WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) — The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced May 31 it has filed a complaint against the Louisiana Real Estate Appraisers Board, citing allegations the group unreasonably restrains price competition for appraisal services in its state.
“The bureau is committed to the judicious exercise of its enforcement discretion as mapped out by the Supreme Court in the North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners case,” said acting director of the Bureau of Competition, Abbott (Tad) Lipsky.
“The great preponderance of state board activity across the country occurs without significant antitrust concern, and the commission will respect the authority of such boards when they operate within the defined scope of antitrust law.”
Lipsky noted the action undertaken by the FTC is its first against a state board since the North Carolina Dental case that went to the Supreme Court. According to Lipsky, the FTC will remain vigilant in using its authority to help the general public and consumers throughout the nation.
“Nearly everyone that purchases or refinances a home in the state of Louisiana pays appraisal fees," Lipsky said. "These consumers deserve to benefit from a free market where those fees are set by competition.”
The LREAB is calling the FTC's action an overreach.
“Respectfully, the FTC is just plain wrong," said Bruce Unangst, Executive Director of LREAB.
"By issuing this legally faulty and factually incorrect complaint, the FTC is seeking to punish a Louisiana state agency for following federal regulatory mandates. Specifically, Dodd-Frank regulations – intended to protect consumers by ensuring the integrity of home mortgage appraisals – require that state appraisal agencies ensure Appraisal Management Companies (AMCs) pay 'customary and reasonable' fees for home appraisals."
Unangst said LREAB is simply following federal regulations, and to suggest its good faith efforts to comply with them is shadowy is "ludicrous."
"Congress and six financial regulatory agencies in Washington have directed Louisiana to do exactly what the FTC is now alleging is an antitrust violation," Unangst said.
"These claims distort the reality of the Board’s conduct in an attempt to stitch together a conspiracy where none exists. We plan to vigorously contest these charges and defend the interests of Louisiana consumers while ensuring our state complies with federal appraisal independence regulations.”