MasterCard Settles Debit Card Trial

NEW YORK - MasterCard International has agreed to a settlement in a closely watched lawsuit with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and millions of other retailers over its debit card policies, a MasterCard spokesman said on Monday.

An order by a New York judge prevents the parties from talking publicly about the details of the settlement, the spokesman told Reuters.

The retailers accused MasterCard and Visa U.S.A. of antitrust violations. They said rules that require merchants to accept their signature-verified debit cards impose additional costs that get passed on to consumers.

They also said the card associations have used their market power to stifle competition from smaller rivals.

The court was in the process of choosing a jury as of Monday morning with opening statements expected to start in the afternoon.

The case against Visa was still scheduled to go ahead. But a spokesman for Visa said the opening statements could be delayed until later this week in light of the MasterCard settlement.

In a summary judgment ruling earlier this month, U.S. District Court Judge John Gleeson of the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn denied MasterCard's motion seeking a separate trial from Visa.

MasterCard had argued that a bulk of the evidence brought by plaintiffs indicts Visa and if the two credit card associations were lumped together, it would confuse a jury and hurt MasterCard.

Judge Gleeson ruled at that time that Visa exercised market power, but said the accusations against MasterCard were less clear and could not be decided without a jury.
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