Despite her initial misgivings, Boston U.S. District Court judge Patti Saris granted preliminary approval of MLS Property Information Network’s (MLS PIN) settlement agreement in the class action buyer-broker commission antitrust lawsuit.
In court documents filed last Thursday, Saris approved the agreement, stating that the releases in the agreement were “fair, reasonable, and adequate to the Settlement Class.”
Originally filed in December 2020, the Nosalek lawsuit, named after its lead plaintiff, alleges that the broker-owned MLS PIN is not directly required to abide by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) rules. However, it has nonetheless adopted a rule similar to an NAR rule requiring listing brokers to offer a blanket, unilateral offer of compensation to buyer brokers in order to submit a listing to MLS PIN.
Other defendants in the lawsuit include Anywhere, RE/MAX, Keller Williams and HomeServices of America. Unlike the two other buyer-broker commission lawsuits, Moehrl and Sitzer/Burnett, NAR is not a defendant in the Nosalek lawsuit. Additionally, while Anywhere has filed settlement agreements in the Moehrl and Sitzer/Burnett suits, it has not tried to settle the Nosalek suit.
MLS PIN, which is New England’s largest multiple listing service (MLS), filed the settlement agreement in late June. In the agreement, MLS PIN denied any wrongdoing, but stated that it agreed to the settlement in order “to avoid the further risk, expense, inconvenience, and distraction of burdensome and protracted litigation, and thereby to resolve this controversy, to avoid the risks inherent in complex litigation, and to obtain complete dismissal of the Action as to MLS PIN.”
The MLS also agreed to pay $3 million in the settlement, with up to $900,000 going towards attorney’s fees, up to $200,000 going towards expenses, $250,000 going towards notifying settlement class members, and each of the three named lead plaintiffs will get up to $2,500 for being class representatives.
According to the settlement agreement, the plaintiffs will use the remaining funds of at least $1.6425 million to pay for further expenses for the litigation against the remaining defendants “for the benefit of Settlement Class Members.”
In early August, Saris expressed skepticism over the financial portion of the proposed agreement.
“I’ve never seen a settlement agreement like this in my 30 years,” Saris said at an August hearing.
With the payment structure outlined in the agreement class members in the case will not be getting any money from the settlement agreement, however the plaintiffs’ class-action attorneys, “get fully funded for expenses to date, and they basically get a litigation fund open-ended for the future for as long as it takes, which may be another three to five years,” Saris said. A final approval hearing for the settlement agreement is expected before the end of the year.
In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for MLS PIN said the firm was “pleased with the Judge’s decision to move the settlement forward,” but would not comment further.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs did not return a request for comment.