The president of the embattled National Association of Realtors has resigned, just four months into her tenure. Tracy Kasper is the second president to abruptly step down from N.A.R. — an organization that has seen its power and influence wane in recent months in the wake of losing a major antitrust lawsuit and facing allegations that leaders ignored sexual harassment allegations.
N.A.R. announced Ms. Kasper’s surprise exit on Monday in a brief news release that implied Ms. Kasper had received a blackmail threat. She “recently received a threat to disclose a past personal, nonfinancial matter unless she compromised her position,” and she reported the matter to the police, according to the news release.
The organization gave no specifics and declined to provide further comment; Ms. Kasper did not immediately respond to a further request for comment.
NAR is the largest professional organization in the United States and for more than a century has wielded immense power over the nation’s housing industry. The organization holds more than $1 billion in assets, operates the number one political fund-raising organization in the country and holds the trademark to the word “Realtor.” To gain access to nearly all U.S. home listings and to call themselves Realtors, its 1.5 million members each pay hundreds of dollars in annual dues.
In August, The New York Times exposed widespread allegations of sexual harassment by its then president, Kenny Parcell, as well as a practice of providing payouts and nondisclosure agreements to women who reported sexual misconduct.
Mr. Parcell resigned two days after the investigation was published, and Ms. Kasper, 55, already president-elect, stepped into the role earlier than planned. She is a longtime broker from Boise, Idaho.
In her short tenure, Ms. Kasper tried to navigate the organization through several crises, including a landmark jury verdict in federal court in Missouri. The jury ruled that NAR and several large brokerages conspired to enforce a N.A.R. policy that required home sellers to pay commissions to the agent representing the buyer. Three plaintiffs, representing half a million home sellers, claimed that they had paid excessive fees as a result of the policy.
N.A.R. and the brokerages were ordered to pay damages of nearly $1.8 billion. The verdict allows the court to issue treble damages, which means they could swell to more than $5 billion. N.A.R. is appealing.
Within hours of that verdict, lawyers for the plaintiffs entered another class-action suit in U.S. District Court in Missouri, this time requesting damages that could climb higher than $200 billion.
After the verdict, the organization’s longtime chief executive announced he would retire more than a year early. Its longtime director of human resources, who was facing widespread calls for her removal, also announced she was retiring.
More than a dozen other lawsuits have since piled up, and many members fear that the legal troubles could bankrupt the organization and upend the process of buying and selling a home in the United States.
Internal issues, including sexual harassment allegations and power struggles, have been a distraction, members have complained. In November, Mr. Parcell, who has decried the allegations against him, wrote an open letter that NAR staff interpreted as a plan to crash their national convention. Ms. Kasper personally sent her former ally a stony warning, and following the convention, N.A.R.’s 69-person executive committee approved a new policy: a lifetime ban from all N.A.R. events for any elected officer who resigns or is removed from office.
Ms. Kasper, who helped spearhead that policy, is now bound by it.
In a statement, Ms. Kasper said, “As a result of the recent threat and given the significance of this moment for myself, my family and the organization, it is again time for me to put the interests of NAR first. So, it is with a mix of gratitude and a heavy heart that I submit my resignation as your president effective immediately.”
Kevin Sears, who had been N.A.R.’s first vice president before stepping into the role of vice president in August when Mr. Parcell resigned, will now take over as president.