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Court filing reveals name of anonymous whistleblower in Zillow/Move lawsuit

Former Zillow VP of Strategic Partnerships wrote the letter

A new filing in the ongoing lawsuit between Zillow Group (Z) and Move (MOVE) names the anonymous whistleblower: former Zillow Vice President of Strategic Partnerships Chris Crocker.

Move and the National Association of Realtors filed suit against Zillow on March 17, 2014, after Errol Samuelson, Move's chief strategy officer, resigned from Move on March 5, 2014, and joined Zillow as the company's second-highest paid executive on the same day.

The original lawsuit alleged breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and misappropriation of trade secrets and accused Samuelson of misappropriating trade secret information by acquiring it using improper means, and by copying it without authorization.

In a filing last week, Move and NAR said they received a letter from Crocker and in that letter Crocker alleges that Zillow has copies of Move’s private MLS contact database, listing count database and other databases stolen from Move.

The latest filing in King County Superior Court (which can be read here) just made public Thursday, names Crocker as the whistleblower.

“We have not publicly identified an author of the letter. Beyond that, we have no comment,” a spokesperson for Zillow said late Thursday.

Zillow has publicly said the allegations in Crocker's letter are false, misleading and libelous.

A spokesperson for Move could not comment.

Zillow did not name Crocker publicly, but in the court filing the company said that it believes Crocker was the whistleblower based on the timing of the letter right before his last days of employment at Zillow — he was terminated in January 2015 and given two months notice— as well as signature details, and the general information in the letter.

“Zillow has a good faith basis to believe that the Letter was authored by Zillow employee Chris Crocker,” the filing from Move states. "Mr. Crocker was advised that he was being terminated earlier this year but was provided two months to find a new position prior to formal separation. The letter was received two business days before Mr. Crocker’s last day at Zillow. Mr. Crocker was one of only a few individuals with knowledge of some of the information contained in the letter.”

The letter also contained what the Zillow attorneys said was Crocker's signature closing "Good Hunting."

The filing alleges that Crocker and Move may have conspired to "misappropriate" Zillow trade secrets.

“The Letter itself is now evidence, not only in this litigation, but potentially in other litigation," it states. "A thorough investigation is needed to determine whether and to what extent Plaintiffs and Plaintiffs’ counsel conspired with the author of the Letter to reveal and misappropriate Zillow’s confidential and trade secret information, and to libel Zillow.”

Crocker joined Zillow in his executive capacity on Jan. 3, 2013. Before that he served as VP of operations at Equator, and as regional vice president of operations for the Southwestern U.S. region of NRT, LLC, the nation’s largest real estate brokerage.

He also served on the board of directors and strategic planning and finance committee for the California Association of Realtors. He also was a founding board member for the California statewide MLS initiative and has been a frequent speaker at real estate conferences addressing the impacts of technology, competition and transparency on the real estate industry.

Crocker’s letter also accused Samuelson of working at Zillow, despite being under an injunction that prevented him from working. In the court filing, Move said that Samuelson conducted “brazen violations” of the court’s injunction by working at Zillow.

Crocker’s current LinkedIn profile lists his employment as “Intrapreneur seeking hill to climb: New Products, New Divisions, International, Startups.”

He lists Zillow as a former employer, listing the end date of his employment there as March 2015.

HousingWire has requested an interview with Crocker through his LinkedIn address, but he had not responded at publication time.

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