The U.S. real estate industry publication The Real Deal has published an article suggesting that CoStar recently terminated employees because they interacted with a social media account which mocks the company.
Citing two unnamed former CoStar employees, the story alleges that the employees were given vague and unsatisfactory reasons for their dismissals with both later realising that they had interacted with an anti-CoStar meme account on Instagram. The suggestion is that those employees were terminated as a result of their interaction with the account.
When asked for a response, CoStar said it does not comment on individual terminations. A company spokesperson was adamant however that the company
"did not terminate any employees for following a social media account".
The 'costar_memes' account is run by Nate Peterson, a former employee who CoStar has described as "disgruntled". Peterson regularly posts memes making fun of the Washington-based company as well as stories featuring allegations from former employees and has even started a podcast dedicated to criticising the firm.
Among the most recent content on the account is a collage of screenshots from an injunction being sought by CoStar against Peterson overlayed with, among other things, Peterson giving the middle finger outside CoStar premises. CoStar is seeking the injunction against Peterson in response to what the company says is disparaging and violent content which glorified an arson attack at the company's offices.
CoStar has filed for an injunction against Peterson’s account, which it believes violates a non-disparagement clause in the contract he signed as an employee. It is also seeking $1 in nominal damages and compensation for its legal fees.
CoStar CEO Andrew Florance confirmed in February that the company has stepped up the security around its offices and a spokesperson was at pains to reiterate its commitment to the safety of its workers in seeking the injunction:
"The safety of our employees is CoStar Group’s number one concern, and we are taking action against conduct that glorifies violence against the company's employees."
The allegations are the latest in a series of events to have been unfolded since Indisder originally published its exposé:
As a result of these articles, CoStar has gained a decidedly negative reputation as an employer in some quarters. As The Real Deal and others have pointed out, however, Insider is owned by the German publishing firm Axel Springer - a direct competitor of some of CoStar's European businesses.
Aside from its position as a commercial real estate and data leader, CoStar operates in Europe through portals such as Belbex (Spain), Realla (UK) and the recently acquired Bureaux Locaux (France). Axel Springer owns and operates the portal SeLoger in France and Immowelt in Germany.
The Insider articles were recently criticised in the specialist policy publication RCP for not having disclosed the fact that "its corporate parent has a commercial stake in the story being reported".