FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
WHEREAS, Plaintiff, the United States of America, filed its Amended Complaint on October 4, 2005, alleging that Defendant National Association of Realtors® ("NAR") adopted policies that restrain competition from innovative real estate brokers in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1, and Plaintiff and Defendant, by their respective attorneys, have consented to the entry of this Final Judgment without trial or adjudication of any issue of fact, and without this Final Judgment constituting any evidence against, or any admission by, any party regarding any issue of fact or law;
WHEREAS, Defendant has not admitted and does not admit either the allegations set forth in the Amended Complaint or any liability or wrongdoing;
WHEREAS, the United States does not allege that Defendant's Internet Data Exchange (IDX) Policy in its current form violates the antitrust laws; and
WHEREAS, the United States requires Defendant to agree to certain procedures and prohibitions for the purpose of preventing the loss of competition alleged in the Complaint;
NOW THEREFORE, before any testimony is taken, without trial or adjudication of any issue of fact, and upon consent of the parties, it is ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED:
This Court has jurisdiction over the Parties and subject matter of this action. The Complaint states a claim upon which relief may be granted against Defendant under Section 1 of the Sherman Act, as amended (15 U.S.C. § 1).
As used in this Final Judgment:
A. "Broker" means a Person licensed by a state to provide services to a buyer or seller in connection with a real estate transaction. The term includes any Person who possesses a Broker's license and any agent or sales associate who is affiliated with such a Broker.
B. "Covered Entity" means each Member Board that, at any time prior to the expiration of this Final Judgment, operates a multiple listing service and each multiple listing service that, at any time prior to the expiration of this Final Judgment, is exclusively owned by one or more Member Boards or is otherwise obligated to comply with NAR mandatory multiple listing service policies.
C. "Customer" means a seller client of a Broker or a Person who has expressed to a Broker an interest in purchasing residential real property and who has described the type, features, or location of the property in which he or she has an interest, entitling the Broker to Provide the Customer multiple listing service ("MLS") listing information by any method (e.g., by hand, mail, facsimile, electronic mail, or display on a VOW).
D. "Final Judgment" includes the Modified VOW Policy attached as Exhibit A and the definition of MLS Participant and accompanying Note attached as Exhibit B.
E. "ILD Policy" means the "ILD (Internet Listing Display) Policy" that NAR adopted on or about August 31, 2005, and any amendments thereto.
F. "Including" means including, but not limited to.
G. "Listing Information" means all records of residential properties (and any information relating to those properties) stored or maintained by a multiple listing service.
H. "Member Board" means any state or local Board of Realtors® or Association of Realtors®, including any city, county, inter-county, or inter-state Board or Association, and any multiple listing service owned by, or affiliated with, any such Board of Realtors® or Association of Realtors®.
I. "Modified VOW Policy" means the policy attached to this Final Judgment as Exhibit A.
J. "NAR" means the National Association of Realtors®, its predecessors, successors, divisions, subsidiaries, affiliates, partnerships, and joint ventures and all directors, officers, employees, agents, and representatives of the foregoing. The terms "subsidiary," "affiliate," and "joint venture" refer to any Person in which there is or has been partial (twenty percent or more) or total ownership or control between NAR and any other Person.
K. "Person" means any natural person, corporation, company, partnership, joint venture, firm, association, proprietorship, agency, board, authority, commission, office, or other business or legal entity, whether private or governmental.
L. "Provide" means to deliver, display, disseminate, convey, or reproduce.
M. "Rule" means any rule, model rule, ethical rule, bylaw, policy, standard, or guideline and any interpretation of any Rule issued or approved by NAR, whether or not the final implementation date of any such Rule has passed.
N. "VOW" or "virtual office website" means a website, or feature of a website, operated by a Broker or for a Broker by another Person through which the Broker is capable of providing real estate brokerage services to consumers with whom the Broker has first established a Broker-consumer relationship (as defined by state law) where the consumer has the opportunity to search MLS data, subject to the Broker's oversight, supervision, and accountability.
O. "VOW Policy" means the "Policy governing use of MLS data in connection with Internet brokerage services offered by MLS Participants ('Virtual Office Websites')," adopted by NAR on or about May 17, 2003, and any amendments thereto.
P. The terms "and" and "or" have both conjunctive and disjunctive meanings.
This Final Judgment applies to NAR and all other Persons in active concert or participation with NAR who have received actual notice of this Final Judgment. A Member Board shall not be deemed to be in active concert with NAR solely as a consequence of the Member Board's receipt of actual notice of this Final Judgment and its affiliation with or membership in NAR and its involvement in regular activities associated with its affiliation with or membership in NAR (e.g., coverage under a NAR insurance policy, attendance at NAR meetings or conventions, or review of Member Board policies by NAR).
Subject to the provisions of Sections V and VI of this Final Judgment, the Modified VOW Policy (Exhibit A), and the definition of MLS Participant and accompanying Note (Exhibit B), NAR shall not adopt, maintain, or enforce any Rule, or enter into or enforce any agreement or practice, that directly or indirectly
A. prohibits a Broker from using a VOW or prohibits, restricts, or impedes a Broker who uses a VOW from providing to Customers on its VOW all of the Listing Information that a Broker is permitted to Provide to Customers by hand, mail, facsimile, electronic mail, or any other methods of delivery;
B. unreasonably disadvantages or unreasonably discriminates against a Broker in the use of a VOW to Provide to Customers all of the Listing Information that a Broker is permitted to Provide to Customers by hand, mail, facsimile, electronic mail, or any other methods of delivery;
C. prohibits, restricts, or impedes the referral of Customers whose identities are obtained from a VOW by a Broker who uses a VOW to any other Person, or establishes the price of any such referral;
D. imposes fees or costs upon any Broker who operates a VOW or upon any Person who operates a VOW for any Broker that exceed the reasonably estimated actual costs incurred by a Member Board in providing Listing Information to the Broker or Person operating the VOW or in performing any other activities relating to the VOW, or discriminates in such VOW-related fees or costs between those imposed upon a Broker who operates a VOW and those imposed upon a Person who operates a VOW for a Broker, unless the MLS incurs greater costs in providing a service to a Person who operates a VOW for a Broker than it incurs in providing the same service to the Broker; or
E. is inconsistent with the Modified VOW Policy.
A. Within five business days after entry of this Final Judgment, NAR shall repeal the ILD Policy and direct each Member Board that adopted Rules implementing the ILD Policy to repeal such Rules at the next meeting of the Member Board's decisionmaking body that occurs more than ten days after receipt of the directive, but no later than ninety days after entry of this Final Judgment.
B. Within five business days after entry of this Final Judgment, NAR shall direct Member Boards that adopted Rules implementing the VOW Policy to repeal such Rules at the next meeting of the Member Board's decisionmaking body that occurs more than ten days after receipt of the directive, but no later than ninety days after entry of this Final Judgment.
C. Within five business days after entry of this Final Judgment, NAR shall adopt the Modified VOW Policy. NAR shall not change the Modified VOW Policy without either obtaining advance written approval by the United States Department of Justice, Antitrust Division ("DOJ") or an order of the Court pursuant to Section VIII of this Final Judgment authorizing the proposed modification.
D. Within five business days after entry of this Final Judgment, NAR shall direct each Covered Entity to adopt the Modified VOW Policy within ninety days after entry of this Final Judgment, and to thereafter maintain, act consistently with, and enforce Rules implementing the Modified VOW Policy. NAR shall simultaneously direct Covered Entities, beginning upon receipt of the directive, not to adopt, maintain, or enforce any Rule or practice that NAR would be prohibited from adopting, maintaining, or enforcing pursuant to Section IV of this Final Judgment (including Rules or practices that unreasonably discriminate against Brokers in their operation of VOWs).
E. If NAR determines that a Covered Entity has not timely adopted or maintained, acted consistently with, or enforced Rules implementing the Modified VOW Policy, it shall, within thirty days of such determination, direct in writing that the Covered Entity do so. NAR shall deny coverage under any NAR insurance policy (or cause coverage to be denied) to any Covered Entity for as long as that Covered Entity refuses to adopt, maintain, act consistently with, and enforce rules implementing the Modified VOW Policy. NAR shall also notify the DOJ of the identity of that Covered Entity and the Modified VOW Policy provisions it refused to adopt, maintain, act consistently with, or enforce. For purposes of this provision, a failure of a Covered Entity to adopt, maintain, act consistently with, or enforce Rules implementing the Modified VOW Policy within ninety days of a written directive to that Covered Entity from NAR shall constitute a refusal by the Covered Entity to do so.
F. If NAR determines that a Member Board has adopted, maintained, or enforced any Rule or practice that NAR would be prohibited from adopting, maintaining, or enforcing pursuant to Section IV of this Final Judgment (including Rules or practices that unreasonably discriminate against Brokers in their operation of VOWs), it shall, within thirty days of such determination, direct in writing that the Member Board rescind and cease to enforce that Rule or practice. NAR shall deny coverage under any NAR insurance policy (or cause coverage to be denied) to any Member Board for as long as that Member Board refuses to rescind and cease to enforce that Rule or practice. NAR shall also notify the DOJ of the identity of that Member Board and the Rule or practice it refused to rescind and cease to enforce. For purposes of this provision, a Member Board's failure to rescind and cease to enforce the Rule or practice within ninety days of a written directive from NAR shall constitute a refusal by the Member board to do so.
G. Within thirty days of entry of this Final Judgment, NAR shall designate an Antitrust Compliance Officer with responsibility for educating Member Boards about the antitrust laws and for achieving full compliance with this Final Judgment. The Antitrust Compliance Officer shall be responsible for the following:
H. NAR shall maintain and shall furnish to the DOJ on a quarterly basis (beginning ninety days after entry of this Final Judgment) copies of any communications with any Person containing allegations of any Member's Board's (1) noncompliance with any provision of the Modified VOW Policy or with this Final Judgment or (2) failure to enforce any Rules implementing the Modified VOW Policy.
I. Within five business days after entry of this Final Judgment, NAR shall provide, in a prominent size and location on its website (www.realtor.org) a hyperlink to a webpage on which NAR has published copies of
NAR shall also publish each of the three above items in the first issue of Realtor® Magazine scheduled for publication after the date of entry of this Final Judgment.
VI. PERMITTED CONDUCT
A. Subject to Section IX of this Final Judgment, nothing in this Final Judgment shall prohibit NAR from adopting and maintaining the definition of MLS Participant and the accompanying Note, together attached as Exhibit B. However, NAR shall direct each Member Board not to suspend or expel any Broker from multiple listing service membership or participation for reasons of the Broker's then-failure to qualify for membership or participation under the definition of MLS Participant and the accompanying Note, together attached as Exhibit B, until May 27, 2009.
B. Notwithstanding any of the above provisions, and subject to Section IX of this Final Judgment, nothing in this Final Judgment shall prohibit NAR from adopting, maintaining, or enforcing Rules that are generally applicable on their face and that do not, in their application, unreasonably restrict any method of delivery of Listing Information to Customers.
VII. COMPLIANCE INSPECTION
A. For the purposes of determining or securing compliance with this Final Judgment, or of determining whether this Final Judgment should be modified or vacated, and subject to any legally recognized privilege, from time to time authorized representatives of the DOJ, including consultants and other Persons retained by the United States, shall, upon written request of an authorized representative of the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Antitrust Division, and on reasonable notice to NAR, be permitted:
B. Upon the written request of an authorized representative of the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Antitrust Division, NAR shall submit written reports or response to written interrogatories, under oath if requested, relating to its compliance with any of the matters contained in this Final Judgment as may be requested.
C. No information or documents obtained by the means provided in this section shall be divulged by the United States to any Person other than an authorized representative of the executive branch of the United States, except in the course of legal proceedings to which the United States is a party (including grand jury proceedings), or for the purpose of securing compliance with this Final Judgment, or as otherwise required by law.
D. If at the time information or documents are furnished by NAR to the United States, NAR marks as confidential any pertinent page of such material on the grounds that such page contains information as to which a claim of protection may be asserted under Rule 26(c)(1)(G) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, then the United States shall give NAR ten calendar days notice prior to divulging such material in any legal proceeding (other than a grand jury proceeding).
This Court retains jurisdiction to enable any party to this Final Judgment to apply to this Court at any time for further orders and directions as may be necessary or appropriate to carry out or construe this Final Judgment, to modify any of its provisions, to enforce compliance, and to punish violations of its provisions.
Nothing in this Final Judgment shall limit the right of the United States to investigate and bring actions to prevent or restrain violations of the antitrust laws concerning any Rule or practice adopted or enforced by NAR or any of its Member Boards.
This Final Judgment shall expire ten years from the date of its entry.
Entry of this Final Judgment is in the public interest. The parties have complied with the requirements of the Antitrust Procedures and Penalties Act, 15 U.S.C. § 16, including making copies available to the public of this Final Judgment, the Competitive Impact Statement, and any comments thereon and the United States's responses to comments. Based upon the record before the Court, which includes the Competitive Impact Statement and any comments and response to comments filed with the Court, entry of this Final Judgment is in the public interest.
Policy governing use of MLS data in connection with
I. Definitions and Scope of Policy.
1. For purposes of this Policy, the term Virtual Office Website ("VOW") refers to a Participant's Internet website, or a feature of a Participant's Internet website, through which the Participant is capable of providing real estate brokerage services to consumers with whom the Participant has first established a broker-consumer relationship (as defined by state law) where the consumer has the opportunity to search MLS data, subject to the Participant's oversight, supervision, and accountability.
2. The right to display listings in response to consumer searches is limited to display of MLS data supplied by the MLS(s) in which the Participant has participatory rights. This does not preclude a firm with offices participating in different MLSs from operating a master website with links to such offices' VOWs.
3. Participants' Internet websites, including those operated for Participants by AVPs, may also provide other features, information, or services in addition to VOWs (including the Internet Data Exchange ("IDX") function).
4. The display of listing information on a VOW does not require separate permission from the Participant whose listings will be available on the VOW.
5. Except as permitted in Sections III and IV, MLSs may not adopt rules or regulations that conflict with this Policy or that otherwise restrict the operation of VOWs by Participants.
II. Policies Applicable to Participants' VOWs.
1. A Participant may provide brokerage services via a VOW that include making MLS active listing data available, but only to consumers with whom the Participant has first established a lawful consumer-broker relationship, including completion of all actions required by state law in connection with providing real estate brokerage services to clients and customers (hereinafter "Registrants"). Such actions shall include, but are not limited to, satisfying all applicable agency, non-agency, and other disclosure obligations, and execution of any required agreement(s).
3. A Participant's VOW must prominently display an e-mail address, telephone number, or specific identification of another mode of communication (e.g., live chat) by which a consumer can contact the Participant to ask questions, or get more information, about properties displayed on the VOW. The Participant, or a non-principal broker or sales licensee licensed with the Participant, must be willing and able to respond knowledgeably to inquiries from Registrants about properties within the market area served by that Participant and displayed on the VOW.
4. A Participant's VOW must protect the MLS data from misappropriation by employing reasonable efforts to monitor for and prevent "scraping" or other unauthorized accessing, reproduction, or use of the MLS database.
5. A Participant's VOW must comply with the following additional requirements:
6. A Participant who intends to operate a VOW must notify the MLS of its intention to establish a VOW and must make the VOW readily accessible to the MLS and to all MLS Participants for purposes of verifying compliance with this Policy and any other applicable MLS rules or policies.
7. A Participant may operate more than one VOW itself or through an AVP. A Participant who operates a VOW itself shall not be precluded from also operating VOWs in conjunction with AVPs.
III. Policies Applicable to Multiple Listing Services.
1. A Multiple Listing Service shall permit MLS Participants to operate VOWs, or to have VOWs operated for them by AVPs, subject to the requirements of state law and this Policy.
2. An MLS shall, if requested by a Participant, provide basic "downloading" of all MLS non-confidential listing data, including without limitation address fields, listings types, photographs, and links to virtual tours. Confidential data includes only that which Participants are prohibited from providing to customers orally and by all other delivery mechanisms. They include fields containing the information described in paragraph IV(1) of this Policy, provided that sold data (i.e., listing information relating to properties that have sold) shall be deemed confidential and withheld from a download only if the actual sales prices of completed transactions are not accessible from public records. For purposes of this Policy, "downloading" means electronic transmission of data from MLS servers to a Participant's or AVP's server on a persistent basis. An MLS may also offer a transient download. In such case, it shall also, if requested, provide a persistent download, provided that it may impose on users of such download the approximate additional costs incurred by it to do so.
3. This Policy does not require an MLS to establish publicly accessible sites displaying Participants' listings.
4. If an MLS provides a VOW-specific feed, that feed must include all of the non-confidential data included in the feed described in paragraph 2 above except for listings or property addresses of sellers who have elected not to have their listings or addresses displayed on the Internet.
5. An MLS may pass on to those Participants who will download listing information the reasonably estimated costs incurred by the MLS in adding or enhancing its "downloading" capacity to enable such Participants to operate VOWs.
6. An MLS may require that Participants (1) utilize appropriate security protection, such as firewalls, as long as such requirement does not impose security obligations greater than those employed concurrently by the MLS, and/or (2) maintain an audit trail of Registrants' activity on the VOW and make that information available to the MLS if the MLS has reason to believe that any VOW has caused or permitted a breach in the security of the data or a violation of applicable MLS rules.
7. An MLS may not prohibit or regulate display of advertising or the identification of entities on VOWs ("branding" or "co-branding"), except to prohibit deceptive or misleading advertising or co-branding. For purposes of this provision, co-branding will be presumed not to be deceptive or misleading if the Participant's logo and contact information (or that of at least one Participant, in the case of a VOW established and operated by or for more than one Participant) is displayed in immediate conjunction with that of every other party, and the logo and contact information of all Participants displayed on the VOW is as large as the logo of the AVP and larger than that of any third party.
8. Except as provided in this Policy, an MLS may not prohibit Participants from enhancing their VOWs by providing information obtained from sources other than the MLS, additional technological services (such as mapping functionality), or information derived from non-confidential MLS data (such as an estimated monthly payment derived from the listed price), or regulate the use or display of such information or technological services on any VOW.
9. Except as provided in generally applicable rules or policies (such as the Realtor® Code of Ethics), an MLS may not restrict the format of data display on a VOW or regulate the appearance of VOWs.
10. Subject to the provisions below, an MLS shall make MLS listing data available to an AVP for the exclusive purpose of operating a VOW on behalf of a Participant. An MLS shall make MLS listing data available to an AVP under the same terms and conditions as those applicable to Participants. No AVP has independent participation rights in the MLS by virtue of its right to receive data on behalf of a Participant, or the right to use MLS data except in connection with operation of a VOW for a Participant. AVP access to MLS data is derivative of the rights of the Participant on whose behalf the AVP is downloading data.
11. An MLS may not prohibit, restrict, or impede a Participant from referring Registrants to any person or from obtaining a fee for such referral.
IV. Requirements That MLSs May Impose on the Operation of VOWs and Participants.
1. An MLS may impose any, all, or none of the following requirements on VOWs but may impose them only to the extent that equivalent requirements are imposed on Participants' use of MLS listing data in providing brokerage services via all other delivery mechanisms:
2. An MLS may also impose the following other requirements on the operation of VOWs:
3. An MLS may not prohibit Participants from downloading and displaying or framing listings obtained from other sources, e.g., other MLSs or from brokers not participating in that MLS, etc., but may require either that (i) such information be searched separately from listings obtained from other sources, including other MLSs, or (ii) if such other sources are searched in conjunction with searches of the listings available on the VOW, require that any display of listings from other sources identify such other source.
MLSs have until not later than [90 DAYS AFTER ENTRY OF THE FINAL JUDGMENT] to adopt rules implementing the foregoing policies and to comply with the provisions of section III above, and (2) Participants shall have until not later than 180 days following adoption and implementation of rules by an MLS in which they participate to cause their VOW to comply with such rules.
See Appendix A for Seller Opt-Out Form
2. I understand and acknowledge that, if I have selected option a, consumers who conduct searches for listings on the Internet will not see information about the listed property in response to their search.
(Statement of MLS Policy)
The term "Participant" in a Board Multiple Listing Service is defined, as follows:
"Where the term Realtor® is used in this explanation of policy in connection with the word 'Member' or the word 'Participant', it shall be construed to mean the Realtor® principal or principals, of this or any other Board, or a firm comprised of Realtor® principals participating in a Multiple Listing Service owned and operated by the Board. Participatory rights shall be held by an individual principal broker unless determined by the Board or MLS to be held by a firm. It shall not be construed to include individuals other than a principal or principals who are Realtor® Members of this or any other Board, or who are legally entitled to participate without Board membership. However, under no circumstances is any individual or firm, regardless of membership status, entitled to MLS 'Membership' or 'Participation' unless they hold a current, valid real estate broker's license and
Where the terms 'subscriber' or 'user' are used in connection with a Multiple Listing Service owned or operated by a Board of Realtors®, they refer to non-principal brokers, sales licensees, and licensed and certified real estate appraisers affiliated with an MLS Participant and may, as a matter of local option, also include a Participant's affiliated unlicensed administrative and clerical staff, personal assistants, and individuals seeking licensure or certification as real estate appraisers provided that any such individual is under the direct supervision of an MLS Participant or the Participant's licensed designee. If such access is available to unlicensed or uncertified individuals, their access is subject to the rules and regulations, the payment of applicable fees and charges (if any), and the limitations and restrictions of state law. None of the foregoing shall diminish the Participant's ultimate responsibility for ensuring compliance with the rules and regulations of the MLS by all individuals affiliated with the Participant. (Adopted 4/92)
Under the 'Board of Choice' policy, MLS participatory rights shall be available to any Realtor® (principal) or any firm comprised of Realtors® (principals) irrespective of where they hold primary membership subject only to their agreement to abide by any MLS rules or regulations; agreement to arbitrate disputes with other Participants; and payment of any MLS dues, fees, and charges." Participatory rights granted under Board of Choice do not confer voting privileges or eligibility for office as an MLS committee member, officer, or director, except as granted at the discretion of the local Board and/or MLS. (Amended 5/97)
The universal access to services component of Board of Choice is to be interpreted as requiring that MLS Participatory rights be available to Realtor® principals, or to firms comprised of Realtor® principals, irrespective of where primary or secondary membership is held. This does not preclude an MLS from assessing Realtors® not holding primary or secondary membership locally fees, dues, or charges that exceed those or, alternatively, that are less than those charged Participants holding such memberships locally or additional fees to offset actual expenses incurred in providing MLS services such as courier charges, long distance phone charges, etc., or for charging any Participant specific fees for optional additional services. (Amended 11/96)
None of the foregoing shall be construed as requiring a Board to grant MLS participatory rights, under Board of Choice, where such rights have been previously terminated by action of that Board's Board of Directors." (Adopted 11/95)
(Model MLS rules)
Note: Mere possession of a broker's license is not sufficient to qualify for MLS participation. Rather, the requirement that an individual or firm 'offers or accepts cooperation and compensation' means that the Participant actively endeavors during the operation of its real estate business to list real property of the type listed on the MLS and/or to accept offers of cooperation and compensation made by listing brokers or agents in the MLS. "Actively" means on a continual and on-going basis during the operation of the Participant's real estate business. The ''actively" requirement is not intended to preclude MLS participation by a Participant or potential Participant that operates a real estate business on a part time, seasonal, or similarly time-limited basis or that has its business interrupted by periods of relative inactivity occasioned by market conditions. Similarly, the requirement is not intended to deny MLS participation to a Participant or potential Participant who has not achieved a minimum number of transactions despite good faith efforts. Nor is it intended to permit an MLS to deny participation based on the level of service provided by the Participant or potential Participant as long as the level of service satisfies state law.
The membership requirement shall be applied on a nondiscriminatory manner to all Participants and potential Participants.