The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has filed a complaint
against the Louisiana Real Estate Appraisers Board (LREAB), accusing the group of “unreasonably restraining price competition for appraisal services in Louisiana, contrary to federal antitrust law.”
The FTC complaint, which will be submitted to adjudication before an Administrative Law Judge for review and a ruling, alleges that the Louisiana appraisers board exceeded the scope of the Dodd-Frank Act’s mandate by requiring appraisal fees to equal or exceed the median fees identified in survey reports commissioned and published by the board. The board then investigated and sanctioned companies that paid fees below the specified levels—and action that the FTC claimed was not required by the Dodd-Frank Act.
“Today’s action … shows that the Commission remains vigilant and will exercise its prescribed authority when economically sound and otherwise consistent with the public interest,” said Acting Director of the Bureau of Competition Abbott (Tad) Lipsky. “Nearly everyone that purchases or refinances a home in the state of Louisiana pays appraisal fees, these consumers deserve to benefit from a free market where those fees are set by competition.”
Bruce Unangst, executive director of the LREAB, disputed the FTC’s findings. “Respectfully, the FTC is just plain wrong,” he said. “By issuing this legally faulty and factually incorrect complaint, the FTC is seeking to punish a Louisiana state agency for following federal regulatory mandates.”
Unangst added that the FTC’s allegations “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.”
The administrative trial on this matter is scheduled to begin on Jan. 30, 2018.