REX Homes may have shut down, but it has also retained David Boies – the lawyer for Al Gore, Harvey Weinstein and multiple accusers against Jeffrey Epstein – to take on Zillow and the National Association of Realtors.
The Austin, Texas-based brokerage – featuring a business model in which consumers paid less in real estate commissions, while real estate agents were paid on salary – told agents to transfer their license to another brokerage, according to internal company emails obtained Friday.
An email sent by Steve Dawson, REX’s chief compliance officer, to the company’s salaried agents Thursday afternoon read: “Starting immediately, please transfer your license over to a new brokerage of your choice. This needs to be completed by day’s end tomorrow.” The note bolded “day’s end.”
“Find a new brokerage and contact them requesting to transfer your license,” Dawson’s missive continued. “Let them know you have current listings and current escrows that also need to be transferred and taken over by the new brokerage.
“If you are having trouble finding a brokerage who will take the current escrows, please look for smaller brokerage firms who might be more likely to assume the escrows,” Dawson wrote.
The message is the latest indication REX, founded seven years ago, is undergoing not just a massive downsizing but rather is shutting down operations completely. Earlier this week, company agents chronicled a Zoom meeting in which company CEO and co-founder Jack Ryan laid off the vast majority of the company’s 180 employees and announced the immediate shut down of REX’s physical offices in Austin and Woodland Hills, California.
Some agents held out hope as recently as Wednesday that the company would not fold, they said, and they could hang their real estate license with REX as independent contractors. Now, the company is headed for a shut down this weekend, according to employees reached Friday.
Calls to REX executives – including Ryan, co-founder and COO Lynley Sides, and general counsel Michael Toth were not returned Friday.
However, Toth responded to an email inquiry Wednesday. In his reply to a reporter, he referred to REX in the past tense, saying when “Zillow and NAR colluded to protect their profits, REX’s innovative business model was sacrificed.”
Toth’s message referred to a lawsuit in Washington federal court. The case, which has already survived a motion to dismiss and a NAR counterclaim, alleges NAR and Zillow conspired to marginalize REX by putting the brokerage’s listings in the “other agent” category. The listings were put in this category because Zillow was taking them from multiple listing services feeds.
And, according to a court filing in that case Tuesday, David Boies has requested to the court that he represent REX in the matter.
Boies is perhaps the most decorated trial attorney in the U.S. His high-profile cases include representing the U.S. Justice Department in an antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft, backing Al Gore in the presidential candidate’s 2000 election challenge, and representing the plaintiff in the case that invalidated California’s ban on same sex marriage. Those who watched “The Dropout” on Hulu may also recognize his name – at one point he both sat on the board of Elizabeth Holmes’ failed blood-testing company Theranos and served as its in-house counsel.
Lately, Boies has represented several people who have accused Jeffrey Epstein of sexual assault.
Why Boies would lend his name and legal experience to the antitrust real estate case is not clear. Messages left with Boies’ firm and other lawyers on the case Friday were not returned.
The apparent doubling-down on one lawsuit comes as REX has abandoned another. As Inman first reported, REX has dropped an antitrust action against the state of Oregon, which argued the state unfairly discriminated against discount or rebate brokerages.
Brooklee Han contributed reporting.