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NAR sues DOJ after the department withdraws from antitrust settlement

by John Yellig

The National Association of Realtors filed a petition to quash a request by the Department of Justice to withdraw from a proposed antitrust settlement it entered into in November 2020.

The Justice Department is “trying to back out of its agreed-upon obligations,” NAR said in a press release

“By its action, the DOJ thinks it should be free to reconsider the terms of an agreement at any time, for any reason — or no reason at all,” NAR President Charlie Oppler said. “If that view prevails, it would undermine the strong public policy in favor of upholding settlement agreements and public confidence that the government will keep its word in future cases.”

The department’s original complaint against NAR, filed Nov. 19, 2020, alleges that the association enforced rules and policies that illegally hampered competition in residential real estate services. In withdrawing from the settlement agreement with NAR in July, the DOJ said that its antitrust division was doing so because the agreement would not do enough to protect its ability to investigate other NAR conduct affecting competition in the real estate market.

The DOJ said it tried and failed to reach an agreement with NAR to modify the settlement to preserve its right to investigate and challenge other conduct by the association. Withdrawing from the agreement preserves the department’s ability to enforce antitrust laws, the DOJ said.

The NAR said that its guidance for local broker organizations has “long been” recognized for ensuring fair and competitive real estate markets for home buyers and sellers and that having the listing broker pay the buyer broker’s commission increases competition by allowing small brokerages to compete on a level playing field with larger competitors. It also promotes equitable homeownership opportunities for all consumers, the association said in its release.

 

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