NAR, Justice Department Reach Settlement in Broker-Related Antitrust Suit

Washington, D.C.–The National Association of Realtors and the Justice Department reached a settlement Tuesday in an antitrust case dating back to 2005, the New York Times reported Wednesday.The settlement could reduce large sales commissions by allowing Internet brokers to compete more fairly with non-Internet-based brokers by using multiple listing services, according to government officials.In 2005, the Justice Department alleged that the National Association of Realtors’ policies were hurting broker competition and sued the NAR in federal court on antitrust grounds, the Times said.The National Association of Realtors–which said it did not pay fines or damages or admit any wrongdoing in the deal–called the settlement “a win-win” for the real estate industry and home buyers and sellers. Laurie Janik, NAR’s general counsel, said that the lawsuit and settlement arose from misunderstandings about how the NAR operates.Internet-based brokers have become a popular substitute for standard brokers since the 1990s; but online brokers have complained that the real estate industry hasn’t allowed them to fully use the multiple listing services to judge which homes are for sale.The new deal forbids the NAR from treating online brokers and standard brokers differently or excluding online brokers from membership to the listing service.A federal judge must now approve the agreement, which the Times said would most likely happen this summer.