A lawsuit filed against a New York City real estate trade association and several major brokerage companies is in the process of settling, according to court documents filed this week.
BrokersNYC, a company that offers Web design, consulting, property database and other services to New York City real estate professionals, had charged that the Real Estate Board of New York Inc., technology vendors, brokerage companies and others worked to restrict competition "by erecting barriers to the entrance into the Manhattan residential brokerage market and establishing and maintaining fixed prices for brokerage services in connection with the sale of residential real estate."
The lawsuit, first filed in October 2004, was amended in January 2005.
And Dominique Troiano, spokeswoman for the Real Estate Board of New York, said REBNY had no comment on the settlement.
Claude G. Szyfer, a lawyer representing REBNY and other parties named in the lawsuit, stated in a March 10 court filing that the "parties are close to finalizing all of the terms of the settlement agreement and other documents resolving the above-referenced matter in full."
While the judge had established March 10 as a day for the filing of documents related to the pending trial, Szyfer requested that the deadline be extended, as "the parties anticipate executing the settlement documents shortly." U.S. District Court Judge Leonard B. Sand agreed to extend the deadline.
No terms of the settlement agreement were announced. BrokersNYC had sought punitive damages of at least $18 million for the alleged antitrust law violations and other judgments of at least $2 million related to the alleged tying of services with membership in REBNY, and attempted monopolization. The lawsuit also sought injunctions related to the technology used by REBNY members to transmit listings information.
In August 2007, the judge had ruled that portions of the BrokersNYC lawsuit may proceed to trial while invalidating other aspects of the complaint.
Steven Spinola, REBNY president, had said in a statement that the court’s move invalidated major allegations in the lawsuit and "reaffirms what we have said all along — that this suit has no merit or legal foundations." And while the judge found that some allegations presented in the complaint could proceed to trial, "we are fully prepared to defend ourselves and are confident that ultimately we will be victorious," he said.
Andrew B. Friedman, a lawyer representing BrokersNYC, said at that time, "The main part of the claim is going forward."
BrokersNYC had charged in its complaint that REBNY sought to monopolize the market for residential brokerage services and for technology services related to its members’ property listings information. REBNY has about 365 residential brokerage firm members and 12,000 members.
REBNY had established a property data transmission system called ROLEX for its members and a database service called RealPlus, and allowed two vendors to participate in the data transmission system while shutting out BrokersNYC and others, the lawsuit alleged.
Manhattan brokerage company Brown Harris Stevens had developed technologies that were approved for use by REBNY, and that company is named as a defendant in the lawsuit. On-Line Residential Inc., Real Plus LLC, Terra Holdings LLC, Halstead Property LLC, The Corcoran Group, William B. May Co., Heron Properties Realty Ltd., Fox Residential Group, The Prudential Real Estate Affiliates, Stribling & Associates Ltd., Sotheby’s International Realty, Bellmarc Realty were also named as defendants in the lawsuit.
The judge had dismissed charges of attempted monopolization of the Manhattan real estate property listings technology market and also dismissed charges that brokerage companies sought to monopolize the Manhattan residential brokerage services market.
But he did find that there remained "a substantial question" as to whether REBNY’s reasons for denying an interface by BrokersNYC and other companies with the REBNY data transmission system "outweighed its anticompetitive effects."
In September 2007, REBNY launched its first-ever public property-search portal at ResidentialNYC.com. Participation in that portal by REBNY members is voluntary, and some large brokerage companies do not participate in that portal.
While there is a Realtor-operated multiple listing service for Manhattan that allows its members to share property information with other MLS members, that system has fewer members than REBNY, which is not affiliated with the National Association of Realtors.
Wang has filed complaints against the New York state Division of Licensing, the New York Department of State and others to challenge the state’s Apartment Information Vendor law — which restricts the ability of online sites to publish apartment information — and to seek a license to publish this content. Her real estate brokerage license had been revoked in 2000. She currently holds a broker’s license.
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