Thursday, March 20, 2008

Real-estate expert: Lupton's actions may be legal

A Milwaukee real-estate expert testified today that although it may seem counterintuitive, an indicted real estate broker's actions regarding the now-halted sale of a state office building were permissible, as long as they were to be disclosed in an offer to purchase.

The purpose of today's hearing before U.S. District Court Judge Lynn Adelman was to determine if Martin Greenberg will be allowed to testify as an expert witness at Lupton's trial. Greenberg is former chair of the Wisconsin State Fair Board and a managing member of Greenberg & Hoeschen LLC, which specializes in real estate and sports law. He's also an adjunct professor at Marquette University, where he has taught real estate and sports law for more than 30 years.

Adelman withheld a decision and requested the parties to file briefs.

Federal prosecutors allege the agent, Larry Lupton, solicited an illegal $75,000 kickback and shared confidential bid information with brokers representing potential buyers of a state office building. Lupton represented the commercial real estate firm Equis, which had the contract to sell the building.

Greenberg said it's normal for brokers to discuss how commissions will be split, but it must be disclosed in writing and agreed to when an offer to purchase is drafted.

Greenberg also disagreed with the government that the letter of intent Lupton received from a potential buyer is confidential information because it's non-binding and amounts to a proposal under the law, which he said brokers can share.

"There was absolutely no breach of confidentiality," Greenberg said, adding that Lupton's action drove up the price the state would receive.

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