The Department of Justice recently sent a letter to CoreLogic requesting access to its MLS data regarding buyer broker compensation, a clear sign that the federal authorities are actively investigating allegations of antitrust violations among multiple listing service providers.
The DOJ’s letter follows two class-action lawsuits recently filed against the National Association of Realtors and brokerages, including Realogy, HomeServices of America, RE/MAX and Keller Williams, that center around the practice of requiring that a buyer’s broker be compensated in a home-sale transaction.
Both suits allege that NAR and the MLS providers conspired to drive up seller costs and reduce competition by requiring a home seller to pay compensation to the buyer’s broker, even though their involvement in the transaction is minimal.
For its part, NAR has said that it has no role in determining the buyer broker’s fee and has promised to fight the allegations, calling them “baseless” and full of “an abundance of false claims.”
But it appears the DOJ isn’t so convinced.
In a letter to CoreLogic, which was posted on the website Notorious R.O.B, the DOJ specifically requests “all documents relating to any MLS member’s search of [listings] based on compensation offered by listing brokers to buyer brokers, or the type of compensation, such as a flat fee, offered to listing brokers by buyer brokers.”
It also requests any documents relating to a possible antitrust issue regarding the ability to search based on the type of compensation offered.
Meanwhile, a form filed by CoreLogic with the Securities and Exchange Commission Wednesday stated that the company’s chief legal officer, Arnold Pinkston, will be leaving in mid-June to pursue an opportunity elsewhere.
Although Pinkston will be leaving the company in the midst of the DOJ investigation, the filing explicitly states that his decision was not based on a disagreement with the company.
CoreLogic spokesperson Alyson Austin confirmed to HousingWire that the company received a Civil Investigative Demand from the DOJ “relating to an investigation of practices of residential real estate brokerage services in local markets in the United States.” Austin said the company intends to comply with the request and is not the focus of the investigation.