LOS ANGELES (AP) — Nykia Wright, former CEO of the Chicago Sun-Times, has been tapped to take over the National Association of Realtors on an interim basis when the current chief executive departs the role earlier than expected later this month after a federal jury delivered a heavy blow to the organization in a class-action lawsuit.
The Chicago-based NAR said Thursday that CEO Bob Goldberg would be stepping down after a 30-year career at the trade association and nearly two months before his planned retirement. The move comes just two days after the trade group was dealt a punishing judgement in federal court over its guidelines on real estate agent commissions.
Wright is slated to begin on November 20.
In June, Goldberg, 66, announced plans to retire on Dec. 31. His early exit comes during a rough week for the NAR. On Tuesday a federal jury in Kansas City, Missouri, ordered the trade association and some of the nation’s biggest real estate brokerages to pay almost $1.8 billion in damages after finding they artificially inflated commissions paid to real estate agents.
The class-action suit was filed in 2019 on behalf of 500,000 home sellers in Missouri and some border towns. The jury found that the defendants “conspired to require home sellers to pay the broker representing the buyer of their homes in violation of federal antitrust law.”
For now, charting the way that NAR deals with its challenges will fall on Wright, 44, who steered the Chicago Sun-Times’ digital transformation, among other challenges.
“I am honored to join the organization at this important moment, when the opportunity to make a difference in the evolving real estate landscape has never been greater,” Wright said in a prepared statement Thursday.
NAR and the other defendants could be on the hook for more than $5 billion if the court decides to award the plaintiffs treble damages, which allows plaintiffs to potentially receive up to three times actual or compensatory damages. The NAR said it plans to appeal.
In a statement Thursday, Goldberg said: “After announcing my decision to retire earlier this year, and as I reflected on my 30 years at NAR, I determined last month that now is the right time for this extraordinary organization to look to the future.”
He will serve as an executive consultant during the transition to Wright, the NAR said.
Goldberg’s departure marks the second major executive shuffle at the NAR in recent weeks. In August, former NAR President Kenny Parcell resigned following a report in The New York Times that detailed sexual harassment allegations against the Utah broker by employees and members of the NAR.
Tracy Kasper, then NAR’s president-elect, took over immediately after Parcell’s exit.
The NAR touts more than 1.5 million members. Real estate agents must be dues-paying members of the NAR in order to advertise themselves as Realtors.
Its size and influence in the U.S. real estate industry has not only made the trade association a target in litigation, but also brought it under the scrutiny of the Justice Department. The department filed a complaint in 2020 against the NAR, alleging it established and enforced rules and policies that illegally restrained competition in residential real estate services.
The government withdrew a proposed settlement agreement in 2021, saying the move would allow it to conduct a broader investigation of NAR’s rules and conduct.
The NAR and several national brokerages face another federal lawsuit over agent commissions, filed Tuesday in the Western District of Missouri by the same legal team in the Missouri case. This complaint seeks class-action status covering anyone in the U.S. who sold a home in the last five years.
And the potential fallout from the 2019 case, should the court issue a final judgement potentially forcing the NAR and real estate brokerages to change the rules that now determine the commissions agents receive on the sale of a home and which party to the transaction foots the bill.
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