This is reaching TV-lawyer levels of drama.
In the latest development in American Express Co.’s dispute with merchants over their credit card surcharge and steering policies, a U.S judge rejected a negotiated settlement based on concerns about the conduct of the plaintiffs’ attorney.
“The retailers used an exchange of e-mails between the plaintiffs’ lead lawyer Gary Friedman and Keila Ravelo, who represented MasterCard in a separate case, to support their assertions that the deals were rigged.
The rejection means that merchants and the card firm may have to renegotiate the deal or possibly go to trial. A conference is scheduled in Brooklyn, New York federal court for Oct. 5 to discuss the next steps.
The retailers sent a notice to Visa and MasterCard lawyers last week that they would seek to throw out that deal as well. No action has been taken on that request.”
American Express expressed their disappointment with the judge’s decision.
“The New York-based card company is “disappointed in the court’s decision to deny final approval of the settlement,” Chao [spokeswoman for American Express] said. “We continue to believe the agreement was fair.”
And the lawyer for the plaintiffs, Gary Friedman expressed his disappointment while maintaining his innocence.
“Friedman said in an e-mail Tuesday that he is “deeply disappointed, but I respect the decision of the court.”
“I never took any steps that were contrary to the interest of my clients, the merchants,” he said. “I have always acted to promote their welfare.”
Overview by Alex Johnson, Sr. Analyst, Credit Advisory Service at Mercator Advisory Group