Jury finds NAR, brokerages guilty in landmark commissions suit

Keller Williams, HomeServices of America also ordered to pay $1.78B in damages

Jury Finds NAR, Brokerages Guilty in Sitzer Commissions Suit
NAR's Tracy Kasper, Keller Williams' Gary Keller and HomeServices of America's Gino Blefari (NAR, Keller Williams, LinkedIn, Getty)

A jury has found the National Association of Realtors, Keller Williams and HomeServices of America guilty of colluding over commission rates.  

The defendants were ordered to pay $1.78 billion in damages. The verdict in the landmark Sitzer/Burnett trial was rendered Tuesday after two weeks of testimony in a Kansas City courtroom over alleged collusion facilitated by NAR’s Clear Cooperation Policy. 

The judge in the case hasn’t issued a final ruling, which will be needed before the verdict is finalized. In the decision on the antitrust case, the judge could triple the damages to total more than $5 billion, in addition to ordering policy changes.

“This matter is not close to being final,” NAR said in a blog post on the verdict. The trade group said it would appeal the verdict and ask the court to reduce the damages awarded by the jury.

“This verdict does not require a change in our rules,” the group said. “But if class action attorneys had it their way, buyer representation would be very much at risk because many first-time home buyers, among others, couldn’t afford to pay for representation out of pocket.”

Keller Williams vowed to “consider all options as we assess the verdict and trial record, including avenues of appeal.”

A spokesperson from HomeServices also said the brokerage would appeal the ruling in Missouri.

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“Today’s decision means that buyers will face even more obstacles in an already challenging real estate market and sellers will have a harder time realizing the value of their homes,” the brokerage said. “It could also force homebuyers to forgo professional help during what is likely the most complex and consequential financial transaction they’ll make in their lifetime.”

The case is the first of two major class-action lawsuits centered on NAR’s commissions policy to go to trial. 

The lawsuits are tied to NAR’s policy requiring listing brokers to offer buyers’ agents compensation in listings on Realtor-controlled MLSs, which the plaintiffs argued violates antitrust statutes and inflates costs.

The antitrust case brought by a group of Missouri homesellers previously included Anywhere Real Estate and RE/MAX among the defendants, but the brokerage players settled for an estimated $83.5 million and $55 million, respectively, in deals that included updates to business policies and settlement for the Moehrl v. National Association of Realtors case.

Holden Walter-Warner

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