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U.S. homebuilder PulteGroup has filed an objection to proposed settlements in the bombshell Sitzer | Burnett antitrust commission case, arguing that it had not been provided enough information to know what every eligible homeseller will likely be asking: What’s in it for me?

Pulte operates in 25 states and sold 28,603 homes in 2023 alone, according to its April 12 filing. The homebuilder says it paid buyer broker commissions and sold thousands of homes during the time frame covered by the Anywhere, RE/MAX and Keller Williams settlements and is therefore a member of the homeseller class.

A final fairness hearing for the proposed deals is set for May 9 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri in Kansas City. In its filing, Pulte told the court its attorneys intend to appear at that hearing.

The homebuilder said it lacks the information necessary to even estimate the amount it would recover under the deals and therefore isn’t able to evaluate whether it wants to remain a member of the homeseller class or opt-out to retain the ability to pursue its own legal claims.

“[T]here is nowhere for class members to learn how those funds will be divided up, and what a ‘potential individual award’ will look like,” the filing says.

“Pulte has not seen any information about class size, expected claim rate, or the claim administrator’s evaluations in dividing up settlement funds.”

The company said most of those details would typically be provided in a plan of allocation, which is “routinely” provided before a proposed settlement’s opt-out deadline.

“Yet Pulte sought this information on the website, through the ‘dedicated toll-free telephone number,’ and by contacting class counsel,” the filing says. “The information was not provided and Pulte understands it does not yet exist.”

“[W]ithout a Plan of Allocation, Pulte cannot be sure that, as a large-scale homebuilder, it will not be disadvantaged in some way in the Plan of Allocation,” the filing adds.

If a homeseller chooses to opt-out of the class, the deadline to do so was April 13. The deadline to object to the proposed real estate franchisor settlements was also April 13, but only those who have not opted out of the class may object.

In its filing, Pulte requests that the court defer the opt-out date until “after 30 days after” the class receives notice of a plan of allocation.

The homebuilder also objected to the deals on the grounds that they require claims to be made through a form that must be manually filled out with the address of the home sale, date, listing brokerage, total commission paid and commission paid to buyer’s broker.

Such a requirement, for companies with thousands of sales on their books, is “a needless and time-consuming complication for a homebuilder that will be downloading this information from computer databases.”

Moreover, this process is likely to be more costly for claims administrators and therefore reduce the amount of money available to pay out class members, according to the filing.

“Requiring a manual claims submission process for all sellers, regardless of how that information normally is kept, will create an additional burden on the claims administrator to review thousands of claim forms instead of a single filing by a single claimant,” the filing says.

“This will inevitably increase administrative costs, which will lessen the recovery of the class members under the settlement agreements. And unjustifiably high administrative costs may make a settlement unfair.”

Pulte asked the court to require the settlement parties to provide an efficient way for claimants to submit bulk claims through an electronic spreadsheet.

Lastly, Pulte pointed out it had not received direct notice of the settlements nor heard about them from other approved methods such as magazine publications or digital advertising on social media.

“Rather, Pulte’s representatives independently learned of the settlement, well after the fact, from review of legal news,” the filing says.

“While Pulte’s independent knowledge of settlement may render its notice issues moot … that is not true classwide.”

The homebuilder stressed that many class members are individual homesellers and if Pulte didn’t receive direct notice, they likely didn’t either.

“Those individual home sellers may also lack legal counsel and would be less likely to learn about their class membership through the news,” the filing says. “The notice campaign, while perhaps sufficient in the abstract, did not alert class members of settlement in practice.”

That lack of notice “raise[s] concerns that this settlement will not survive due process scrutiny,” the filing adds.

Pulte therefore asked the court to monitor notices in the future “to ensure class members receive actual notice.”

Keller Williams and RE/MAX declined to comment for this story. Inman reached out to Anywhere and plaintiffs’ lead counsel Michael Ketchmark for comment and will update this story if and when responses are received.

Read Pulte’s filing:

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