New lawsuit claims Utah realtors part of ‘conspiracy’ to fleece thousands from clients

SALT LAKE CITY — A federal class-action lawsuit filed in Illinois last week against numerous real estate brokers, including some operating in Utah, as well as the National Association of Realtors, claims the defendants have been “conspiring to require home sellers to pay the broker representing the buyer of their homes, and to pay at an inflated amount, in violation of federal antitrust law.”

The complaint is seeking to both recover damages, potentially in the tens of billions of dollars, as well as change Realtor rules that the suit says “requires all brokers to make a blanket, non-negotiable offer of buyer broker compensation … when listing a property on a Multiple Listing Service.”

One Utah resident who said he and his wife were harassed by real estate agents after listing their home for sale without an offer of a commission for the buyer’s agent said the action is “absolutely understandable” after the experience they went through.

The Salt Lake City Multiple Listing Service is one of 20 MLS’s identified in the lawsuit in which plaintiff attorney’s are signing class participants, which they indicate are any persons who paid a broker commission since March 6, 2015, on the sale of a residential property in the listed MLS areas.

In addition to the Realtors group, other defendants include Realogy Holdings Corp., which includes Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, Century 21, Coldwell Banker, ERA and Sotheby’s; HomeServices of America Inc., which includes Berkshire Hathaway, RealtySouth, Long & Foster, Edina Realty and others; RE/MAX Holdings Inc.; and Keller Williams Realty.

A web posting by plaintiffs’ law firm Hagens Berman said the brokerage companies “conspired with the National Association of Realtors and others to cheat home sellers out of thousands of dollars by illegally fixing real estate broker commissions.”

“The National Association of Realtors has worked with these franchises to eliminate competition over business, implementing rules that prevent offering lower commissions and negotiation of buyer broker commission, and serve no other purpose for home sellers,” the posting reads. “Total broker commissions in affected areas average between 5 and 6 percent, a substantially higher figure than in countries with competitive markets for real estate brokers.”

The firm also said the Realtors association is the largest political lobbying group in the country and worked with the real estate franchises “to boycott and punish any buyer brokers who offered to accept a lower commission.”

The Realtors association responded to a Deseret News request for comment …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Business News


Job growth expected to continue in Utah

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s job growth should continue to fuel the state’s robust economy — at least for the time being, an analyst says.

With jobs in the Beehive State plentiful and economic expansion on a historic roll, the state is poised to maintain its strong pace of growth and development for the foreseeable future, according to the Utah Department of Workforce Services. However, the number of jobs being produced is outpacing the number of qualified people available to fill them, explained DWS chief economist Carrie Mayne.

Though it isn’t a major issue right now, there could be a time when the demand for workers will eventually overwhelm the supply of individuals that can fill that need.

“It looks like we’re matching people up with jobs because we continue to keep the unemployment rate low,” she said. “But maybe at some point, our labor force just won’t grow at the rate the employers need it to grow.”

Mayne said current economic conditions remain quite promising, with no obvious indicators of potential drawbacks. She said virtually every resident who wants a job can find one, but some employers are unable to fill open positions due to lack of available talent.

“When you see a long-term (economic) expansion, the question becomes at what point are we going to exhaust our labor force and not be able to keep up with employer demand,” she queried.

She noted that the state’s labor force participation rate — the number of people available for work as a percentage of the total Utah working-age population — currently registers at 67.7, meaning just over two-thirds of adults are actively employed. Nationally, the labor participation rate is 63.2 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

On Friday, DWS reported the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for February fell one-tenth of a percentage point to register at 3.0 percent for the month. The data indicated that an estimated 48,300 Utahns were without work actively looking for employment.

Nationally, the jobless rate declined two-tenths of a percentage point to register at 3.8 percent.

Utah’s nonfarm payroll employment for February 2019 grew by an estimated 2.8 percent, adding 42,400 jobs to the economy year over year. The number of people who are gainfully employed registered at 1,536,300.

“Over the past several years Utah’s economy has enjoyed moderate, sustainable growth,” Mayne said. “February’s numbers show a continuation of this trend, with healthy job growth and low unemployment.”

In the private sector, year-over-year employment …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Business News


Ex-employee ordered to repay $60K to aerospace company

SALT LAKE CITY — A former engineer at a Utah aerospace manufacturing company has been ordered to repay about $60,000 after pleading guilty to a pattern of unlawful activity during his time there.

Adam Beyer Corliss, 40, admitted to the charge, a second-degree felony, in January as part of an agreement with prosecutors. In exchange, 10 counts of communications fraud, also a second-degree felony, were dismissed.

The company he worked for, Orbital ATK, was acquired by Northrop Grumman last year.

Third District Judge Heather Brereton last month ordered Corliss to 18 months of probation and 100 hours of community service, court records show. The judge also ordered him to pay about $60,000 in restitution.

Investigators said Corliss ran an employee benefits program that provided discount ski passes and other items, but he created false invoices. They alleged he did not ultimately buy the passes even though the company gave him roughly $40,000 to cover the cost.

Corliss has no prior criminal history in Utah, according to a search of court records.

…read more

Source:: Deseret News – Business News