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DOJ still not satisfied with proposed MLS PIN settlement 

The Department of Justice has inserted itself — again — in the Nosalek buyer-broker commissions case ahead of final settlement approval.

Updated December 20, 2023
2 minutes

The Department of Justice remains dissatisfied with a proposed settlement reached by MLS PIN in an antitrust case brought by Massachusetts home sellers — a sign that it may be pushing for further changes to compensation practices.

The details: In a letter submitted to the court on Dec. 18, DOJ attorney Jessica Leal said that while the amended settlement proposal includes some desired changes, "the Department of Justice continues to have concerns with the proposed settlement." 

Leal said that if the court wants to hear the concerns, the DOJ would like to have until Feb. 15 to submit additional statement of interest documents. The one-page letter did not specify what aspects of the settlement concerned the DOJ. U.S. District Court Judge Patti Saris approved the request on Dec. 19.

The DOJ raised "significant concerns" about the proposed settlement earlier this year, filing a statement of interest on Sept. 28, saying that merely tweaking a buyer-broker commission rule to allow 0% commissions does little to make the market more competitive. Previously, the district judge overseeing the case had also asked the parties to take another look at the settlement terms but subsequently signed off on the agreement.

What this case is about: Known as the Nosalek case and filed in 2020, the lawsuit is one of several ongoing cases challenging the current system of buyer-broker commissions. MLS PIN, which serves much of Massachusetts, along with several brokerage companies, was sued by home sellers who object to rules that force them to pay buyer agent commissions. 

Before the DOJ notified the court of its continuing concerns, final approval of the MLS PIN settlement was expected next spring.

The plaintiffs in the case have also come to an agreement with RE/MAX and Anywhere, who were named in Nosalek and sought to fold the Massachusetts case into their settlements in the Sitzer/Burnett and Moehrl lawsuits. HomeServices of America and Keller Williams are the remaining defendants in Nosalek and have not yet settled.

The impact: The DOJ may be hoping to push for more substantial, industry-wide changes to the buyer agent commission system. Earlier this month, the DOJ asked the U.S. Court of Appeals to reopen its antitrust case against the National Association of Realtors. That case was originally settled in 2020.

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