In recent months, the New York Times has worked to expose what is has termed a “culture of fear” in the real estate industry, first setting its sights on the National Association of Realtors. The publication continued these efforts on Friday, publishing an article examining sexual assault allegations at national brokerage firm eXp Realty.
After conducting over 30 interviews with current and former eXp agents, and examining two lawsuits (one filed on Thursday) alleging sexual assault by former eXp agents and recruiters, the Times reported that eXp has “a yearslong pattern of predatory behavior by two marquee agents.”
Allegations of sexual assault relating to eXp Realty surfaced in February of 2023. A complaint filed by Fabiola Acevedo, Tami Sims, Christy Lundy, and an anonymous husband and wife in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California 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.
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.”
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, and a share of the commissions generated by the agents those recruits bring in.
Both Bjorkman and Golden were on the Revenue Share “upline” of the four female plaintiffs, the lawsuit claims.
According to eXp, changes to eXp’s Revenue Share program has made it so eXp can stop payments to agents whose contracts were terminated.
In March of 2023, the lawsuit was updated to include eXp Realty CEO Glenn Sanford as a defendant. The plaintiffs sued Sanford for intentional infliction of emotional distress; negligence; and negligent hiring, retention, and supervision, as they alleged that Sanford has knowledge of Bjorkman and Golden’s alleged actions and did nothing to stop them.
Since then, Sanford has described the issue as resolved, stating that he believes his firm “had two bad actors in [its] agent base,” during the firm’s third-quarter 2023 earnings call with investors.
On Thursday, a second lawsuit was filed by Anya Roberts against eXp in the same district. In this complaint, Roberts claims she was given substances at eXp Realty events that caused her to black out. She believes she was sexually assaulted by both Golden and Bjorkman while unconscious.
Roberts’ complaint also names Michael Sherrard, an eXp recruiter, who Roberts claimed “sat next to her at an eXp event in Los Cabos and showed her a picture of his car, a purple Lamborghini with vanity plates that read ‘EXPRLTY,’ and then put his hand up her skirt and repeatedly brushed two fingers between her legs.”
In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for Sherrard called the allegations “false” and “without merit.”
“Mr. Sherrard holds himself to the highest professional standards and is confident this unsubstantiated claim will be dismissed,” the spokesperson wrote.
Like the four other women, Roberts states that eXp and its executives failed to take action and did not reach out to Roberts or conduct any kind of investigation.
Both Golden and Bjorkman are no longer agents with eXp. Bjorkman was removed as an agent in 2020 after allegations of sexual assault first surfaced, while Golden was suspended as both an agent and a recruiter in February 2023 pending the results of the investigation and the Acevedo lawsuit, according to an eXp spokesperson.
In total, the Times article states that police reports detail at least eight additional claims of drugging and assault between 2000 and 2020 against Bjorkman, who was charged in Las Vegas in February 2021 for two counts of sexual assault. However, the district attorney’s office opted not to proceed with the case three months later.
In addition to the five women who have filed lawsuits, the Times story also details the experience of Georgia-based eXp broker Jennifer Holt. In Oct. 2022, Holt filed an ethics complaint against her sponsor Randy Bocook, after he allegedly “texted her asking for photos of her watching pornography” and “cornered her and forcibly grabbed her rear end in the office.” Bocook voluntarily surrendered his real estate license a month later, but Hold said she found emails showing that eXp continued to issue Bocook revenue share payments as recently as July 2023.
Kristen Browne Childress, a broker in North Carolina, also shared her story in the Times article. In May 2023, Childress traveled to Orlando for the eXp Shareholder Summit, where she attended a party held by an eXp affiliate and says she blacked out. According to a police report, when Childress awoke, she was in a “strange hotel bed and a real estate photographer she had met earlier that evening was on top of her, penetrating her with his hands wrapped around her neck.”
In an emailed statement, an eXp spokesperson said that the firm takes its responsibility to create a safe and inclusive environment very seriously.
“eXp Realty has zero tolerance for abuse, harassment, or misconduct of any kind — including by the independent real estate agents who use our services. The claims in this case stem from alleged assaults by independent real estate agents who were never eXp employees— which we handled with speed, seriousness, and deep respect as soon as the accusers brought it to our attention, in line with our values and with the law. eXp hopes and trusts the court will give a full and fair hearing to the plaintiffs as they pursue claims against the individuals who allegedly assaulted them,” the spokesperson wrote. “We are now learning of new allegations of alleged assaults that were brought forth by another female agent and have begun an investigation into the claims. However, the claims against eXp and its leadership have no basis in fact or law, and to which eXp vehemently denies. eXp has asked the court to dismiss these claims and is prepared to present and defend its position if necessary.”