• On April 22, NASDAQ announced that it would merge with Instinet and prior to that the New York Stock Exchange announced that it would merge with Archipelago Exchange. The Antitrust Division is expected to investigate these transactions.
  • On April 21, the DOJ and the FTC jointly issued a letter urging the Texas Real Estate Commission to reject a proposed regulation that would impose new restrictions on the ability of Texas real estate professionals to offer flexibility in brokerage services. The agencies expressed concern that the proposed regulation would not only cause Texas consumers to pay more for real estate services, but also would reduce consumer choice by restricting the ability of real estate brokers to provide services tailored to customer needs. Currently, Texas real estate brokers can offer the level of service that a customer wants and needs. Full-service brokers charge consumers a single price for a bundle of individual real estate services and limited-service brokers offer consumers the option to pick and choose from a menu of different real estate services according to each respective consumer’s individual needs. For example, a seller can decide just to purchase multi-list services from a broker and to represent himself or herself in negotiating with buyers. Under the proposed new regulation, limited-service brokers would be required to bundle together certain of their service offerings into a mandatory package and would no longer be able to offer services separately. The agencies believe that if accepted, customers will be forced to purchase additional services that they may not want or need so they believe that the Texas Real Estate Commission should reject it.
  • On April 11, Wilhelm DerMinassian, the former Associate Director in charge of the District of Columbia’s Department of Transportation (“DC DOT”) and Dunn Engineering Associates P.C., a New York-based traffic engineering firm were charged separately in connection with subverting the competitive process for federally-funded contracts let by the DC DOT by seeking, paying, and receiving of a gratuity in exchange for future favorable treatment of Dunn by Mr. DerMinassian in his administration and oversight of the five year Integrated Traffic Management System contract. These cases are the first to arise out of an ongoing investigation being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s National Criminal Enforcement Section with the assistance of the Washington Field Offices of the United States Department of Transportation, Office of the Inspector General, and the FBI.
  • On April 8, the DOJ issued a letter urging the Oklahoma state legislature to reject proposed legislation that would change current state law to eliminate the ability of Oklahoma real estate professionals to offer a selection of real estate services. The change in legislation would undoubtedly raise prices to consumers of real estate brokerage services. In Oklahoma, real estate brokers started offering selected services rather than providing a bundle of services. The legislation seeks to eliminate the offering of selected services. Accordingly, the DOJ has recommended that the state legislature reject the legislation.

Authored by:
Andre P. Barlow