LegalReal Estate

Commission lawsuits pile up: NAR, Keller Williams named in new South Carolina case

The lawsuit known as Burton is seeking class-action status in South Carolina

Another day, another commission lawsuit — this time in South Carolina. On Monday, plaintiff Shauntell Burton filed a federal antitrust lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in South Carolina, alleging that the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and Keller Williams colluded to artificially inflate agent commission rates, increasing costs for home sellers.

Compared to other lawsuits filed in recent weeks and the Moehrl, Nosalek and Sitzer/Burnett suits, the Burton lawsuit is relatively small, as Keller Williams is the only corporate brokerage named in the suit and Burton is the only plaintiff.

Similar to the other commission lawsuits, the 107-page complaint identifies NAR’s Cooperative Cooperation policy as the cornerstone of the alleged conspiracy. Through what’s internally called the “Participation Rule,” the policy requires agents to provide a blanket offer of compensation to the buyer’s broker in order to list a property on the MLS.

“The effect of these rules is not simply that the seller must pay the buyer broker’s compensation,” the complaint states. “These rules effectively take the compensation structure out of the view of the buyers and sellers, masking who pays the buyer broker’s compensation.

“Indeed, a buyer broker may not even present an offer to a seller that is conditional on the seller reducing the buyer broker commission.”

Like other plaintiffs, Burton is seeking class-action status for all home sellers in South Carolina who have sold a home on a NAR-affiliated MLS with a Keller Williams agent since November 2019.

Burton sold her house with the help of a local Keller Williams agent in Spartanburg, South Carolina, in September 2023. According to the complaint, Burton paid the buyer’s broker a 2.5% commission and the listing broker a 3.5% commission.

The complaint demands a jury trial, a currently unknown amount of damages and for NAR to end its cooperative compensation policies.

“The cooperative compensation practice makes efficient, transparent, and accessible marketplaces possible,” Mantill Williams, NAR’s vice president of communications, wrote in an email. “Sellers can sell their home for more and have their home seen by more buyers while buyers have more choices of homes and can afford representation. The National Association of REALTORS is reviewing this new filing and will respond to it in court.”

Keller Williams did not wish to comment on the new filing and attorneys for the plaintiff did not return a request for comment.

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