This month the National Association of Realtors made a major move in its ongoing litigation with the Department of Justice. The NAR filed a petition to quash a request by the Department of Justice to withdraw its consent to a previously agreed upon settlement agreement; the previous agreement was approved by the DOJ in November 2020. The November 2020 settlement called for some changes to how multiple listing services display information that a buyer's agent will receive (which the NAR states is already in the spirit of its code of ethics).
Note:A motion to quash is a request to a court or other tribunal to render a previous decision or proceeding null, void, or invalid.
The NAR agreed to make the amount of compensation offered to buyers' agents for each MLS listing publicly available. The publicly accessible data feed will include public information such as offers of compensation, and buyers' agents will have an affirmative obligation to provide such information to their clients for homes of interest. The purpose of the agreement was to help ensure that the real estate market is competitive for both buyers and sellers, and the NAR has already begun to implement the terms of the agreement.
As a result of the reached settlement agreement, the DOJ voluntarily withdrew its action in federal court that claimed the NAR had policies and practices that illegally placed restraints on competition in the residential real estate industry.
As of today, the aforementioned agreement is old news. The DOJ withdrew its consent to the settlement agreement because the DOJ believes that such Trump-era settlement agreements block the agency's ability to investigate other conduct of the NAR that could impact competition and ultimately affect both buyers and sellers.
As a result of this move by the DOJ, the NAR filed a motion to quash, and now we wait on the court to rule. Given the new court filings, things may change in the world of multiple listing services.
What will the next steps be?
So far, the NAR and the DOJ have to wait for the federal courts to decide on its motion to quash. The NAR is hopeful that the DOJ will honor the terms of the November 2020 agreement, which it states is fully binding. In the meantime, the NAR has promised to maintain its commitment to act in the best interests of both the buyers and sellers. This a commitment that the DOJ seems to be standing by, which prompted the agency to withdraw its consent to the settlement agreement.
Millionacres bottom line
When we get to the bottom of it, it seems that both entities have the interest of both buyers and sellers at heart. Unfortunately, the public will have to wait until the conclusion of the litigation or investigation to decide exactly which entity's words and actions are aligned.