July 18, 2012

Willkie had a lead role in negotiating a historic settlement on behalf of MasterCard in the Multidistrict Class Action n New York.

On July 13, Willkie client MasterCard, along with Visa and 13 of the nation’s largest banks, announced a settlement agreement with a class of about 7 million merchants in a Multidistrict Class Action Litigation involving antitrust allegations of price fixing, tying, monopolization and exclusive dealing against the U.S. credit card industry.  The settlement resolves a number of class action lawsuits initially filed against the card companies in 2005 and is intended to fully address all antitrust or other competitive issues presented by the MasterCard and Visa networks in the U.S.

The agreement provides for a cash payment to the class of $6.05 billion for past damages.  Both credit card companies also agreed to a settlement with group of the nation’s largest supermarket and drug store chains that filed individual suits and were not members of the class.  MasterCard’s share of the cash-portion of the settlement with the class and individual plaintiffs is $790 million.

As part of the settlement, MasterCard and Visa also agreed to an 8 month reduction in credit card interchange fees valued at approximately $1.2 billion.  The credit card networks also agreed to modify certain rules governing the conduct of merchants at the point of sale, including by permitting merchants to impose surcharges on credit transactions subject to a cap on the amount of the surcharge and other conditions.  The defendants also obtained broad releases.

The settlement, believed to be the largest antitrust settlement in the history of the Sherman Act, remains subject to approval by Judge John Gleeson in the Eastern District of New York.

Willkie is co-counsel to MasterCard in In re Payment Card Interchange Fee and Merchant Discount Antitrust Litigation, case number 1:05-md-01720, (E.D.N.Y).  The matter is being handled by Wesley Powell and Matthew Freimuth.