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Rival real estate agent to pay Toops $750,000 after settling case

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Harris Real Estate and one of its agents have agreed to pay Toop Real Estate $750,000 after the prominent Adelaide Hills agent used confidential files in breach of her contract and lured clients to Harris.

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Former Toop employee Arabella Hooper today accepted she breached her contract by improperly using 230 of Toop’s confidential files and several hundred pages of client contact details when she left the agency in 2015.

The settlement, executed in the District Court today, says Hooper used the files to develop business with rival agency Harris Real Estate, where she is currently employed.

Hooper ended her employment at Toop in June 2015 after disciplinary action was taken against her.

At an earlier District Court hearing, Toop sales and marketing CEO Genevieve Toop alleged that Hooper had “cracked” during a meeting at the agency’s Norwood offices in May 2015 when she realised the disciplinary action would make her ineligible for the company’s annual awards.

Hooper ended her seven-year employment at Toop on June 29, 2015, and commenced employment with Harris RE the following day.

The settlement said Hooper executed seven sales agency agreements on behalf of Harris Real Estate while still employed at Toop and altered at least 13 client records in Toop’s customer database by downgrading recorded interest levels of those clients from “hot” or “warm” to “cold”.

Hooper agreed she had printed data of more than 240 clients in Toop’s customer database with the intention of using the data to benefit of Harris Real Estate and had solicited work from 15 people who had done business with Toop.

Hooper also accepted she had enticed another employee of Toop to resign from the agency and take up employment with Harris Real Estate.

Toop’s lawyers had argued Hooper’s actions resulted in close to $30 million in property sales, which would have earned the Toop business commissions of more than $237,000.

Both Hooper and second defendant Harris Real Estate were today ordered by Auxiliary Judge Clayton to pay Toop RE $750,000, which includes interest and costs, within 21 days.

“I congratulate the parties and their advisors for arriving at a settlement,” Clayton told the court.

“This result is one which demonstrates commercial nous.”

Hooper was not present at today’s hearing but said in a statement to InDaily that after “a great seven years at Toop and Toop it is disappointing that things have ended this way.”

“It has become clear to me that our current employment contracts do not allow clients to choose who they wish to represent them,” Hooper said.

“This is something that needs to be addressed in the industry in the long term.”

Hooper said she was grateful for the support of Harris Real Estate and was looking forward to moving on “with clear air”.

The Toop family described the settlement as a win on behalf of “quality real estate agencies around Australia” in a statement issued after today’s hearing.

“TeamToop and FamilyToop have made a stand for integrity in business,” the statement said.

While employed at Toop, Hooper took out REISA’s hills salesperson of the year award in 2014. 

InDaily has contacted Harris Real Estate founder Phil Harris for comment.

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