Sexual harassment, retribution is part of the “culture of fear” at NAR, dozens of women tell NYT

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) has ignored numerous sexual harassment complaints, including against its president Kenny Parcell, according to over two dozen women who spoke to the New York Times in a bombshell exposé about the trade group.

In all, 29 women described to the Times a culture of fear, intimidation and harassment at the 1.56 million-member nonprofit group and its subsidiaries. Nineteen women told the Times they experienced sexual harassment.

“There is the sexual harassment, and then woven into it, this culture of fear,” Stephanie Quinn, the organization’s former director of business meetings and events, who worked at NAR for more than a decade, told the Times.

Sixteen complaints reviewed by the Times involved Parcell, a Utah Realtor who began climbing the leadership ranks in 2020. Three women went public with what was described as a pattern of inappropriate behavior by Parcell, who runs the Kenny Parcell Team at Equity Realty in Spanish Forks, Utah.

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Kenny Parcell, NAR President

One woman reported that Parcell placed his hands down his pants in front of her, while another woman received unsolicited lewd photos and texts from him, including a picture of his crotch. Parcell denied he had done anything inappropriate. He said the picture in question was of a promotional belt buckle and he was asking for input on the design.

A third woman, Janelle Brevard, who filed a lawsuit in the summer, disclosed a consensual relationship with Parcell that lasted months and ended with the NAR president allegedly retaliating against her. (Brevard settled a lawsuit with NAR that included a $107,000 severance payment and signed a nondisclosure agreement, the Times reported.)

Another woman, Amy Swida, a director of business meetings and events at the organization, filed an internal complaint of sexual harassment or gender discrimination by Parcell. Swida alleged that he was cruel and condescending to her after she became pregnant. She worried about being cut off from future opportunities.

“I’m scared every day coming to work,” she told the Times. The NAR said Swida’s complaint was documented and she was promoted several months later. Parcell also denied any wrongdoing toward Swida.

Quinn, who left NAR in 2022, told the Times that Parcell attempted to arrange meetings with younger colleagues at night and that she was constantly expected to hug the president. After she put out a palm to block a hug, Parcell began raising issues with her work. NAR said it never received a complaint from Quinn.

“His behavior is predatory,” Quinn, 52, said of Parcell. “I feel like I was constantly screaming, ‘This is so inappropriate.’”

In a written statement to the Times rebutting the allegations, Parcell said: “I am a friendly and outgoing person in a world that is growing ever more cynical, conflicted, and cold. Well-intended actions on my part are being twisted and distorted.”

Parcell was paid $164,569 by NAR for the 2021 tax year when he was first vice president, according to the nonprofit’s tax records. Charlie Oppler, the NAR president in 2021, was paid $294,798 that year.

Women comprise a majority of the trade group’s membership, but NAR has been led by men for years. Multiple women interviewed by the Times described other alleged incidents they say weren’t addressed by NAR.

Suzi Dunkel-Soto, a Realtor based in California, said the trade group’s chief legal officer never responded to her multiple complaints after a male colleague took a photo under her skirt at a NAR Leadership Academy graduation ceremony in 2018. NAR told The Times it “addressed this incident appropriately with the male Realtor involved.”

Despite a history of complaints of sexual harassment, discrimination, and retribution by Parcell and other leaders, 29 women told the Times that NAR hasn’t addressed sexual harassment issues.

“Everything gets brushed under the rug,” Dunkel-Soto told the Times.

The trade group told the Times it has acted responsibly and responded to complaints properly.

“We follow clear reporting procedures to investigate any issue of concern brought to our attention and take corrective action as needed, up to and including staff termination and member suspension,” the statement said.

Bob Goldberg, the group’s CEO since 2017, told the Times he wouldn’t characterize sexual harassment at NAR “as a problem,” though he later said through a spokesperson that, like any organization, “we are not immune to these challenges, and any single allegation concerns me.”

The NAR, which has more than $1 billion in assets that controls access to nearly every American home listing, is facing other threats – two explosive multibillion-dollar lawsuits threaten to upend the entire system propped up by NAR.

The plaintiffs, representing home sellers around the country, accuse the trade group and several of the country’s largest brokerages of using MLS rules to charge excessive fees and unfairly prop up agent commissions. Should they lose, a judge could rewrite the rules of how agents get paid and it could result in up to $30 billion per year in savings for American consumers. Damages for the cases could be north of $40 billion.

James Kleimann is the managing editor of HW Media’s newsroom.

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