Inman has obtained a letter from the Department of Justice requesting information on multiple listing service data from CoreLogic, a California-based financial services and analytics firm.
In the letter, which includes the word “antitrust” multiple times, the Department of Justice demands CoreLogic turn over a bevy of information, including all documents relating to any members’ ability to search based on compensation offered by listing brokers to buyers’ brokers. It also requests documents related to any policy or language governing the licensing of MLS data, policies relating to data protection and destruction and datasets on the frequency of searches.
“This civil investigative demand is issued pursuant to the [Antitrust Civil Process Act], in the course of an antitrust investigation to determine whether there is, has been, or may be a violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act, by conduct, activities, or proposed action of the following nature: Practices that may unreasonably restrain competition in the provision of residential real-estate brokerages services in local markets in the United States, including Greater Las Vegas,” the demand for information reads.
CoreLogic confirmed in a statement that it received the civil investigative demand from DOJ, but told Inman that CoreLogic is not the focus of the investigation.
“CoreLogic received a [civil investigative demand] from the US Department of Justice relating to an investigation of practices of residential real estate brokerages services in local markets in the United States,” a spokesperson for CoreLogic said in a statement. “CoreLogic is not the focus of the investigation.”
The demand for information specifically related to buyer commissions is particularly of interest in the wake of a class-action lawsuit that accuses the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and a number of the industry’s top brokerages of conspiring to determine buyers’ agents’ compensation.
The lawsuit specifically states that the firms and association violate the Sherman Antitrust Act by requiring brokers to make a “blanket, non-negotiable offer of buyer broker compensation.”
Last summer, the DOJ held a joint workshop with the Federal Trade Commission on matters of competition and antitrust in the real estate industry and MLS data was one of the main topics of discussion that day, specifically the availability of commission data.
The workshop was created in the wake of a 2017 letter from the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights to DOJ and FTC urging the agencies to update a decade-old report on competition in real estate and to specifically look at, “the availability of listing information to the public and to independent real estate agents, small real estate brokers and limited service brokers.”
CoreLogic offers a variety of MLS and real estate data products, including the popular digital MLS platform Matrix and boasts of a client base of more than a million members.
According to Rob Hahn, founder and managing partner of 7DS Associates, other MLS vendors may have received the same request.
Read the full request for information below:
UPDATE: Updated with comment from CoreLogic and with full copy of CID.