DOJ Ditches Realtor Antitrust Pact Citing Need for Probe
(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Justice Department said it was pulling out of an antitrust settlement reached during the Trump administration with the National Association of Realtors that resolved a government lawsuit accusing the trade group of inhibiting competition among brokers.
The department’s antitrust division said Thursday that it was withdrawing from the November 2020 agreement because its terms prevent the division from continuing to investigate association rules that may harm homebuyers and sellers.
The government said it intends to proceed with a probe of the organization and that abandoning the settlement would allow the inquiry to move forward “without restriction.”
“Consumers pay billions of dollars in real estate commissions every year,” said Richard Powers, the acting head of the antitrust division, said in a statement. “We cannot be bound by a settlement that prevents our ability to protect competition in a market that profoundly affects Americans’ financial well-being.”
The Justice Department last year said the settlement, which was awaiting court approval, would provide greater transparency to consumers about commissions and increase competition among brokers. The settlement was filed in federal court in Washington along with a lawsuit against the group. The government filed a notice to dismiss the case Thursday.
The Realtors association said in a statement that the Justice Department’s decision was an “unprecedented breach” of the settlement.
“NAR has fulfilled all of our obligations under the settlement agreement, and now DOJ is inexplicably backing out,” the association said.
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