This ongoing series explores the NAR Code of Ethics through various case interpretations. Please read through the following case and try to decide if there was any Code of Ethics violations. Then click the box at the bottom to find out the answer. (These cases have been provided by the National Association of REALTORS®.)


Code of Ethics Case Interpretation – Article 4: Indirect Interest in Buyer

REALTOR® A had taken two offers to buy a commercial property listed with him to the owner, Client B. Both offers had been considerably below the listed price, and on REALTOR® A’s advice, Client B had rejected both. REALTOR® C submitted a contract to REALTOR® A seeking a cooperative arrangement on REALTOR® A’s listing, which was agreeable to REALTOR® A. REALTOR® C brought a contract to REALTOR® A from a prospective buyer, a bank, offering more than the previous proposals, but still 10 percent less than the listed price. REALTOR® A took the offer to Client B and again advised him not to accept an offer at less than the full listed price. Again, the client acted on REALTOR® A’s advice. The bank revised its offer, proposing to pay the listed price. This offer was accepted by Client B, the owner.

About a month after the closing, the Association of REALTOR® S received a complaint from a director of the bank that had purchased Client B’s property, charging REALTOR®A and REALTOR® C with unethical conduct and duplicity which had resulted in the bank’s paying an excessive price for the property. The complaint stated that REALTOR® C was a stockholder in a corporation, one of whose officers was a director of the bank; that REALTOR® C, in a transaction that was handled through REALTOR® A, had evidently used his connection with the bank to induce the bank to buy at a price higher than the market; and that neither of the two REALTORS® had disclosed to the other officers of the bank the connection that existed between them and one officer of the bank.

At the hearing, REALTOR®A defended his actions by stating that he knew nothing of any business relationship between REALTOR® C, the cooperating broker and the buyer; that he had acted wholly in accordance with the best interests of his client, the seller. REALTOR® C demonstrated that he had negotiated solely with the president of the bank; that the director of the bank who happened to be an officer of a corporation in which he, REALTOR® C, held stock was at no time contacted during the negotiations; that the matter had never been discussed with that individual.

What do you think the Hearing Panel decided? Click here to find out.

It was the conclusion of the Hearing Panel that the indirect relationship between REALTOR® C and the buyer was not of a nature to require a formal disclosure; that REALTOR® C could not be held to be in violation of Article 4. The panel pointed out, however, that in a borderline case where it could be reasonably inferred that a relationship did exist, the spirit of Article 4 would be better served if disclosure were made to avoid any possibility of unfortunate or unfounded suspicions.