Visa seeks declaratory judgment against Wal-Mart in credit card antitrust litigation

Posted on: July 25th, 2013 by Steve Larson
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Antitrust CasesVisa Inc. sued Wal-Mart in New York federal court in a bid to block the retail giant from pursuing more damages after opting out of a $7.25 billion antitrust settlement in the interchange fee MDL.  The credit card giant accused Wal-Mart of trying to endlessly litigate many of the same issues over its interchange fees in multiple cases, pointing out that it already paid Wal-Mart a significant settlement to resolve an earlier round of litigation over its practices.

And even though Visa, MasterCard and several major banks have already agreed to pay roughly $7.25 billion in a settlement to resolve an MDL accusing the companies of conspiring to keep rates high, Wal-Mart indicated that it planned to pursue another suit over the same alleged conduct, according to the new complaint. After more than a decade of litigation, Visa said enough was enough, urging the court to rule the company hadn’t violated the antitrust laws.

“A declaration in Visa’s favor against Wal-Mart is necessary to prevent the continuation of endless, wasteful litigation between the parties,” the complaint said. “Put simply, Visa seeks finality in its dispute with Wal-Mart.”

Visa has been fighting antitrust claims over its debit and credit card practices since the mid-1990s, when Visa and MasterCard were hit with class actions accusing them of trying to monopolize the debit card market.

Not long after Visa and MasterCard paid out considerable sums to Wal-Mart to settle that case, known as the Visa check litigation, the companies were hit by a new wave of class actions, which became the interchange fee litigation. And that suit raises many of the same issues as the Visa check case, according to the complaint.

Visa, MasterCard and the banks reached a deal to settle the newest MDL in mid-2012, but the settlement has faced copious criticism that it does little to address the core problems with the credit card companies’ interchange fees. Wal-Mart was one of the first major companies to come out against the deal, though the objectors and opt-outs now include more than half of the original named plaintiffs in the case, several attorneys general and a host of major retail chains.

This is not the first time Visa has sought a declaratory judgment to block claims from opt-outs in the interchange fee litigation. In late May, Visa, MasterCard and some of the banks sued retail trade groups that have rejected the settlement.