Judge approves NAR settlements after late bid fails

Despite a last-ditch bid to halt settlement proceedings in the NAR commission case, a judge has given his final approval for the settlements to go ahead.

According to Inman, Judge Stephen R. Bough, of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri Western Division, handed down the decision after a fairness hearing in which objectors were given the opportunity to voice their concerns with the deals.

A group of homebuyer plaintiffs had sought to halt the current deal as they were concerned that, should the settlement be accepted, it would hinder their ability to seek further damages from the major players including Anywhere, RE/MAX, and Keller Williams.

However, their request was quickly denied the day prior by District Court Judge Andrea R. Wood, who indicated their concerns could be addressed during the upcoming final approval hearing for home sellers.

The homebuyer plaintiffs in the case, known as Batton 1, filed the motion early Wednesday for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction blocking the proposed settlements.

The plaintiffs argued that if the settlements were approved, it will “irreparably harm homebuyer Plaintiffs and putative class members who both bought and sold homes in two ways.”

First, they wrote, “it improperly enjoins them from continuing to litigate their claims in this case before this Court,” they said. 

It also releases their claims without additional compensation, let alone adequate notice and representation for the unique claims held by homebuyers.

Anywhere and RE/MAX reached the settlements at issue for US$83.5 million and US$55 million, respectively. 

Keller Williams settled on Feb 1 for US$70 million.

Judge Wood said that the goal is to prevent the fairness hearing duly set by the Burnett court from going forward according to that court’s orders. 

“Such extraordinary action would be inappropriate,” Judge Wood said.

The proposed settlements, originating from significant commission-related suits like Sitzer | Burnett and Moehrl, have drawn attention for their potential impact on the sector. 

Keller Williams spokesperson Darryl Frost said they were pleased to hear of the court’s final approval.

“We will continue to focus on what we do best: empowering real estate entrepreneurs so they can deliver exceptional value to their clients,” Mr Frost told Inman.

RE/MAX spokesperson said since entering into the settlement in October 2023, the company has been committed to obtaining final approval and providing releases for all U.S. RE/MAX Broker/Owners and affiliates.

“We are thrilled to be moving forward, maintaining our focus on supporting RE/MAX affiliates and continuing to foster greater transparency in the industry on behalf of homebuyers and sellers,” the spokesman told Inman.

Michael Ketchmark, of Ketchmark & McCreight, lead counsel for the Sitzer | Burnett plaintiffs said the settlement is “awesome news” for home sellers.

“Change is on the way,” Mr Ketchmark said.

“We cannot wait to watch the free market work.”

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