69 Comments

Thanks for writing about this! Even better that the DOJ is investigating. I've heard so many stories of people being forced out of apartments they held for years but double-digit rent increases... and many of them end up on the streets, homeless. It's another example of how computers have changed the landscape and we as a society haven't figured out how to manage it. Now if we had a responsible legislature......

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There's a saying among those of us who have been writing code since the days of FORTRAN: For every problem blamed on a computer there are actually two problems, one of which is blaming it on the computer. Here as in so much of the problem of inflation the fault lies with simple human greed.

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A computer does only what a human instructs it to do. That may change with true AI. For now, blaming illegal acts on software, um, er, doesn't compute.

Book em Dano.

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Glad you noted this. I have noticed in many systems, people appear eager to blame or pass the buck rather than do what one can to solve. Service is not inherent in our expectations of ourselves as a society.

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It's not computers, it's the epidemic of greed. Computers just make the greed easier

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It all leads back to 1947 with the invention of the transistor, precursor to the computer chip, precursor to the Internet, precursor to social media and its ability to coordinate almost anything.

Responsible legislature? Hah! They set the stage allowing the removal of the Fairness Doctrine, allowing full time right wing talk radio. Look where that got us...

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Matt Stoller also covered this topic in his antimonopoly Substack Big.

https://www.thebignewsletter.com/p/monopoly-round-up-fbi-raids-big-corporate

He has covered it before as well months ago before it was revealed that the government was going after this price fixing. https://www.thebignewsletter.com/archive?sort=new

It made me realize how truly awful things have become. So glad the Biden administration is taking things like this on.

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founding

Thank you for the link...just read it, and right in line with this WHOLE problem which is part of "inflation" being blamed on Joe Biden. [I appreciate the link cuz even though I have access to Matt Stoller I have too many reading choices and only one life in which to read them!]

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founding
Jun 4·edited Jun 4

We have a new kind of capitalism in our country. We no longer have competition to create a fair market place. Instead, we have complicity to make profits that put the poorest among us at risk by "policing the conspiracy to make sure no one cheats by lowering prices and trying to gain market share."

Thank you, Judd, for covering this greed all over our country. Those who admire these cutthroat tactics are undoubtedly the kind who support the criminal felon running for President--that's been his way of life (except that he wouldn't even favor black and brown people with the "benefits" of his rental grifting).

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Capitalism was never about free markets. Capitalists want monopolies, not competition.

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Just another example illustrating that under-regulated capitalism is a rigged game. When conservatives whine about regulation, what they really want is a rigged game.

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founding

Just read Aaron Rupar and Noah Berlatsky on "Biden's fight against monopolies is a fight for democracy." This is right up our alley, and reveals the wonderful work that Biden is doing thanks to Lina Khan and Tim Wu (and always Elizabeth Warren), and even Merrick Garland.

I recommend this article to everyone.

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founding

Saw Judd Legum's name and the key to this article, "Feds rain corporate landlord, escalating nationwide criminal probe" on Joy Reid's show last night! [if I didn't record and save on my dvr I'd never have seen this]

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I have a feeling RealPage is in serious trouble. They will have a difficult time claiming that all they did was create the opportunity. No. They automated a process, making them partners in price-setting. This may be one of the only cases in my memory of the owners of software being held accountable for violating federal antitrust law.

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founding

Hooray!

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I fully disagree. This software collects, aggregates, and presents rental data, but it's entirely on its users how it's acted upon. Don't blame the tool, in other words.

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Apparently, Bill, you didn’t read the same article the rest of us did. Members who don’t follow the pricing guidelines get kicked out.

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I re-read that paragraph. It states that users agree to turn over their "pricing authority" to RealPage. I think it's a question of what that term means.

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"I think it's a question of what that term means." You're right, Bill C., and that's why this question should go to trial. When 12 ordinary Americans listen carefully to witnesses, look carefully at evidence, then apply both the law as the judge explains it and their own common sense, we get sensible results -- as happened just last week in Manhattan.

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I am so glad they are finally investigating this. I suspect the network of price-fixing is not limited to large cities either. Sure, in larger cities there are more properties to scam like this, but there is a domino effect to suburbs and eventually rural areas.

I think the DOJ should also investigate who are the people doing this: They may not all be Americans, and if so, may be beyond our Judicial reach.

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Cecile, I think DOJ will find that a lot of this price-fixing can be traced back to private equity owners of real estate. Since the Great Recession, private equity has targeted residential real estate, and bought up a lot of the houses and apartment buildings that were up for auction. Since then they've continued their aggressive move into American real estate (owning up to 20% of the total US market).....names like Blackrock and Apollo Global Capital, etc.

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Thank you for highlighting the insidious and destructive work of private equity firms. They are buying up all kinds of companies, loading them up with debt, laying off workers, the declaring bankruptcy when the company cannot manage the debt load.

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I totally agree with you. these private equity firms did/ are doing a lot of damage.

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You might be right about the bleed into suburbs and rural areas. Automation doesn't necessarily have to stop at any boundary. The root cause of this kind of inflation, plus all the misaligned incentives that cause landlords to make more from equity increase than from rent, is all the money printing. It's not just making food more expensive, and it definitely doesn't care where the properties are.

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This sort of collusion is happening all across the economy in virtually every sector and is THE prime driver of rising prices. When you see surveys or polling on voter unhappiness with the economy, notice that they never ask questions about perceptions of WHY prices go up.

Pundits blame “an overheated economy” and “inflation” on pandemic relief pumping out too much cash - too many $ chasing goods. “Wages are too high” so we need to raise interest rates & kill jobs. Yet if you compare consumer behavior post pandemic (once things settled down) to before, was anyone buying significantly more food, shelter, clothing, transportation etc. than they were before? Enough to account for the “inflation”? No way. The pandemic created supply shortages - some legitimate, some deliberately created.

Sellers found that when competition is eliminated they acquired more freedom to manipulate prices. It was easier to make $ off of fewer goods at higher prices than producing more volume at lower ones.

The voters more inclined to blame rather than solve. This is a great opportunity to harness that blame in a helpful direction.

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Private equity control of certain sectors of our economy, along with multi-national corporations, are stealing from us every day.

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Agreed. However PE is an economic predator of another magnitude. They’re the crocodiles eating the piranhas which are eating us.

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Fascinating report Judd. No surprise this was looming out there unmonitored. I can remember apartment shopping with my daughter, in Atlanta, in 2016 and discovering the use of this software. At the time it infuriated me that the leasing agents referred to it like a ticker tape on the stock market. Today the veil is pulled. The Cartel is revealed. I hope that Justice follows the money trail to the top.

I live in Atlanta. Rent and home purchase prices are out of control. Corporate shells are scooping up for sale homes and turning them into rentals. Who is holding the Cartel accountable? This is racketeering at its finest. Sure hoping this draws more attention.

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Same with the Seattle area, Linda. Rent and the costs of a home are skyrocketing, with no end in sight. Seattle neighborhoods have been blighted by the construction of cookie-cutter apartment buildings, 4-5 stories high with "retail space" on the first floor. The rectangular buildings have no exterior personality, go right to the sidewalks, and cannot possibly be all locally owned. I've been suspecting private equity of buying up land and property for years. I'm excited about the prospect, as you said, of "the Cartel" being revealed!

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More evidence that “greedflation” is real.

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Wait a minute...I thought rent hikes were all Biden's fault! Same with grocery and gas prices. s/

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Me too! Wouldn’t it be great if Biden and Democrats effectively countered that false narrative? We can only hope.

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I bet if Biden weren't in office the rabbits wouldn't be eating in my garden. He's the cause of all problems. /s

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Just wanted to thank you again for superb reporting!

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OMG! No wonder rents are going up so fast where there is no form of rent control. This kind of rent increase destabilizes society by causing increased homelessness, it's as bad as the effect of social media. Oh, wait. So any form of social programming that doesn't include seeing the effects immediately and in person is going to be harmful in the long run? Wow, what a revelation! Yes, remote personal irresponsibility is bad. Don't be tempted to join the crowd.

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Once again, I feel much better informed thanks to Judd and his merry band of investigative reporters. Remember when mainstream media used to care about finding facts and reporting on stories that mattered? Now they just sell soap. History will not be kind to them.

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Sometimes it's hard to tell if human suffering is the objective or just a by-product.

Nice reporting folks.

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The FBI is welcome to visit Indianapolis! Since 2016, I have had some outrageous rent increases. One made me move. It's happening again where I live now. Both places are corporately owned.

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Aside from the innate unfairness of what these landlords are doing . . . okay . . . lets call a spade a spade . . . the clear violation of not only the basic fundamental of capitalism (competition) but of the Sherman Anti Truss Law of 1890, aside from that there is perhaps a deeper and more disturbing concern. Recently I saw data that showed oil prices rising (and of course driving inflation) on the eve of elections where a Democratic president was running for reelection, and dropping when the occupant was a Republican seeking reelection. Is it possible that Big Landlord is taking a page our of Big Oil's playbook? Just another example of corporate American's determination to put a scoundrel -- their scoundrel, in the White House.

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Appreciate the diversity of issues in your writing. Please keep updating each.

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Libertarian economics: Unbridled capitalism results in CARTELS, CONGLOMERATES and CORRUPTION. The Fascist billionaires behind it all also run the RNC as an organized crime syndicate, and they install puppets at every level of government. Trump is grifting on the operation. So long as trump’s agenda is chaos and the destruction of democracy, the coterie of Libertarian Fascists organized by Koch/Leo will let him run roughshod over this nation. When trump is no longer useful, they will get rid of him . . . Billionaires don’t like to be grifted.

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