Warren Buffett pulled into commissions case
Illustration by Lanette Behiry/Real Estate News

Commissions case ensnares Warren Buffett 

Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Energy — parent of HomeServices of America — added as a defendant in the Gibson case as filing calls out the billionaire’s actions.

March 4, 2024
2 minutes

With so many major players getting pulled into real estate commission cases, maybe it shouldn't come as a surprise that Warren Buffett is now among them.

In an amended complaint filed in the Gibson case on March 4, Berkshire Hathaway Energy Company was added to the list of defendants. Berkshire Energy owns HomeServices of America, making it one of the largest residential real estate brokerage owners in the U.S.

And Buffett, whose company Berkshire Hathaway owns 92% of Berkshire Hathaway Energy, was cited several times in the amended complaint for his comments about the housing industry and use of his company's name to promote HomeServices.

About this case: The Gibson case was filed in late October, immediately following the Sitzer/Burnett verdict, by the same lawyer and in the same courthouse: the U.S. District Court Western Division of Missouri. Plaintiffs are seeking class action status, and the case is part of a move to consolidate copycat commissions cases.

Other defendants in the Gibson case include the National Association of Realtors, Compass, Inc.; eXp World Holdings; Redfin; Weichert Realtors; United Real Estate and Douglas Elliman.

What the filing — and plaintiffs' attorney — say about Warren Buffett: The complaint alleges that Buffett and the company developed a plan to take a piece of that home equity "out of the pocket of its rightful owners," by using the MLS system to keep commissions inflated.

The amended complaint also discussed Buffett's close ties to Greg Abel, who was involved in the purchase of HomeServices. Abel is expected to replace Buffett as the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway. Abel, according to the court documents, routinely has strategy and discussion meetings with Gino Blefari, president and CEO of HomeServices.

"What we're trying to show is that this isn't an isolated event in some corporate office. This goes to the top of Berkshire Hathaway," Michael Ketchmark, an attorney for the plaintiffs, told the Wall Street Journal.

The Wall Street Journal article noted that this could be a strategy "to move beyond NAR's more limited financial resources and tap Berkshire's deep pockets."

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