Case Accusing Chase, Others of Conspiring on Arbitration Clauses is Partially Settled

Nov 20, 2009, 13:10 ET from Berger & Montague, P.C.

PHILADELPHIA, Nov. 20 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Berger & Montague, P.C. announces a tentative settlement with JPMorgan Chase and related companies that partially resolves a four-year-old lawsuit accusing Chase and other credit card companies of having unlawfully conspired to require their cardholders to arbitrate disputes, including debt collections. The settlement is subject to court approval. The lawsuit is pending in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, as Ross, et al. v. Bank of America, N.A., et al., No. 05-cv-7116 and was brought as a part of In re Currency Conversation Fee Antitrust Litigation, MDL No. 1409, also in the same court.

Under the terms of the tentative settlement, Chase will drop its cardholder arbitration clause for a minimum of three and one-half years beginning in 2010. Chase will also immediately cease enforcing its existing arbitration clauses against its cardholders. Chase has further agreed not to "contract, combine or conspire" with any other credit card company concerning arbitration. Finally, Chase will make a payment toward statutory attorneys' fees, costs and expenses. In exchange, if approved by the Court, Plaintiffs will release Chase from any liability stemming from the insertion of its arbitration clause into its cardholder documents. Chase will not be released for claims stemming from actual arbitration proceedings pursuant to the clause. Chase has denied all allegations of wrong doing.

The lawsuit accused Chase, Bank of America, Capital One, Citibank, Discover, HSBC and others of having secretly met or consulted on some thirty occasions for the purpose of requiring their cardholders to arbitrate all disputes with their credit card companies in violation of the antitrust laws. Arbitration is an out-of-court dispute procedure where cases are heard, often in secret, by private arbitrators. Consumer advocates claim that arbitration lacks many safeguards found in court proceedings that protect ordinary people from over-reaching by businesses. One purpose of the conspiracy, according to the lawsuit, was to prevent class actions from being brought against these card issuing banks. The lawsuit was initially dismissed by the district court but was subsequently reinstated by the Court of Appeals. The lawsuit is a class action brought on behalf of the cardholders of the defendant credit card companies. In June, the case was amended to add the National Arbitration Forum as a defendant. The present settlement does not release any claims against any defendant other than Chase.

Other counsel for plaintiffs include Couglin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins LLP, Hulett Harper Stewart LLP and Scott + Scott LLP, all of San Diego, California

CONTACT:  Berger & Montague, P.C.
Merrill G. Davidoff, Esq.
1622 Locust Street
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19103

SOURCE Berger & Montague, P.C.