A jury found NAR and others liable in a compensation lawsuit, but the association will immediately appeal and the case probably won’t conclude for several years.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A Missouri jury has found the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), Keller Williams and HomeServices of America liable for requiring listing brokers to offer compensation to buyers’ brokers in the Multiple Listing Service. The plaintiffs – 500 Missouri home sellers who paid buyer brokers’ commissions from 2015 to 2022 – claimed the practice violates antitrust statutes and inflates buyers’ costs. The defendants were ordered to pay $1.78 billion in damages.
“The reality is that NAR rules prioritize consumers, support market-driven pricing and promote business competition,” said NAR President Tracy Kasper moments after the verdict. “We stand by the fact that NAR’s guidance for local MLS broker marketplaces ensures consumers get comprehensive, equitable, transparent and reliable home information and that brokerages of any size, service or pricing model get a fair shot at competing.
“This matter is not nearly final, as we will appeal the jury’s verdict and remain confident we will ultimately prevail,” she continued. “In the interim, we will ask the court to reduce the damages awarded by the jury. Due to the nature of appeals, this case likely will not be concluded for several years.”
NAR answers your questions
Is there anything Realtors®, brokers, state/local associations or MLSs need to do differently because of this verdict?
Not because of this verdict. But NAR has emphasized for many years two important things. One is the use of buyer representation agreements, which maximize transparency by putting all agreements in writing to ensure the type of clarity and understanding required by the NAR Code of Ethics.
These agreements formalize the professional working relationship with clients. They detail what services consumers are entitled to and what the buyer agent expects from their client. Second, it’s imperative for members to continue to express that commissions are negotiable and set between brokers and their clients; to explain how local MLS broker marketplaces promote equity, transparency and market-driven pricing for consumers; and to persistently communicate the incredible value agents who are Realtors provide.
What does the future of buyer representation look like as a result of the verdict?
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. Members must take every opportunity to express how they are experts who guide consumers through the financial, legal and community complexities of buying or selling a home.
How does this verdict affect other ongoing litigation, including the other seller lawsuit?
It doesn’t. Cases are tried separately, and we remain confident we will ultimately prevail. We have a strong case we’ll present on appeal because our rules are pro-consumer and pro-business competitive.
Would NAR ever consider changing the cooperative compensation rule?
This rule has always been in place to protect and serve the best interests of consumers, support market-driven pricing and advance business competition. NAR consistently reviews and considers evolving its rules in a way that responds to changes in the industry and what best serves consumers.
Do you expect the plaintiffs to seek an injunction requiring NAR to stop making the rule mandatory or eliminate the rule?
We cannot predict what plaintiffs will do. We would contest any such effort because this rule always has been in place to protect and serve the best interests of consumers, support market-driven pricing and advance business competition.
Does NAR have the funds to pay the proposed damages or post a bond to file an appeal?
NAR will appeal and have the funds to post bond, which allows us to proceed with our appeals and defer potential payment of damages. While appeals will take years, we are confident we will ultimately prevail. We also are financially prepared for any final judgment.
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