Real estate giant Anywhere has reached a settlement agreement in two of the major class action antitrust lawsuits facing the housing industry.
According to court documents filed on Tuesday, Anywhere Real Estate and the home sellers suing the firm in both the Moehrl and Sitzer/Burnett cases, which both deal with buyer brokers’ commissions, have reached a preliminary settlement agreement, settling all claims in both suits. Before the agreements are finalized they must be approved by the U.S. District Court judges in Illinois (Moehrl) and Missouri (Sitzer/Burnett), who are overseeing the two lawsuits.
No details about either agreement were disclosed in the filings, but attorneys for the plaintiffs in the Moehrl lawsuit told HousingWire the agreement for both lawsuits was a total of $83.5 million, as the two plaintiff classes negotiated the settlement together.
“The monetary settlement was the most that could be obtained in light of Anywhere’s available financial resources. Critically, the settlement includes significant changes to Anywhere’s practices relating to the conduct that we have challenged,” Steve Berman, the managing partner and co-founder of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapirio LLP, wrote in an email. “Our antitrust team looks forward to continuing to pursue additional relief against remaining defendants for those who have been systematically overcharged for simply selling their homes in an already unstable housing market.”
Anywhere asked the court the firm be excused from the pretrial conference on the Sitzer/Burnett suit, scheduled for this coming Friday. The Sitzer/Burnett suit is slated to head to trial on October 16, 2023.
A trial date has yet to be set for the Moehrl lawsuit.
“We are pleased that Anywhere has reached a nationwide settlement with the plaintiffs in the Burnett and Moerhl lawsuits,” an Anywhere spokesperson wrote in an email. “The path to obtain final approval and implement the settlement is a long one, and Anywhere has taken the first important step toward a resolution that not only releases the company but also our affiliated agents and franchisees. We believe the settlement will remove future uncertainty with respect to the upcoming trial, potential additional claims, and legal expense, enabling Anywhere to focus on and continue delivering what’s next for agents and franchisees. Given ongoing legal proceedings and confidentiality agreements between parties, we cannot comment further at this time.”
The two lawsuits take aim at NAR’s Participation Rule, which requires listing agents to make a blanket offer of compensation to buyers’ agents in order to list the property on a realtor-affiliated multiple listing service (MLS). According to the plaintiffs, commission sharing inflates the costs for consumers, in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act. NAR contends that the current commission structure, which has been in place for over 100 years, actually helps consumers.
Damages in the Sitzer/Burnett suit are anticipated to be up to $4 billion, while damages in the Moehrl suit are expected to reach up to $40 billion.
The other defendants in the suits have yet to file settlement agreements.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs in the Moehrl suit did not return a request for comment.