MLS PIN settlement approved by judge after initial concerns
The $3 million settlement in the buyer-broker commissions lawsuit will now move forward following updates to the terms of the agreement.
- In addition to paying monetary damages, MLS PIN will eliminate its requirement that sellers must offer compensation to buyer-brokers.
- The other defendants in the case, including Anywhere, RE/MAX and Keller Williams, have not settled.
- This settlement could influence similar lawsuits currently making their way through the courts.
After initially questioning the settlement pay structure, a Massachusetts district judge has signed off on a preliminary settlement plan in a buyer agent commissions lawsuit.
U.S. District Court Judge Patti Saris has approved a settlement agreement between MLS Property Information Network (MLS PIN) and the plaintiffs in the class action, which is led by home sellers Jennifer Nosalek, Randy Hirschorn and Tracey Hirschorn.
The settlement agreement, originally filed in July, requires MLS PIN to pay $3 million and change its rules surrounding buyer-broker compensation.
Specific rule changes agreed to by MLS PIN include eliminating a mandatory offer of compensation from the seller to the buyer-broker, requiring listing agents to notify their sellers that such compensation is not required, and making it clear that any compensation offered by the seller to the buyer-broker can be negotiated among all parties.
Judge Saris had expressed skepticism of the monetary settlement terms, which involve setting aside a large portion of the funds to pay the plaintiffs' attorneys for anticipated future work.
In response, attorneys for the plaintiffs submitted proposed changes to the payment structure on Sept. 5, establishing a fund for the proceeds in an interest-bearing account until the end of the case, "at which time Plaintiffs shall file a motion with the Court seeking an appropriate disposition of the balance of the Settlement Fund," according to court documents. That appeared to satisfy Judge Saris, who has now given preliminary approval of the settlement.
While this closes a chapter for MLS PIN, the court case will continue against several other defendants who have not yet settled with the plaintiffs, including Anywhere Real Estate, HomeServices of America, RE/MAX and Keller Williams. Earlier this month, Anywhere reached settlement agreements in similar buyer-broker class actions, Moehrl and Sitzer/Burnett, but have not announced an intention to settle in the Nosalek case.
The National Association of Realtors is not a defendant in Nosalek. Since MLS PIN follows many of the same rules as the national association, however, the settlement could influence the outcome for NAR in the Moehrl and Sitzer/Burnett cases, where it is a named defendant.
"This settlement has nothing to do legally with the Moehrl and Sitzer case, but it will certainly be brought up as evidence in the trial," said Russ Cofano, CEO of Collabra Technology, when the settlement was first announced. Cofano also has served as an attorney and industry legal counsel.