Retailers Say Swipe Fee Settlements Are Tainted
NEW YORK — The retail community continues to fight swipe-fee settlements with several credit card companies. In the latest installment of this longstanding battle, retailers are questioning a relationship between a former MasterCard Inc. lawyer and a plaintiffs' attorney.
According to Law360, the relationship "resulted in their sharing confidential information and irrevocably tainted multibillion-dollar swipe fee settlements with MasterCard, Visa Inc. and American Express Co." An attorney representing major retailers made this argument in New York federal court on June 29.
The settlements came under scrutiny earlier this year when it was revealed that former Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP partner Keila Ravelo and plaintiffs' attorney Gary Friedman had shared emails and other information tied to the litigation. Ravelo and Friedman are on opposing sides in the cases, the legal publication reported.
The retailers, including 7-Eleven Inc., want copies of approximately 20 documents that were sent between the two attorneys that they allege undermine the settlements. Citing various privacy issues, 7-Eleven attorney Jeffrey Shinder of Constantine Cannon LLP declined to discuss the substance of the documents in open court. However, Shinder told a magistrate judge that Friedman's communications with Ravelo show Friedman was unfit to represent retailers in the litigation, according to Law360.
In addition, Shinder said some of the information contained in the communications includes sensitive information about negotiations in the MasterCard and Visa case. He also suggested that the communications between Ravelo and Friedman coincided with important dates tied to the settlements.
MasterCard, Visa, American Express and lawyers representing merchants that are not objecting to the case have been resisting attempts to get copies of the documents, citing the highly confidential nature of the material and attorney-client work product. Parties have also stated that Friedman's role in the case was minimal and that his relationship with Ravelo did not impact the settlements, Law360 reported.
Certain attorneys for the objecting parties, including Shinder, have been allowed to view the documents in question and take notes on them.