Attorneys Move to Block Merchant Websites Against Swipe-Fee Deal

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Attorneys Move to Block Merchant Websites Against Swipe-Fee Deal


NEW YORK -- Attorneys looking to settle the long-running class-action suit over swipe fees between retailers and Visa, MasterCard and several financial institutions have turned to the courts to pull the plug on websites opposing the settlement.

The law firms representing the proposed class of merchants contend that organizations including NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing, the National Grocers Association and National Community Pharmacists Associations, which want to derail the deal, are putting retailers at risk by urging them to opt out of the settlement without advising them of their rights, according to a report by Dow Jones Business News.

"These unauthorized and misleading communications from the trade association plaintiffs pose a real threat of confusing class members and undermining the court-approved notice processes," the firms said in a letter filed in federal court Friday. The firms are Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP; Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi LLP; and Berger & Montague PC, which helped negotiate the settlement and served as co-counsel for the proposed class.

The firms want the court to order the trade groups to disclose on their websites that the sites are not court approved, confer with the class attorneys regarding communications they plan to distribute in the future before dissemination, and correct factual errors, the news outlet reported.

Jeff Shinder, a managing partner with the law firm Constantine Cannon LLP, which is representing NACS and other plaintiff trade groups that oppose the deal, said Monday that there is "nothing remotely misleading about the trade association sites."

"Proponents of the settlement are afraid of allowing contrary views to be disseminated to the class," Shinder said. "They are attempting to impose some form of regulation on the ability of the objecting plaintiffs to communicate with their members, and that raises First Amendment issues."

The legal action dates back to 2005 and a $7.2-billion proposed settlement was reached this past July. Though the deal faced immediate opposition from numerous retailers and retail groups -- even some not involved in the litigation -- U.S. District Judge John Gleeson granted preliminary approval to the deal in November, as CSNews Online previously reported.

A fairness hearing to determine whether the settlement should be granted final approval is scheduled for Sept. 12.