Saul Klein to lead San Diego MLS in wake of scandal

San Diego Association of Realtors, which operates one of the country’s largest multiple listing service, has new leadership following the departure of alleged fraudster Mike Mercurio. Real estate industry veteran Saul Klein is taking over as the CEO and director of SDAR’s wholly-owned San Diego MLS, according to an announcement on Tuesday.

“I am thrilled to once again participate in the operation and growth of the MLS in San Diego County, at this critical period in the history of MLS nationwide,” Klein said in a statement. “I participated in dramatic changes in MLS at various points throughout my career, and I look forward to once again playing a key role in the evolution of the MLS as CEO of SDMLS. Working with our new Board of Directors, our vision is to bring to the real estate professionals of San Diego County the best in MLS service, providing them with the tools they need for success in the changing world of residential real estate sales.”

Klein has over 40 years of real estate industry experience. He is one of the original Realtor.com team members and created ePRO, the online technology certification program used by the National Association of Realtors for a decade.

In these roles Klein will run daily operation of SDMLS.

“Saul’s stellar reputation precedes him, and we are privileged to welcome him as the CEO and Director of MLS,” Cory Shepard, the San Diego Association of Realtors’ CEO, said in a statement. “With an unparalleled track record as a technological trailblazer in real estate and a seasoned data expert, Saul brings a wealth of experience to SDMLS. Under his leadership, SDMLS is on the verge of implementing an innovative and carefully crafted long-term strategy, securing its ongoing status as the county’s exclusive locally owned and operated MLS.”

Klein begins his tenure at SDMLS during a challenging time for the organization. In July, Mike Mercurio, SDMLS’ longtime CEO left the MLS amid a cloud of alleged inappropriate financial behavior.

A lawsuit was filed in late July 2023 by four former high-level SDAR executives who were fired after they investigated what they claimed was a long-running scheme by Mercurio to funnel SDAR funds into his personal account. The suit claims that more than $1 million in member dues were diverted from lobbying efforts into Mercurio’s pocket.

In addition, the complaint alleges that Mercurio “stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from payroll using a fraudulent ‘PTO cash-out scheme,” received a $24,000 per year car allowance, a $75,000 yearly personal travel allowance, and purchased tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of expensive watches, handbags which he stated were gifts for volunteers on his personal credit card and was reimbursed from SDAR accounts. However, instead of gifting these items to volunteers, the suit alleges that Mercurio had his executive assistant sell them on the eBay with instructions to deposit the money into his bank account.

“For her efforts and discretion, and in an attempt to bribe her silence, Mercurio offered [his assistant] ten percent of the sale of the items. [The assistant] was very stressed and uncomfortable with the entire scheme, rejected the offer of a ‘commission,’ and ultimately left her job,” the suit states.

Suspicions of Mercurio’s misuse of SDAR funds date back to 2013. Mercurio became SDAR CEO in 2006. Most of the SDMLS board members were dismissed by SDAR’s board prior to June.