Magazine article American Banker

Fleet Given Slim Chance of Getting Card Issue Reheard

Magazine article American Banker

Fleet Given Slim Chance of Getting Card Issue Reheard

Article excerpt

In spite of the unanimous decision by a three-judge appellate panel that it had acted unfairly in imposing an annual fee on a consumer's credit card, FleetBoston Financial Corp. continues to press its case -- confounding some predictions that it would finally throw in the towel.

Some lawyers say that the latest move by FleetBoston and its card subsidiaries -- a brief filed Feb. 22 seeking a rehearing with either the three judges who heard the case or with the entire 12-judge Third Circuit Federal Court of Appeals -- may be futile, since appeals courts seldom rehear unanimous decisions.

But because various state and federal courts have handed down diverging opinions on the fairness of banks' changing the terms of credit card contracts after promising better deals up front, a lawyer for the plaintiff in this case said that it was predictable that Fleet would try this routine motion.

The filing was "a typical move in response to an appellate court decision," said the lawyer, Michael Donovan, a partner at the Philadelphia firm Donovan Searles LLC. "I do not think it's likely to be successful. It's rarely granted, and almost never granted where you have a unanimous decision."

He said a majority of the court's judges would have to agree that Fleet deserved a rehearing. Allen Kaplinsky, a lawyer with the Philadelphia law firm Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll, which represents Fleet in the case, would not comment on the bank's chances for a rehearing.

After the appeals court on Feb. 8 overturned a federal district court's ruling in favor of Fleet, consumer activists hailed it as a major victory, and some observers predicted that Fleet would leave the matter alone rather than risk further bad publicity. …

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