(CN) – A federal antitrust complaint accuses real estate brokers, including some licensed by Coldwell Banker and Century 21, of conspiring with a local Realtor organization to intimidate and defame a discount brokerage to protect their artificially high commissions.
In their complaint in Lincoln, Neb., Federal Court, Progressive Buyers & Sellers dba Assist2Sell and Julie Carper say the defendants repeatedly defamed and tortiously interfered ever since after they open their discount real estate business in 2006.
The defendants are Coldwell Banker Town & Country Realty of Kearney dba Coldwell Banker; Matthew Meister; Kerry Pearson; Betty Warren; Wiebusch & Associates dba Century 21 Midlands; Kearney Realty; Sobatka, Roper, Schumacher & Co.; NP Realty; the Buffalo County Board of Realtors; Tara Rost; the Nebraska Realtors Association; and the Nebraska Real Estate Commission
Carper says the defendants targeted her because she offered discounted commission rates and tiered, flat fees based on the services her clients sought.
She claims that defendant Matthew Meister, a broker for Coldwell Banker, told her, “If we all played the game, we could all make money.” The “game” was to fix rates for real estate commissions, she says.
When she refused, she says the defendants retaliated by refusing to show properties to her clients, refusing to list her properties on their MLS sheets, and by filing baseless ethics complaints against her.
She claims the traditional brokers defamed her to clients and to local banks, and to anyone who would listen – including a class for aspiring Realtors. She says they warned banks that they would take their business elsewhere if they used Carper as an appraiser. That threat caused her income from appraisals to decline from $18,000 a year to $1,200, she says.
Finally, Carper says, the defendants used trumped-up ethics complaints to expel her business from Buffalo County Board of realtors and Nebraska Realtors Association, effectively putting her out of business.
“The false statements against Carper and Progressive by Coldwell and Meister were defamation per se, as they allege a want of professional integrity and competence on the part of Progressive and Carper, as well as a level of dishonesty in that the statements falsely allege that Progressive and Carper charge for services they do not provide or that are worthless,” according to the complaint.
Carper says that “until recently [she] had been a Nebraska-licensed real estate broker for three years, and a Nebraska-licensed real estate appraiser for 8 years. Prior to that, she was a Real Estate Bankruptcy Specialist at Mellon Mortgage. She has won awards in the real estate industry, and was even employed by the Defendant Coldwell for 5 years.”
She seeks more than $500,000 for defamation, tortious interference, and state and federal antitrust violations. She is represented by Bernard Glaser Jr., of Lincoln.