This article details The Career Compass’s ongoing battle with the DRE, and by extension CAR, highlighting the need for the DRE to foment competition and compliance equally among all course providers — including CAR.

A real estate program for “success”

A real estate organization called The Career Compass, geared toward providing in-person seminars and other member benefits to California real estate agents, has been locked in a protracted legal battle with the California Department of Real Estate (DRE) for nearly a decade.

The Career Compass was founded in 2007 by Wellington Pendell, who is not a real estate licensee. Pendell spent much of his early career as a salesperson and manager in fields unrelated to real estate.

At its inception, The Career Compass grew by providing real estate success seminars. The company’s website describes these seminars as imparting “tools [and] techniques to increase listings and commissions.”

In 2010, the company began offering DRE-approved 45-hour continuing education (CE) courses for real estate agents to renew their licenses.

Coming to blows with the DRE

The Career Compass’s conflict with the DRE began in 2012, when, according to public DRE filings, The Career Compass engaged in the practice of awarding CE certificates of completion to students who had not met the requirements to renew their real estate licenses.

Editor’s note — Full disclosure: firsttuesday is a provider of CE courses for California real estate agents.

In 2014, the DRE responded by revoking The Career Compass’s — and Wellington Pendell’s — approval to provide CE. Pendell adamantly maintains all the company’s original practices were in accordance with real estate law and DRE regulations.

In light of the decision, The Career Compass took a page out of the California Association of Realtors (CAR)’s playbook, offering CE courses through an affiliate with the stated goal of continuing to provide consistent benefits to attendees of their seminars.

Again, the DRE took issue with The Career Compass’s methods, alleging the company misled attendees by claiming in various advertisements that The Career Compass offered DRE-approved continuing education — when in fact those courses were created and offered by an affiliate course provider.

Pendell, however, disputes these claims, maintaining The Career Compass “disclosed exactly what [they] do,” when it comes to the CE courses they facilitated at the time.

Nevertheless, the DRE stood by its characterization of The Career Compass’s advertisement as fraudulent and issued a desist and refrain order (DRO), disallowing The Career Compass from advertising CE courses as its own.

The Career Compass continued to partner with affiliate programs to offer CE courses to their attendees. One of these affiliates, CyberCE, founded and owned by Barry Caudill, was caught up in The Career Compass’s most recent run-in with the DRE.

In 2018, a DRE investigation found that The Career Compass materially altered DRE-approved content offered by CyberCE, changing test-taking time limits and improperly adapting DRE-approved online courses for live audiences.

More worrisome, the DRE alleges The Career Compass in some cases provided students with fraudulent certificates of completion — produced by The Career Compass but bearing the CyberCE name and logo — that did not reflect the proper completion of DRE requirements.

Barry Caudill declined to comment on the validity of the DRE’s allegations.

The investigation culminated in a bar order issued in November 2019, prohibiting The Career Compass not only from offering real estate seminars, but from conducting any real estate-related business whatsoever, even through affiliate entities.

Again, Pendell sees the situation quite differently, outright denying the DRE’s allegations.

“It’s very clear that The Career Compass has been politically targeted by the DRE and by CAR,” Pendell emphasizes, citing CAR’s outsized influence in the California real estate industry as motivation for the DRE to come down hard on The Career Compass. “CAR provides zero benefits, so The Career Compass is seen as a threat.”

According to Pendell, The Career Compass requested an administrative hearing to appeal the DRE’s bar order in 2019, and has yet to receive a reply.

Editor’s note — Though firsttuesday requested a statement, the DRE has yet to confirm or deny whether they received the Career Compass’s request for a hearing. Stay tuned for updates.

Briefly, in January 2021, the seminars previously listed on The Career Compass’s website were offered through the California Association of Real Estate (CARE) (not to be confused with any similarly named entity in Pendell’s crosshairs). According to its website, the seminars were “NOT in any legal way being conducted or promoted by The Career Compass Inc. or any subsidiaries therein.”

The website and all references to it on The Career Compass’s own site have been removed as of this writing, and those seminars are once again listed on The Career Compass’s website. However, firsttuesday captured screenshots of CARE’s website prior to its going dark, which can be viewed here and here.

Pendell, for his part, noted he had “no legal or personal involvement with the California Association of Real Estate.”

Editor’s note — firsttuesday reached out to the DRE regarding a number of Pendell’s statements prior to the removal of CARE’s website. The department appeared not to be aware of CARE.

The CAR connection

There’s no denying CAR and the DRE have a close relationship, but it’s not clear whether Pendell’s claims about the DRE’s motivation to target The Career Compass have any merit. Nevertheless, at least one of his underlying concerns is worth taking a look at — namely, the amount of political weight CAR wields in California, and how it throws that weight around.

Not only does CAR compel membership from nearly 60% of California licensees by misrepresenting MLS access as an exclusive member benefit, it also holds a virtual monopoly on the real estate forms market.

Editors’ note — firsttuesday, which once sold real estate forms, was on the receiving end of CAR’s ploy to include zipForms as a “free” member benefit in 2002. RPI Forms has since published its forms at no cost, without the prerequisite of a costly membership à la CAR.

However, The Career Compass’s primary beef with CAR goes back to the association’s attempted takeover of the California CE market. With the advent of OnlineEd’s full 45-hour course in 2017, CAR no longer purported to be only an avenue for a real estate agent’s day-to-day dealings, but a one-stop-shop for everything real estate, using its established member base to quell competition.

CAR’s CE is offered through a third-party provider, and worse, that provider is based out of state, meaning OnlineEd’s courses are not grounded in the specialized nuances of California real estate law.

According to Pendell, the way CAR markets its CE courses is indicative of a major discrepancy in the way the DRE treats its course providers.

After the DRE’s original revocation of The Career Compass’s license to provide CE, the DRE’s next major complaint with The Career Compass concerned advertising that led students to believe their courses were offered by The Career Compass, rather than through a third-party provider.

While it’s clear from the DRE’s public records that The Career Compass didn’t go to great lengths to dispel this notion, they did at least in the fine print disclose that their CE courses were not offered directly through The Career Compass — more than could be said for CAR.

Nowhere on CAR’s website does the association publicly disclose that its CE is offered by out-of-state OnlineEd. In fact, the website specifically states CAR’s CE is “brought to you by C.A.R. Education.”

No matter where you stand on The Career Compass’s scruples, it’s hard to deny there’s a double standard here.

The power of competition

All this matters because competition is good for the California real estate market. When the majority of real estate agents rely on an overstretched trade union ineffectively aiming to fulfill every professional need — or feel they are forced into it despite not believing its services are worth the cost of membership — the overall competency of the state’s real estate agents suffers. Worse, the California selling and buying public suffers alongside.

firsttuesday encourages all real estate agents and course providers to remain fully compliant with not only the letter, but the spirit of California real estate law, as regulated by the DRE. The DRE has made it clear that, over the course of the conflict, The Career Compass has continuously failed to do so.

But that doesn’t mean the DRE is entirely off the hook here. Whether or not some amount of bias is present in their treatment of The Career Compass, the onus is on the DRE to ensure there is no perception that organizations like CAR receive special treatment when it comes to enforcing that compliance, and when it comes to maintaining a healthy, competitive spirit within the California real estate industry.

Editor’s note — Let us know in the comments below or at if you are a member of The Career Compass or have attended a Career Compass seminar and would like to share your thoughts.