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CHANGING TIDES: Summary and Effects of Burnett et. al. v. National Ass’n of Realtors, et. al.

Client Alert

In April 2019, a class-action Complaint was filed in federal court for the Western District Court for Missouri arguing that the traditional payment agreements employed by many across the United States amounted to conspiracy resulting in the artificial increase in brokerage commissions. Plaintiffs, a class-action group comprised of sellers, argued that they paid excessive brokerage commissions upon the sale of their home as a result of the customary payment structure where Sellers agree to pay the full commission on the sale of their property, with Seller’s agent notating the portion of commission they are willing to pay to a Buyer’s agent at closing on the MLS or other similar system.

The Plaintiffs argument pivoted on the requirement that the National Association of Realtors (“NAR”) requires that agents could only list properties for sale if they provided the commission for Buyer as a percentage of the gross sale price of the property.  No provision or exception is allowed for Sellers or Seller’s agents willing to pay a flat fee to a Buyer’s agent, for Buyer’s paying their realtor’s commission, or for any other variation in the payment structure.

Like many markets throughout the United States, the Sellers lived in areas where the compensation for Buyers’ agents is solely derived based on the commission from the properties buyers actually purchase. As such, it behooves them to show only those properties that offer better commission to the buyers. Additionally, realtors agree that they cannot attempt to negotiate or modify commission arrangements through the purchase-sale contract. The Plaintiffs contended, while sellers are still able to negotiate the percentage commission in theory, any attempt to meaningfully do so could significantly undermine the seller’s effort as it can affect whether their property is presented to Buyers and artificially restraining price competition among real estate brokerages.

Re/Max Holdings, Inc., one of the defendants, ultimately entered into a settlement agreement for $55 million, and they further agreed to change their business practices to no longer require their agents to be members of NAR nor have minimum commission requirements. Anywhere Real Estate Inc. (parent company for Better Homes and Garden Real Estate, Century 21, Coldwell Bank Realty, Corcoran, and Sotheby’s International Realty) was another defendant in the case. They entered into a $83.5 million settlement that also prohibits them and their brokerages from sorting home listings by commission amount unless requested by the client.

On October 31, 2023, the National Association of Realtors, HomeServices of America, Inc., and Keller Williams Realty, Inc. received a verdict against them for $5.6 Billion.  The case has created additional ripple effects as at least 11 different suits have been filed in courts across the nation, including Florida, New York, Texas, Illinois, and Pennsylvania. Additionally, the Justice Department argued to re-open its investigation against the National Association of Realtors in front of an appellate court panel in Washington DC in mid-December 2023.

Even though it may be years before the Burnett verdict or any of the new cases result in a systemic change in the payment system for realtors, the landscape of real estate sales and commissions is already shifting as a result of these cases.  Immediate effects include the changes in policies that Re/Max and Anywhere’s brokerage have agreed to as part of their settlement agreement; RedFin requiring its brokers and agents to withdraw from NAR; and, the “clarification” released from NAR that brokers can list commissions at any amount, including $0. While some realtor boards are changing its policies, including the Real Estate Board of New York and Miami Association of Realtors, 2024 will likely see additional changes once the judge’s order detailing what injunctive relief he is granting is released and takes effect, expected no sooner than April 2024.

For more information, please contact BMD Senior Counsel Audrey Wanich at aswanich@bmdpl.com.


The Ohio State University Launches Its Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program

In response to Ohio’s nursing shortage, The Ohio State University College of Nursing is accepting applications for its new Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program (aBSN). Created for students with a bachelor’s degree in non-nursing fields, the aBSN allows such students to obtain their nursing degree within 18 months. All aBSN students will participate in high-quality coursework and gain valuable clinical experience. Upon completion of the program, graduates will be eligible to take the State Board, National Council of Licensure Exam for Registered Nursing (NCLEX-RN).

Another Transparency Obligation: The FinCEN Beneficial Ownership Information Reporting Requirements

Many physician practices and healthcare businesses are facing a new set of federal transparency requirements that require action now. The U.S. Department of Treasury Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”) Beneficial Ownership Information Reporting Requirements (the “Rule”), which was promulgated pursuant to the 2021 bipartisan Corporate Transparency Act, is intended to help curb illegal finance and other impermissible activity in the United States.

“In for a Penny, in for a Pound” is No Longer the Case for Florida Lawyers

On April 1, 2024, newly adopted Rule 1.041 to the Florida Rules of Civil Procedures goes into effect which creates a procedure for an attorney to appear in a limited manner in civil proceedings.  Currently, when a Florida attorney appears in a civil proceeding, he or she is reasonable for handling all aspects of the case for their client.  This new rule authorizes an attorney to file a notice limiting the attorney’s appearance to particular proceedings or specified matters prior to any appearance before the court.  For example, an attorney can now appear for the limited purpose of filing and arguing a motion to dismiss.  Once the motion to dismiss is heard by the court, the attorney may file a notice of termination of limited appearance and will have no further obligations in the case.

Enhancing Privacy Protections for Substance Use Disorder Patient Records

On February 8, 2024, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) finalized updated rules to 42 CFR Part 2 (“Part 2”) for the protection of Substance Use Disorder (“SUD”) patient records. The updated rules reflect the requirement that the Part 2 rules be more closely aligned with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”) privacy, breach notification, and enforcement rules as mandated by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act of 2020.

Columbus, Ohio Ordinance Prohibits Employers from Inquiries into an Applicant’s Salary History

Effective March 1, 2024, Columbus employers are prohibited from inquiring into an applicant’s salary history. Specifically, the ordinance provides that it is an unlawful discriminatory practice to: