Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Remaining Funds in Visa Check/MasterMoney Class Action Awarded to Non-Profits

This posting was written by Jeffrey May, Editor of CCH Trade Regulation Reporter.

The American Antitrust Institute will receive half of the remaining settlement fund in a tying arrangement class action against the Visa and MasterCard payment card networks under a cy pres distribution, the federal district court in Brooklyn, New York, has decided.

Following distribution of approximately $2.6 billion from the settlement fund in the class action brought on behalf of millions of merchants against the two networks, approximately $1.5 million to $1.6 million was remaining in the fund.

The lead counsel for the plaintiffs had initially asked the court that the entire remainder be donated to the American Antitrust Institute—a non-profit organization dedicated to education, research, and advocacy concerning antitrust law. Ultimately, it was decided that the American Antitrust Institute would share the money with two other charitable organizations.

After determining that a cy pres award was a more appropriate manner for disposing of the remaining settlement funds than an additional distribution to class members, the court took up the issue of who would be granted the remaining funds. The cy pres donation amounted to roughly 0.057 percent to 0.061 percent of the total amount distributed to class members.

Distribution to Three Organizations

The funds were to be distributed as follows: 50 percent to the American Antitrust Institute; 25 percent to Consumers Union, a non-profit advocacy organization; and 25 percent to U.S. PIRG, a network of state public interest groups working on behalf of the American public on issues such as product safety, public health and health care reform, higher education, political corruption and voting rights.

The court denied a request from the Jewelers Vigilance Committee—a not-for-profit trade association for the U.S. precious metal, gem, and jewelry trade—for consideration as a recipient of the cy pres funds. The group was not an appropriate recipient. Its members who were members of the class had already benefited from the settlement.

Moreover, distribution to such narrowly-tailored interests would have had the effect of inequitably concentrating its benefit on a subset of the class as opposed to the class as a whole, in the court’s view.

The October 24, 2011 decision, In re Visa Check/MasterMoney Antitrust Litigation, appears at 2011-2 Trade Cases ¶ 77,654.

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