The National Association of Realtors is biting back at the Justice Department, aiming to block an antitrust probe into the trade group months after a settlement between the parties collapsed.
NAR filed a petition in federal court Monday to block a DOJ subpoena issued in July, shortly after the DOJ withdrew from its proposed settlement with NAR and signaled a “broader investigation” into the trade group’s alleged anti-competitive practices.
The association said it was asking for the probe to be blocked on the grounds that the DOJ violated the settlement and broke the law, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The Justice Department has claimed that it’s within its right to withdraw from the settlement, which it said was too narrow in focus to satisfy its concerns over NAR policies.
The abandoned settlement stemmed from a civil complaint filed by the DOJ against NAR in November. It would have required the association to repeal and modify some “anti-competitive” practices, including withholding information about broker fees and or enabling buyers’ brokers to filter MLS listings for commissions.
In July, however, the DOJ withdrew its consent from the eight-month old agreement and filed to dismiss its complaint without prejudice.
The DOJ claimed the original proposed settlement would’ve blocked it from pursuing more antitrust claims regarding NAR, although the agreement did include a clause that specifically reserved the government’s rights to investigate and pursue further antitrust violations by NAR or its members.
The proposed settlement came during the Trump administration, but President Biden has been turning up the heat on the real estate industry, pushing the Federal Trade Commission to look into competitive issues in the industry as well.
Some issues the DOJ is looking into include concerns over practices that effectively create a closed marketplace for buying and selling homes, leading to higher fees and preventing competitors from offering lower costs.
[WSJ] — Holden Walter-Warner