MLS PIN deal delayed after DOJ raises ‘significant concerns’
This is the second time the settlement agreement reached by MLS PIN in the Massachusetts buyer-broker commissions lawsuit has come under fire.
- The judge approved the extension on Oct. 3, pushing the final approval hearing to March 7, 2024.
- The DOJ filing focuses on competition and not damages, which are proposed at $3 million.
- The plaintiffs had argued that the DOJ failed to identify specific issues with the settlement.
A key settlement agreement in a buyer commissions lawsuit has hit another snag, with the federal government raising "significant concerns."
On Oct. 3, attorneys for the plaintiffs — Massachusetts home sellers — and the U.S. Department of Justice agreed on a two-month extension of the $3 million settlement proposal with MLS Property Information Network (PIN). The extension received the approval of U.S. District Judge Patti Saris.
The DOJ had requested the extension last week, filing a "statement of interest" on Sept. 28.
"The United States has significant concerns with the planned rule changes under the proposed settlement," according to the filing, adding that merely tweaking a buyer-broker commission rule to allow zero-percent commissions does little to make the market more competitive.
The filing does not address the damage award amount, which is proposed to be $3 million.
The plaintiffs in the case had opposed the motion to extend the deadlines, saying the DOJ has been unable to articulate any specific weaknesses in the proposed settlement.
This is the second time the settlement has come into question. Judge Saris had previously expressed skepticism over the terms and asked the parties to revisit the agreement, but ultimately approved it last month.
There are now five deadlines that need to be met in the coming months, with the final approval hearing scheduled for March 7, 2024. Previously that hearing was set for Jan. 4, 2024.
While a victory for the DOJ, it cannot "unilaterally request" any additional extensions of the deadlines in place. According to the agreement, the plaintiffs and DOJ can jointly request additional extensions "should they mutually believe such a further extension is warranted."
How this case fits in the larger picture of commissions lawsuits
Known as the Nosalek case, the lawsuit is one of several ongoing cases — including the Moehrl and Sitzer/Burnett cases — challenging the current system of buyer-broker commissions. MLS PIN, which serves much of Massachusetts, along with several brokerage companies, is being sued by home sellers who object to rules that force them to pay buyer agent commissions.
In June, the plaintiffs agreed to a settlement with MLS PIN which included damages and an agreement by the MLS to change how it handled buyer-broker commissions.
The plaintiffs have not yet settled with the other defendants, including Anywhere Real Estate, HomeServices of America, RE/MAX and Keller Williams.
The National Association of Realtors is not a defendant in this case, however the settlement could influence the outcome for NAR in the Moehrl and Burnett/Sitzer cases because MLS PIN has a similar policy when it comes to buyer agent commissions.