Kansas City, MO- The jury in the case that has become known as the “Sitzer Burnett” case has issued a verdict against the National Association of Realtors (NAR), Keller Williams, Anywhere (formerly Realogy, which owns Coldwell Banker, ERA, Century 21 and others), Home Services of America and two of its subsidiaries HSF Affiliates and BHH Affiliates (Berkshire Hathaway Homes Services) alleging that the nation’s largest real estate companies conspired to inflate real estate commissions.
After only 2.5 hours of deliberation on Tuesday morning, the eight-member jury reached a unanimous decision. In the class action lawsuit, the jurors were asked to determine whether home seller plaintiffs had established “by a preponderance of the evidence that a conspiracy existed to follow and enforce” a cooperative compensation rule, which is one of the NAR’s four relevant rules pertaining to multiple listing services in Missouri between April 29, 2015, and June 30, 2022. NAR refers to the rule as the “cooperative compensation rule.
Almost 500,000 home sellers in Missouri were seeking reimbursements for $1.78 billion in commissions paid to buyer brokers by sellers. The jury awarded $1,785,310,872 in damages. Real estate law in Missouri triples that penalty to $5.356 billion dollars that is owed by the groups.
Another anti-trust trial known as “Moehrl vs NAR” will get underway in February 2024 if the current schedule is held. That could be another big payout for those involved.
The cooperative compensation rule, sometimes known as the Participation Rule, requires listing brokers to offer compensation to buyer brokers in order to submit listings to the Realtor-affiliated Multiple Listing Service (MLS).
Plaintiff attorney Michael Ketchmark of Ketchmark and McCreight told jurors that the plaintiffs were not blaming real estate agents in the conspiracy to pay commissions to buyers agents during his rebuttal. “Did I ever say at one time that 1.6 million Realtors are part of this conspiracy? It’s a deliberate attempt to confuse you.”
Previously, Anywhere settled in the case for $83.5 million, and Remax settled for $55 million. Those seem like bargains compared to the 5.356 billion at this point.
There is likely to be an appeal filed. Appeal or not, major changes are coming to the way real estate agents do business.