No HomeServices deal yet, months after settlement announcement

The franchisor and plaintiffs offered different reasons for why HomeServices has yet to finalize its commission settlement agreement after announcing it had reached one for $250 million in April.

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Real estate franchisor HomeServices of America and the plaintiffs in major antitrust commission lawsuits have yet to come to an actual settlement agreement, according to a Monday court filing.

It has been 2.5 months since, on April 26, HomeServices, which has nearly 70,000 agents under its umbrella, announced it had reached a settlement for $250 million.

The amount agreed to by HomeServices represents the second-largest settlement payout of all the defendants in a case known as Sitzer | Burnett, which is the only suit that has gone to trial and won a multibillion-dollar verdict in favor of the homeseller plaintiffs. The National Association of Realtors agreed to the largest settlement payout, $418 million.

On April 29, the franchisor and the plaintiffs in a case known as Moehrl informed the court that they had “executed a binding term sheet” to resolve all claims against HomeServices and its subsidiaries as part of a proposed nationwide settlement negotiated with the plaintiffs in Moehrl as well as those in other, similar cases known as Sitzer | Burnett, Gibson and Umpa.

The parties said they would file for a motion for preliminary approval of the deal in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, home of the Sitzer | Burnett case.

But as of July 8, there is no HomeServices settlement yet, according to a joint status report filed in the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division, home of the Moehrl case.

“The parties are continuing to work on formalizing a long-form agreement and will seek preliminary and final approval for that settlement before the Burnett court,” the filing reads.

The report offers no explanation for why the deal’s status hasn’t changed.

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Chris Kelly (Credit: Ebby Halliday)

In a statement, Chris Kelly, HomeServices’ executive vice president, suggested the delay was due to plaintiffs’ counsel working on settlements with others in advance of deadlines in the NAR settlement. Brokers and multiple listing services had until June 18 to opt-in to that deal.

“HomeServices and counsel for the plaintiffs continue to work in good faith to finalize a long-form settlement based on the term sheet we entered into,” Kelly told Inman.

“We understand that given the deadlines included in the NAR settlement, plaintiffs’ counsel have also been working with numerous other parties on settlements during this time. We look forward to presenting a settlement for consideration by the Court in the very near future.”

But Michael Ketchmark of Ketchmark & McCreight, lead plaintiffs’ counsel in Sitzer | Burnett, pushed back against that characterization.

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Michael Ketchmark

“We are currently trying to work out some disagreements with HomeServices’ attorney regarding the company’s obligations under the settlement agreement,” Ketchmark told Inman in a statement.

“This has absolutely nothing to do with the schedule of plaintiffs’ counsel,” he added. “We expect the company to honor its settlement obligations and protect its brokers. Hopefully we will have something filed with the court shortly.”

Ketchmark and HomeServices attorney Robert MacGill notably had some heated exchanges during the Sitzer | Burnett trial in October.

Also in the July 8 status report, the parties noted that multiple objectors to the settlements reached with Keller Williams, Anywhere and RE/MAX had appealed the final approval of those deals to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

That court has consolidated the briefing schedules for those appeals, giving the homeseller and homebuyer appellants until Aug. 26 to submit their opening briefs.

Read the joint status report:

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