MLS PIN logo and Department of Justice seal with a gavel and scales of justice
Illustration by Lanette Behiry/Real Estate News

Judge issues stay in MLS PIN case 

The plaintiffs argued that the proceedings should move forward, but the DOJ wants to delay approval of the deal — and the judge appears to have been swayed.

Updated June 25, 2024
3 minutes

The U.S. Department of Justice still isn't satisfied with the terms of the MLS PIN settlement, but a timeline for hashing out the details is emerging.

What's happening: In a joint statement filed June 21 in a Massachusetts U.S. District Court, it was clear that the settling parties and the DOJ don't yet see eye-to-eye on the MLS PIN settlement reached last year or agree on how long the process should take.

The filing follows several previous objections made by the DOJ, including a statement of interest submitted by the agency in February that was highly critical of the agreement.

The judge now appears to have been convinced by the DOJ's arguments. 

What the settling parties said: The parties in the Nosalek case stated in the June 21 filing that the proposed agreement should move forward because it "does not preclude the Department (DOJ) from seeking additional relief as it sees fit," noting that government entities are excluded from the settlement class.

MLS PIN previously filed a brief on June 10 arguing that the DOJ should not be involved in the case, and that if it wants to pursue policy changes, it should do so through the legislature. 

What the DOJ said: The DOJ, however, argued to delay the final hearing, contending that the amended settlement "raises serious antitrust concerns and may independently violate the law," according to court documents. 

In the joint statement, the DOJ said it remains concerned that the Nosalek class members are not getting a fair deal. It also said the review process is now being frontloaded, with the settling parties asking the DOJ for statements before preliminary approval of the policy changes has been granted.

"If the parties want to solicit and litigate the United States' position on the revised settlement agreement at the preliminary approval stage… the United States needs sufficient time to review the parties' agreement and formulate a response," the DOJ indicated.

Decision update: In a June 24 filing, Judge Patti Saris ruled that the case is now stayed until after Judge Stephen Bough rules on the final approval of the $418 million NAR settlement. Saris also ruled that the parties will submit the preliminary settlement approval within 30 days of that ruling, and the DOJ will then have 90 days to review it.

Where the NAR settlement fits in: The DOJ has asked the court to stay the MLS PIN settlement until after Judge Stephen Bough decides whether to finalize the separate $418 million NAR settlement in Sitzer/Burnett. That final approval hearing is scheduled for Nov. 26 in Missouri.

Interestingly, the Nosalek plaintiffs said in the court filing that they asked the DOJ to take a position on the NAR settlement, but were refused — creating an additional degree of uncertainty for the settling parties.

What were the original settlement terms? In its June 2023 settlement, MLS PIN agreed to pay $3 million in damages and change its rules surrounding buyer-broker compensation.

The settlement, which was expected to be finalized this spring, was contested by the DOJ, which said the proposed compensation rule changes were insufficient. 

In revised statements, the settling parties have removed specific rule changes, instead proposing a general prohibition of sellers being forced to offer compensation.

The original defendants in the case were MLS PIN, Anywhere, RE/MAX, Keller Williams and HomeServices of America. All of the brokerage defendants have subsequently reached settlement agreements.

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