Amidst ongoing lawsuits countrywide surrounding the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) and large brokerages, many have sided with NAR as pro-consolidation these past couple of weeks, and some companies for the first time—hoping for the implementation of 19 commission-related class-action suits into a single district. This remains a top priority for NAR, with eyes still on Chicago for the host venue.
As previously reported by RISMedia, each lawsuit is grounded in mostly identical claims, that NAR, local real estate organizations, MLSs and big brokerages inflated commissions—violating state and federal antitrust laws. The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Legislation (MDL) will make the final conclusion in combining these cases, or not.
Some defendants in the suit do have their own unique perspective; however, while supporting consolidation, pushed for cases to be in districts of their liking based on alleged efficiencies and other factors.
The Real Brokerage, for example, “take no position on centralization of the nine actions identified in Movants’ motion,” but “If the Panel decides that centralization is warranted, the REAL Defendants respectfully submit that the Actions should be transferred to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, or, in the alternative, the Eastern District of Texas, for the reasons set forth in defendant National Association of REALTORS®’ response.”
They declined to comment.
Brokerages that have sided with NAR in support of case consolidation come from the likes of @properties, who also declined to comment, Redfin, who referred to their company’s court filings, and Weichert REALTORS®, who did not respond to requests for comment.
In court filings, @properties vowed partnership to NAR’s stance. “Specifically, for the reasons stated in NAR’s Response, the Undersigned Defendants support the centralization of the related actions…in the Northern District of Illinois. The Undersigned Defendants hereby incorporate the arguments of NAR’s Response as though fully stated herein.”
Two brokerages have been vocal in opposing consolidation: Keller Williams and HomeServices.
Chris Kelly, executive vice president of HomeServices of America, noted that if these cases were to be consolidated, HomeServices has asked for oral arguments before the MDL panel to present positions surrounding consolidation and the best site for a multidistrict litigation outside of the plaintiffs’ requested location—the Western District of Missouri.
“First, the Plaintiffs’ centralization request seeks to consolidate 214 defendants named in 14 different cases. Importantly, the majority of these defendants (93.9%) have only been sued in a single judicial district,” said Kelly. “Each defendant faces unique conspiracy allegations, and the required discovery to establish their individual involvement and the alleged impact on local residential real estate markets is substantial. Consolidation could, in fact, magnify the costs and burdens of defense across the cases.
“Second,” Kelly continued, “certain aspects of common discovery, such as information related to the rules of the National Association of REALTORS®, have already been gathered in the Burnett and Moehrl cases. These findings can be efficiently shared without the need for consolidation.”
Previously, Keller Williams has pushed back against the lawsuits. After a recent settlement agreement was reached in the Burnett class-action case for $70 million, Gary Keller, executive chairman said in a statement, “But we also knew the appellate process could be long and unpredictable—and that our franchisees and agents would have no protection and complete uncertainty while that process played out over time. Our Keller Williams family needs and deserves protection now, not later.”
A decision by the MDL is expected in the coming months. Two commission cases recently consolidated in the Northern District of Illinois under Judge Wood in an unrelated agreement among parties.