Zillow CEO Barton can be Questioned in Antitrust Lawsuit, says Judge

April 27, 2023
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US District Judge Thomas Zilly has given Real Estate Exchange Inc (REX) permission to question Zillow CEO Rich Barton in an ongoing lawsuit against Zillow.

REX filed against Zillow in 2021 accusing the US portal and the National Association of Realtors of engaging in anticompetitive business practices that punished REX's real estate listings—which led to the brokerage ceasing operations in May 2022.

The lawsuit claims that Zillow redesigned its website to strategically segregate, conceal and demote any listings that were not part of NAR's member-operated listings service—including REX's.

REX is seeking unspecified monetary damages and an injunction "from continuing to engage in any anticompetitive conduct". Zillow and NAR have both denied liability and are contesting claims in the lawsuit, and both companies have declined to comment on the case.

And now Judge Zilly says REX can question Barton for up to three hours, despite Zillow's protestations that he has no material involvement in the case.

REX is understood to want to question Barton about Zillow's decision to join multiple listing services, and also its move to buy houses and originate mortgages.

Zillow's chief industry development officer was due to be questioned on Thursday, and the company's vice president of industry development is set to appear at a deposition in May.

Judge Zilly ordered Zillow to hand over data surrounding its FSBO listings in October saying the data is "relevant and proportional to the needs of the case."

Should the case go against Zillow, it may have ramifications for how portals display listings from sources such as discount brokerages and FSBO operators. These businesses do not pay MLS membership fees, and may even walk away from this case with more rights.

Zillow has been embroiled in a number of lawsuits in the past 12 months. The firm was sued for 'wiretapping' its website visitors in September, won a patent-breach lawsuit against IBM in October, and recently settled a deal worth $15M in an investor case dating back to 2017.

April 27, 2023
Harvey is an experienced property journalist and copywriter. He has written about the property industry since 2015, starting at The Property Franchise Group in the UK, before moving to Spain to work for Spotahome. He has blogged for the private rented sector, ghostwritten for UK property experts and written case studies for franchise owners around the UK. Harvey joined Online Marketplaces as a News Editor in 2022.

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