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The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that MasterCard International is hoping to get a separate trial from Visa USA in the class action lawsuit filed by Wal-Mart and four million other retailers.

A March 7 letter from one of MasterCard’s attorneys reportedly says that the credit card company is looking to “avoid the undue and irreversible prejudice that would result from the introduction of evidence of Visa's conduct and statements before the same jury deciding the separate claims against MasterCard alone." A motion to this effect is scheduled to be made today before U.S. District Judge John Gleeson.

This suit has been ongoing since 1996, when the retailers began arguing that the credit card companies were using their power to unfairly build their presence in the debit card market, forcing retailers to take their debit cards if they wanted to continue taking their credit cards. Debit cards issued by Visa and MasterCard carry higher transaction fees than bank-issued debit/ATM cards, therefore raising the costs to both retailers and consumers.

The WSJ notes that “while Visa and MasterCard each have separate defense teams and were only named together in one part of the suit, they had filed joint briefs asserting the same fundamental arguments in the case.”
KC's View:
Divide and conquer?

Sounds to our uneducated ears like maybe MasterCard might want to settle out of court, and needs to get some distance from Visa to do so. Or maybe it just thinks that it is less culpable that Visa is, and that it can either beat the rap or at least get hit with a smaller jury award.

We’ve thought for a long time that the credit cards are going to end up on the losing end of this case, and can’t understand why they’d want to risk a trial…seeing as the downside is having to pay out tens of billions of dollars in reparations.