hopes of securing a large recovery for them, Brito said. His clients, as well as Cohen, Kaufman and Viskovatykh, actively monitored the real estate market and Regalia sales. If the condo recorded exceedingly high sales prices, then Cohen and the others would receive a huge windfall, Brito said.
The tower reached $100 million in sales just two months after launching, according to the suit. This year, four units have closed with prices ranging from $8 million to $12 million. The last recorded sale was for an $8.4 million unit that was sold to Alfredo Bubion, president of the Regional Steel Corp.
To avoid paying do Campo a substantial sum in attorney fees, Cohen, Kaufman, and Viskovatykh abruptly terminated their relationship with the law firm in 2013, the lawsuit alleges. Cohen, Kaufman and Viskovatykh then sued do Campo to remove liens filed by the law firm against La Mansion and CK Regalia for non-payment. The lawsuit was dismissed and last March, a Florida appeals court affirmed the dismissal.
According to its lawsuit, do Campo is owed fees under three separate retainer agreements that would have totaled between $1 million to $2 million.
Stok claimed do Campo performed only “nominal work” for his clients. “They have filed a completely frivolous, baseless and bombastic lawsuit accusing our clients never had any intention to pay them which is totally without any basis in fact,” Stok said. “We intend to vigorously defend the lawsuit and hold the law firm accountable for malpractice.”
Brito said do Campo has ample proof Stok’s clients had no intention of paying the law firm. “The defendants received a substantial amount of money as a result of my clients’ efforts. The fact the defendants have not paid any money to my clients makes it clear as to who has engaged in the wrongful conduct.”

Source: The Real Deal Miami