Anywhere Real Estate, which owns and franchises several real estate brands and brokerages, among other services, reached a settlement with plaintiffs in two antitrust lawsuits: Moehrl v. National Association of Realtors and Burnett v. NAR. The cases, in which the home sellers were suing Anywhere (formerly Realogy), as a co-conspirator to NAR’s practices, centers upon buyer agent commissions.
On Tuesday, a notice was filed with the court that reads: “Plaintiffs have reached an agreement with Anywhere to settle all claims asserted against Anywhere in this action as part of a proposed nationwide class settlement.”
Still, although they’ve reached a preliminary agreement to settle, the courts hearing the cases must approve the agreement. Attorneys for the plaintiffs in the Moehrl lawsuit told Inman (a news source for real estate agents, brokers, and executives) and HousingWire that the agreement for both lawsuits was a total of $83.5 million and were negotiated together—that figure does not appear in the notice filed with the court and was not confirmed to Fortune. Nevertheless, the trials will move forward, as Anywhere was just one of several defendants listed in the two lawsuits.
“This settlement is a significant milestone in this case against the National Association of Realtors and the Nation’s four largest real estate brokerages,” Steve Berman, the attorney for the Moehrl plaintiffs, wrote in a statement shared with Fortune. “The monetary settlement was the most that could be obtained in light of Anywhere’s available financial resources. Critically, the settlement includes significant changes to Anywhere’s practices relating to the conduct that we have challenged. Our antitrust team looks forward to continuing to pursue additional relief against remaining defendants for those who have been systematically overcharged for simply selling their homes in an already unstable housing market.”
It seems as though Anywhere, the parent company of Century21, Coldwell Banker, Sotheby’s International Realty, and Corcoran, is equally touting its move to settle. Anywhere Real Estate is No. 517 on the Fortune 1000 list.
“We are pleased that Anywhere has reached a nationwide settlement with the plaintiffs in the Burnett and Moerhl lawsuits,” the company said in an emailed statement to Fortune. “The path to obtain final approval and implement the settlement is a long one, and Anywhere has taken the first important step toward a resolution that not only releases the company but also our affiliated agents and franchisees. We believe the settlement will remove future uncertainty with respect to the upcoming trial, potential additional claims, and legal expense, enabling Anywhere to focus on and continue delivering what’s next for agents and franchisees. Given ongoing legal proceedings and confidentiality agreements between parties, we cannot comment further at this time.”
The two cases are similar; the plaintiffs for both allege that the National Association of Realtors and others created and implemented anticompetitive rules, requiring home sellers to pay commission to the broker representing the home buyer, when listing their homes on the local database of properties for sale known as a Multiple Listing Service (MLS).
In their class action complaint, the plaintiffs in Burnett v. NAR claimed that the defendants “conspired to require home sellers to pay the broker representing the buyer of their homes, and to pay an inflated amount, in violation of federal antitrust law, the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act (“MMPA”), and the Missouri Antitrust Law, Mo. Rev. Stat. § 416.031.”
In Moehrl v. National Association of Realtors, the plaintiffs allege “the requirement that a home seller make a blanket offer of compensation to buyer brokers to list a home on an MLS (along with other NAR rules) is anticompetitive and caused them to pay artificially inflated, supracompetitive buyer-broker commissions when they sold their homes.”
Although, unlike Anywhere, the National Association of Realtors does not seem poised to settle. In an emailed statement to Fortune, it said that settlement is always an option for any party in litigation, but it wasn’t how NAR intended to move forward.
“NAR’s commitment to defend ourselves in court remains unchanged and we are confident we will prevail in proving the lawfulness of the rules under attack,” vice president of communications, Mantill Williams, said. “Pro-competitive, pro-consumer local MLS broker marketplaces ensure equity, efficiency, transparency and market-driven pricing options for home buyers and sellers. The practice of the listing broker paying the buyer broker’s compensation saves sellers time and money by having so many buyer brokers participating in that local marketplace and thus creates a larger pool of buyers for sellers…We look forward to arguing our case in court.”