COURT REPORT: Compass Leads Copycat Settlements; Non-NAR Case Paused

Editor’s note: The COURT REPORT is RISMedia’s weekly look at current and upcoming lawsuits, investigations and other legal developments around real estate.

It has been just over one week since the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) announced that it was settling seller lawsuits and agreeing to make major changes to commission practices, marking a new era in the real estate commission battle—and possibly for the industry as a whole. Far from an endpoint, the settlement only marks the next stage of legal challenges and turmoil, with lawyers pointing to unresolved buyer-side suits and fragmented rule-making as evidence that many issues are far from resolved. 

This past week, another brokerage juggernaut chose to settle rather than fight on against the seller suits. And other cases are starting to feel the ripple effects, with one NAR-unaffiliated suit paused while settlements play out, and another suit pushing its trial date back to 2027. Outside of commission cases there were also notable developments, as a woman suing eXp after she was allegedly assaulted by recruiters pushed further to hold the company liable.

Here are the biggest news items from the courtroom you might have missed:

Compass won’t fight commission lawsuits

Only five months after the company was first named in a Burnett copycat case, New York-based Compass is done fighting in court, agreeing to pay $57 million and change practices in exchange for immunity from the seller lawsuits, joining Keller Williams, RE/MAX and Anywhere as big corporate brokerages that settled.

Notably, though, the other three companies spent almost five years in court fighting the lawsuits, with Keller Williams actually taking one case all the way to trial. Compass, on the other hand, was first named as a defendant in the hours after the Burnett verdict, and did not face any major legal milestones (class certifications or major rulings by a judge) before choosing to settle.

CEO Robert Reffkin said the decision was to “minimize distractions,” though the company provided very few details.

With dozens of other mid- to large-sized brokerages left out of NAR’s settlement, Compass’ decision is potentially a barometer for how other copycat defendants view the lawsuits, and whether there is any appetite for prolonged legal battles.

Burnett post-trial nears endgame

With only one defendant remaining and four settlements pending, Burnett appears headed for a conclusion—though many issues have yet to be decided.

Most notably, plaintiffs in the case filed a long-awaited motion for triple damages, asking a judge to increase the $1.8 billion award to approximately $5.2 billion—with HomeServices, the only entity still fighting the suit, pinned with almost the entire amount.

HomeServices has so far indicated it is committed to fighting on, appealing to the Supreme Court earlier this year and telling RISMedia the company would be offering counter-arguments to the plaintiffs’ request for damages next month.

The judge, Stephen R. Bough, has not yet ruled on the motion, and has also not issued final approval for settlement agreements entered into by NAR, Keller Williams, RE/MAX and Anywhere. A hearing to consider final approval of those settlements is scheduled for May. 

And it is not just the lawyers and judges who have input at this point. The court has received at least two objections from real estate agents, according to public filings, with one person pushing back on NAR policy changes in its settlement—specifically the change disallowing buyer agent compensation offers on the MLS.

Larry Giammo, who identified himself as a real estate agent in the MDVA region, asked if these changes might “constitute an inappropriate and harmful restraint of trade on sellers.”

Another, Jeffery Nordquist, claimed there are differences in the effective dates of settlement agreements, with Keller Williams’ agreement including transactions starting three months later than agreements struck by RE/MAX and Anywhere.

National copycat gets tentative trial date

The largest seller-led commission case, filed by the same plaintiffs who successfully argued Burnett, got a potential schedule this week, with plaintiffs and defendants still wrangling over details but agreeing on a trial for later in 2027.

The suit names eXp, Redfin, Weichert, Douglas Elliman, Howard Hanna and United Real Estate, with plaintiffs attorneys saying explicitly the case was the same as Burnett, but adding all “major” real estate companies. Compass is also named, but would no longer have to fight the case if its settlement is approved.

Plaintiffs and defendants in the case continued to disagree on discovery and pretrial proceedings, with defendants asking for more time to produce documents and other evidence.

REBNY suit paused for settlement talks

Keller Williams and the plaintiffs in a suit known as March v. Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) jointly requested that the lawsuit be stayed, or paused, until courts give a final approval to a settlement agreed to by Keller Williams last month.

While this is not unusual, with other judges and plaintiffs agreeing to pause proceedings in copycat cases while settlements are ruled on, the March case is different because it names NAR-unaffiliated entities. REBNY has operated independently from NAR for decades, in fact, and runs its own listing service with its own rules and rulemaking procedures.

The fact that plaintiffs in this case are willing to pause while the settlement is considered—a settlement based on two cases based on NAR rules and brokerages affiliated with NAR—could indicate these settlements will be applied to the NAR-unaffiliated copycats.

At the same time, though, the plaintiffs in March made sure to stipulate that the pause “does not constitute an admission concerning the applicability” of the settlement to their case.  

March had previously been paused ahead of a judicial panel ruling on consolidating Burnett copycats, with oral arguments in that case scheduled for this week.

Alleged victim of eXp recruiters fires back

In response to arguments put forward by eXp and CEO Glenn Sanford last month, eXp agent Anya Roberts continued to argue that the company and its executives are culpable for alleged sexual assaults committed by top recruiters at company events.

Roberts claims she was drugged and assaulted by two top eXp influencers—David Golden and Michael Bjorkman—back in 2020, and has contended the company is liable based on federal sex trafficking lawsuits, and the unique recruiting relationships eXp builds between agents, influencers and top brass.

A judge in a separate but similar case filed by four other women recently affirmed that the company would have to face these allegations, with a trial set for April 2025. eXp has contended that the facts of Roberts’ case are different, and noted she never tried to report her assault to higher-ups (the other women did, and were asked to sign NDAs or ignored, according to that separate lawsuit).

In her latest filing, Roberts noted that the judge had allowed these claims to go forward in the “identical” filing, and pushed back against Sanford and eXp’s assertion that they had no knowledge of Bjorkman’s and Golden’s abuse. 

“Roberts alleges in her complaint that the eXp defendants had actual and constructive knowledge of Golden’s and Bjorkman’s modus operandi. It is immaterial whether they had specific knowledge of Roberts’ identity,” the filing states.

The judge has not yet ruled on eXp’s motion to dismiss the case.

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