The Sitzer and Moehrl antitrust case’s resolution is poised to have far-reaching consequences for a substantial majority of US citizens. Michael Ketchmark, the principal trial counsel for the plaintiffs in the Sitzer/Burnett case, has not shied away from expressing his concerns regarding the repercussions of NAR’s policies, stating, “Our experts have illustrated that NAR’s anti-competitive policies have essentially doubled the commission costs in the United States. THIS POLICY FROM NAR HAS IMPOSED HUNDREDS OF BILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN COMMISSIONS OVER THE YEARS, RENDERING THE DREAM OF HOMEOWNERSHIP INACCESSIBLE FOR MANY AMERICANS.”
Conversely, Ketchmark appears to be actively seeking settlements from the remaining defendants ahead of the trial, proclaiming, “The time has come for Home Services of America, NAR, and Keller Williams to admit their mistake in continuously requiring home sellers to bear buyer’s commissions.”
Two original defendants, Anywhere and Remax, have recently settled nationwide claims amounting to $138,000,000, which translates to $3 per transaction, based on an estimated 46,000,000 closings from 2015-2021. Should NAR, HSofA, and KW opt for similar settlements, averaging $69m, the cumulative amount would be $345,000,000. This sum would not meet the Cy Pres award distribution criteria, raising the possibility that the entire award might be retained by the Plaintiff’s counsel and their partners.
Ketchmark is entrusted with a fiduciary duty to the Plaintiffs. If he yields in negotiations, obtaining merely a fraction of the purported $100B in damages due to US homeowners, and enriches himself while the class members are left without financial redress, it is reasonable to deduce that such self-centered settlements might result in one of the most egregious instances of malpractice in US history.
Ketchmark’s apparent hesitancy to proceed to litigation is comprehensible. The expertise acquired from handling auto accident cases may not necessarily equip one with the proficiency needed for intricate antitrust cases. Ketchmark is undoubtedly aware that NAR’s lead attorney has previously served as the 1st Chair for the Department of Justice Antitrust Division and has been the recipient of several prestigious awards at the DOJ, including the Attorney General’s Distinguished Service Award (the DOJ’s second-highest performance award) and the Attorney General’s John Marshall Award for Trial of Litigation (the DOJ’s highest award for litigation performance). Additionally, he has twice received the Assistant Attorney General Award – the Antitrust Division’s highest accolade for performance.