Indications Lean Towards DOJ in NAR Legal Battle: Insights from Appellate Court’s Oral Arguments

In yet another pivotal moment for the real estate industry, oral arguments were made yesterday before a three-judge panel at the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in the ongoing battle between the National Association of REALTORS (NAR) and the Department of Justice (DOJ).   The panel, consisting of Circuit Judges Henderson, Walker, and Pan, will now deliberate and make a ruling in the future, a decision that could significantly impact the industry.

The case centers on NAR’s attempt to prevent the DOJ from reopening an investigation into the organization’s commission-sharing policies. The dispute revolves around a 2020 closure agreement, which NAR interprets as barring any future investigations. However, this interpretation faced scrutiny from the judges, particularly Judge Florence Pan, who questioned the permanence of the agreement.

Representing the DOJ, Frederick Liu argued that there was never an intention to indefinitely halt the investigation. He emphasized that during the negotiation process, the DOJ’s antitrust division did not make explicit commitments to end the probe permanently.

This legal showdown is crucial for NAR, an association with more than 1.5 million members. Just last month, NAR, along with other defendants, lost a nearly $1.8 Billion anti-trust lawsuit here in Missouri (Sitzer v NAR) and NAR is currently facing multiple other antitrust lawsuits, including a substantial class-action suit in Illinois, potentially leading to damages of $40 billion.

NAR’s attorney, Christopher Michel, stressed the significance of the closure agreement, arguing that reopening the investigation would render it meaningless. Judge Justin Walker, however, highlighted the inherent risk NAR took in depending on the continuity of the DOJ’s personnel after the election.

The decision by this appellate court will be closely watched, as it could herald significant changes in how real estate transactions are conducted, affecting agents, buyers, and sellers alike. Stay updated with St Louis Real Estate News for the latest on this critical legal development.


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