Illinois real estate brokers and real estate muckamucks around the country should wait for the results of the forensic audit of MLS of Northern Illinois and CEO Jay Huffman before they conclude any wrongdoing has been committed at the nation’s largest MLS or on the part of its chief executive.


The MLS’ shareholders have hired PriceWaterhouseCoopers to conduct a forensic audit of MLSNI and Huffman. The reason for the audit isn’t entirely clear, although one shareholder pointed to a tardy package of financial statements as her rationale for it.


An outside expert’s in-depth review of a corporation’s activities and practices, and a close look at its chief executive is not a bad idea in any circumstances–even with a $50,000 price tag. Indeed, the MLSNI audit is likely to produce some recommendations because no organization is perfectly managed, no executive is squeaky clean and all consultants need findings to justify their billable hours. But that doesn’t mean PWC will unearth any evidence of actual malfeasance in this case.


Huffman deserves the benefit of the doubt until the expert’s findings are finalized and made public. The guilty–if there are any–undoubtedly should be punished. But suspicions and misgivings should be erased from the collective consciousness if the auditors deliver a clear report.


Either way, Huffman’s dilemma should be a wakeup call to MLS shareholders, directors, executives and member brokers throughout the country. It’s yet another indication that MLSs (and Realtor associations) are no longer just a venue for the men’s golf tournaments and women’s fashion shows of years ago.


MLSs today are big businesses and huge sums of money are at stake. Directors and officers must take seriously their fiduciary duties. Volunteers should be welcomed and utilized, but only when they have the proven expertise and experience–as Huffman has demonstrated over 13 years–to do the job.


A man in Huffman’s position and situation might well be worried about the possible effect of it all on his professional reputation. Will his peers tar him as “that MLS guy who was audited” regardless of the forensic auditor’s report?


Before you jump to judgment in advance of the evidence, remember: You could be next.


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