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Major homebuilder objects to proposed NAR settlement


Atlanta-based PulteGroup Inc., one of the largest homebuilders in the U.S., has filed an objection in the Sitzer/Burnett commission lawsuit following settlements with Anywhere, RE/MAX and Keller Williams.

PulteGroup says that the company does not have enough information to adequately determine the amount of money it could recover, among other issues, according to a court filing reviewed by HousingWire.

Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, attorneys for PulteGroup explained in a court filing submitted on April 12 that certain “procedural factors” have impacted the company’s decision to remain in the case’s settlement classes.

“First, the settlement agreements exclude key information about the method of allocating funds, details necessary for Pulte to evaluate its expected recovery,” the company’s attorneys said in the filing. “Second, the settlement agreements envision claims made through a hand-filled claim form, a needless and time-consuming complication for a homebuilder that will be downloading this information from computer databases.”

Finally, the filing notes that “apparent breakdowns in providing notice to the class” resulted in PulteGroup never receiving direct notice, which have raised “concerns that this settlement will not survive due process scrutiny,” the attorneys said.

The core questions surrounding the “magnitude” of the company’s potential recovery, the work that would be required to receive it, and whether the settlement will survive due process considerations are key questions that could determine the company’s ongoing presence in the class. But these questions have yet to be answered, the filing asserts.

“Because the deadline is here and Pulte has seen no answers to these questions, Pulte objects,” the filing reads, adding that the parties involved have not made the information available.

“Pulte has not seen any information about class size, expected claim rate, or the claim administrator’s evaluations in dividing up settlement funds,” the filing reads. “Most of this information typically would be provided in a Plan of Allocation, a document routinely provided before the opt-out date.”

The agreement also “provides no mechanism for homebuilding claimants to reduce the burden of claim submission,” saying there are “unnecessary hurdles” that make filing a claim “needlessly difficult.”

Since the company also never received notice about the involved settlements — Keller Williams settled for $70 million, while Anywhere and RE/MAX collectively settled for $138.5 million — other parties could also be disadvantaged.

“If Pulte, with thousands of claims, did not receive direct notice of settlement, individual home sellers with many fewer sales likely did not receive notice either,” the filing reads. “Those individual home sellers may also lack legal counsel and would be less likely to learn about their class membership through the news.”

PulteGroup concludes the filing with three requests: that the opt-out date is deferred until “after 30 days after the class receives notice of a plan of allocation,” that the court requires the involved parties to provide “an efficient method for claimants to submit bulk claims through an electronic spreadsheet,” and that it monitor future notices “to ensure class members receive actual notice.”

A response by the judge has not yet been filed as of Thursday.



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