Missouri Judge Approves First Wave Of Settlements Over Real Estate Commissions

Missouri Real Estate Commissions

A U.S. judge in Missouri, Stephen Bough, approved $208 million in consumer antitrust settlements with Re/Max and two other leading real estate brokerages.

He cast aside objections claiming the deals could bar others from pursuing their own claims that the defendants inflated home sales commissions.

U.S. District Judge Stephen Bough in Kansas City stated that the “miniscule” number of objections were not enough to derail the settlements with Anywhere Real Estate (HOUS.N), Keller Williams, and Re/Max (RMAX.N).

The three brokerages became the first to settle claims by home sellers earlier this year. These claims alleged they conspired to inflate the commission sellers pay to buyers’ agents as part of a home sale. Longstanding industry rules mandated home sellers to pay a commission to buyers’ agents to list their homes on a “multiple listing service,” the regional databases brokers use to sell most homes in the United States.

Anywhere, Re/Max, and Keller Williams, in statements, welcomed the court’s order, which they said would allow them to focus on their businesses. The companies have denied any wrongdoing.

Bough mentioned that nearly 200,000 claims were submitted by May 2 seeking compensation from the settlement. So far, he stated, 61 class members have opted out and could pursue individual claims.

Nationwide settlements

The judge disputed one objection claiming the settlements did not go far enough, and he defended the scope of the deals. He said the nationwide settlements would minimize “protracted and costly piecemeal litigation.”

The settling brokerages would not have resolved claims “on anything less than a nationwide basis because doing so would have left them exposed to potentially crippling liability,” the court wrote.

Attorneys for home buyers in related antitrust litigation in Chicago, who had objected to the deals, declined to comment. They had argued that the settlements could unfairly sideline some of their claims.

A jury in Bough’s court last fall found another group of brokers liable for conspiring with the National Association of Realtors to inflate broker commissions.

The panel awarded nearly $1.8 billion, but all of the defendants, including the realtors group and Berkshire Hathaway (BRKa.N) unit HomeServices, subsequently reached deals for far lesser amounts.

The court has not yet given final approval to those settlements.