The National Association of Realtors (NAR) was found guilty by a jury in Kansas City of artificially maintaining high commission rates through its Clear Cooperation Rule.
The trade group, along with co-defendants HomeServices of America and Keller Williams, were ordered to pay $1.78 billion in damages in guilty in the Sitzer/Burnett case, which involved Missouri home sellers who claimed NAR and the two brokerages forced them to pay a commission that was split between buyer and seller agents. The class action, filed in U.S. District Court, represented roughly 500,000 Missouri home sellers and covered transactions between 2015 and 2022.
The verdict concludes a case that was first filed four years ago. A similar lawsuit filed in Illinois against NAR is scheduled to be heard early next year.
Prior to the verdict, NAR Chief Legal Office Katie Johnson alleged the sellers’ attorneys were “mischaracterizing our rules and do not understand how the rules work themselves. And then the practice of cooperation between real estate professionals has contributed to this efficient pro-consumer model that we have and have had for 100 years for transacting real estate in America.”
Keller Williams issued a statement that said: “The Sitzer-Burnett case was a civil matter, not a criminal one. It is not correct to state that any defendant was found guilty. Keller Williams and the other co-defendants are not facing criminal penalties. Rather, the jury’s verdict imposed civil liability for breaches of Missouri antitrust laws — a result we vehemently disagree and are pursuing all avenues to appeal. Keller Williams followed the law regarding cooperative compensation and stands by the evidence presented on the 100-year-old practice of sellers’ agents offering commissions to other agents.”