Magazine article American Banker

Justice Dept. Seeks More Papers in Suit against MC, Visa

Magazine article American Banker

Justice Dept. Seeks More Papers in Suit against MC, Visa

Article excerpt

In a court filing, the Department of Justice has revealed the degree to which it is relying on private litigation against Visa U.S.A. and MasterCard International to support its own case against the two bank-owned associations.

Several months ago, the government won the right to obtain the discovery documents in what is known as the Wal-Mart lawsuit-a class action filed by major retailers against Visa and MasterCard, attacking their debit card rules.

The federal antitrust enforcers, whose suit focuses on credit cards, now wants the private notes and analyses that the debit-case plaintiffs have gathered over the past two-and-a-half years.

Last week in federal court in Brooklyn, N.Y., the government filed a motion to intervene to modify a protective order that safeguards the confidentiality of those documents.

The idea is that obtaining the plaintiff attorneys' notes would significantly reduce the work load of the government's lawyers.

"They know we are two years ahead of them in terms of analysis," said Lloyd Constantine of Constantine & Partners, the New York law firm representing the retailers. "It's somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000 hours of work we have done."

Noah Hanft, senior vice president and counsel for MasterCard, said: "The terms of the protective order were negotiated by all parties in good faith. We see no basis for modifying that agreement and intend to oppose the motion."

The Department of Justice, which filed its lawsuit against Visa and MasterCard in October, began focusing on debit cards in January, after the Federal Trade Commission transferred its investigation into the bank card associations' debit cards to Justice. …

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