Opponents of the $7.25 billion interchange settlement won't be charged with contempt of court after all. On Friday (May 3), U.S. District Judge John Gleeson said he believed the opponents' websites had contained misleading information, but he wouldn't sanction them because his directions for fixing the problems left room for interpretation, according to a Dow Jones story.
That came one day after opponents, including the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) and the National Grocers Association, finally put banners on their sites containing notices the judge had ordered posted in April, both CSP Daily News and Convenience Store News reported.
For example, the NACS site now contains a banner at the top of the home page that reads: "United States District Court Judge John Gleeson, who is presiding over In re Payment Card Interchange Fee and Merchant Discount Antitrust Litigation, has ruled that this website and others like it posted certain information regarding the settlement of that case that was misleading. Additional information as to class members' rights and options under the settlement is available at www.paymentcardsettlement.com."
A site jointly run by groups opposing the settlement, merchantsobject.com, now has a similar but more elaborate notice at the top of its home page.
The opponents' sites and the judge's order are both part of a high-stakes sideshow in the massive class-action lawsuit by merchants against Visa (NYSE:V), MasterCard (NYSE:MA) and several card-issuing banks. Lawyers for the merchants and card brands hammered out a settlement that the judge approved last year, but since then many of the merchants covered by the settlement, including most of the named plaintiffs, have objected to the settlement. The trade groups representing some of those merchants are the ones targeted by the judge's correction order.
The settlement isn't final, and a fairness hearing in September will give opponents a chance to convince the judge that the settlement should be scrapped and the trial put back on track. But by pushing the limits of the judge's patience, opponents may have done themselves as much harm as good. They've certainly gotten publicity for their concerns about the settlement. But at this point, the only way of getting it off the table is to convince Judge Gleeson that he should scrap it—and irritating the judge who holds complete power over a decision is not really the best way to advance your cause.
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