West Virginia Joins 47 States, D.C. in Visa, MasterCard Amicus Brief
Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced today that West Virginia has joined 47 other states and the District of Columbia in an amicus curiae, or “friend of the court,” brief that raises concerns regarding a pending $7.25 billion class-action settlement involving the MasterCard and VISA payment networks.
Morrisey and attorneys general from nearly every other state in the nation explain that certain terms in the proposed settlement agreement - as currently written - may release or interfere with the states’ authority to bring antitrust claims on behalf of their citizens.
“This settlement could set a dangerous precedent of private parties using a lawsuit to insulate themselves from future efforts by my Office to enforce state and federal antitrust laws on behalf of West Virginians who may have been harmed,” Morrisey said. “It is vitally important that West Virginia join this broad-based effort by attorneys general across the country to protect the Office’s authority to fight for consumers.”
The antitrust, class-action lawsuit by private merchants, In re Payment Card Interchange Fee and Merchant Discount Antitrust Litigation, MDL No. 1720 (JG)(JO), is pending before a federal judge in Brooklyn, N.Y., over so-called interchange fees credit card companies charged to process transactions. The proposed settlement was announced last summer, and it was preliminarily approved by the District Court in November. The states filed their brief at the deadline set by the court for formal objections.
The states, which are not parties to the suit, are concerned that the proposed settlement seeks to release “parens patriae” and other claims that belong exclusively to the states. Parens patriae - Latin for “parent of the nation” - refers to a circumstance in which a state sues on behalf of its people. Attorneys general assert that because these claims and remedies are not available to the private merchants that filed the class action, they cannot be released in the settlement. The brief asks the District Court to ensure that the settlement does not release or interfere with any governmental entities’ enforcement authority.
States are continuing discussions with the parties in an attempt to resolve these concerns without court intervention. The District Court is not expected to consider final approval of the settlement agreement until September.