Plaintiffs in the “sex trafficking” lawsuit filed against eXp World Holdings, eXp Realty, and two eXp agents, Michael Bjorkman and David Golden, in mid-February in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California have amended their complaint to include eXp Realty CEO Glenn Sanford and top recruiter Brent Gove as defendants.
The initial complaint, filed by Fabiola Acevedo, three Jane Does and one John Doe, alleges that two eXp agents, Michael Bjorkman and David Golden, have a history of drugging and sexually assaulting women at eXp Realty recruiting events across the country, in violation of the federal sex trafficking statute.
The amended complaint filed on March 23 states that the defendants are also suing Gove and Sanford for intentional infliction of emotional distress; negligence; and negligent hiring, retention, and supervision.
The complaint alleges that both Gove and Sanford had knowledge of Bjorkman and Golden’s alleged actions and did nothing to stop them. Lawyers for the plaintiffs also allege that Gove threatened to pull his entire team from the brokerage if Bjorkman and Golden were removed from the firm for their actions.
“Rather than conducting a legitimate investigation into the Plaintiffs’ complaints regarding defendant Bjorkman and defendant Golden, defendant eXp Realty, defendant Gove and defendant Sandord did a cost benefit analysis and decided it made economic sense to continue to pay defendant Golden and defendant Bjorkman,” the complaint reads. “Defendant Gove and defendant Sanfrod repeatedly acted as if they were hearing the assault complaints for the first time even though they were personally made aware repeatedly through the proper chain of command and direct communications about these assaults over the years. They put monetary gain over the wellbeing of the plaintiffs.
“By choosing to allow defendant Golden and defendant Bjorkamn’s behavior to go unchecked for years simply so they could continue to reap the financial benefits provided by defendant Bjorkman and defendant Golden, defendant eXp Realty, defendant Gove and defendant Sanford were complicit in allowing assaults to occur.”
According to the February 2023 civil complaint, Bjorkman and Golden would “entice women to travel in interstate commerce, recruit enthusiastic real estate agents with the promise of career advancement and coaching, and use their considerable influence in the real estate industry on these other real estate agents behalf, knowing that they would use means of force, fraud or coercion to cause these women to engage in a sex act.”
Bjorkman, the lawsuit says, became an eXp agent in 2018 after being recruited by Golden, but after allegations surfaced in 2020, eXp said it removed him as an agent. He was arrested in early March 2021 on Miami-Dade County for two counts of sexual assault of Jane Doe 3.
According to a statement in mid-May 2021, attorneys for Bjorkman said his case had been dismissed by the Clark County District Attorney’s office in Nevada. Golden was suspended as both an agent and a recruiter in February 2023 pending the results of the investigation and lawsuit, according to an eXp spokesperson.
“We take these allegations seriously and do not tolerate harassment or assault,” an eXp spokesperson wrote in an email to RealTrends. “While we cannot provide comments on the specifics of any pending litigation, we believe the allegations made against eXp and Mr. Sanford are without merit.”
The lawsuit focuses on eXp’s agent recruitment-heavy business model. As part of eXp’s Revenue Share program, agents who recruit other agents to the brokerage receive a share of the commissions generated by their direct recruits. They also receive a share of the commissions generated by the agents their recruits have recruited.
Gove, Bjorkman and Golden were on the Revenue Share “upline” of Acevedo and the three Jane Doe plaintiffs, the lawsuit claims.
The plaintiffs are demanding a jury trial. They are all represented by lawyers from the firm Cohen Hirsch, LP and Lenze Lawyers, PLC.
An earlier version of his article listed Golden as still an active agent at eXp and said that it was unclear if Bjorkman had been fired from the firm.