Move, NAR, Zillow Showdown Heats Up

The war of words in the ongoing legal battle between Move Inc. and Zillow has intensified as a hearing approaches that will put two senior Zillow employees on the spot about whether they purposely destroyed evidence in the case to cover up stealing trade secrets from Move and®.

At the April hearing, Errol Samuelson and Curt Beardsley, two executives who abruptly resigned from Move, Inc. to join Zillow in 2014, will be given the chance to explain their actions following their departure from Move, including running file deletion programs and other activity that resulted in the loss of Move data. The hearing centers around whether these actions constituted an effort to destroy evidence of wrongdoing and will determine whether Samuelson, Beardsley, and Zillow face evidentiary sanctions.

Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff ramped up rhetoric against Move and its parent company, News Corp., after Zillow revealed its legal expenses related to the case in its fourth-quarter earnings report last week. The report said the company had spent $27.1 million in legal bills by the end of last year and that this amount was expected to increase to $36 million for 2016.

“We are focused on innovating. News Corp. is focused on litigating,” Rascoff told CNBC after the earnings call. “Unfortunately, you see this all too often in business where companies who lose on the business battlefield resort to the courtroom out of desperation. … It is vindictive, it is baseless.”

Move immediately responded, saying in a statement that its lawsuit was filed before News Corp. acquired Move and that the lawsuit is “based squarely on the merits of the case, not emotions.” Move pointed to Zillow’s SEC filing in which the real estate aggregator acknowledged “reasonable possibility” that it will incur liability in the litigation with Move and NAR.

NAR and Move first filed suit in 2014 against Zillow and Samuelson, and later Beardsley. Last year, former Zillow Vice President Chris Crocker wrote a whistleblower letter to Move’s attorneys, alleging misuse of stolen Move data and other misconduct by Zillow. Zillow filed a counterclaim, saying Move and NAR defamed the aggregator and revealed trade secrets by publicizing the letter without ascertaining whether its contents were factual.

The investigation into the claims of evidence destruction by Zillow, Samuelson, and Beardsley has been underway, following a series of court orders, since last year.  The evidentiary hearing is scheduled for April 13 and 14, and the case is set to go to trial June 6.

Published by REALTOR Magazine | Daily Real Estate News | Wednesday, February 17, 2016 —REALTOR® Magazine