US judge orders probe of phony Visa, Mastercard settlement website

A US judge has agreed to investigate a website that lawyers said is presenting “false and misleading” information about the $5.6 billion settlement that retailers struck with Visa and Mastercard over credit and debit card fees.
US Magistrate Judge Joseph Marutollo in Brooklyn in an order on Friday granted a request from plaintiffs’ lawyers in the case to start a probe that could shut down the unauthorized site and void any client contracts that have come from it.
Marutollo set a deadline for the website to respond to an inquiry from him. A representative for the website did not immediately respond to an inquiry from Reuters.
Major class action settlements often feature websites with information for class members. The website at issue in the Visa and Mastercard case closely resembles the official US court-authorized page set up as part of the 2019 settlement in the litigation in Brooklyn, New York, federal court.
Fraud claims have arisen from at least two other class action cases in recent months.
The judge overseeing 3M’s $6 billion settlement of lawsuits alleging its earplugs caused hearing damage warned of an identity theft scam. Plaintiffs lawyers in the multibillion-dollar litigation in North Carolina over contaminated water at Camp Lejeune said they’ve seen efforts to dupe victims into paying unnecessary fees.
In the Visa and Mastercard case, retailers accused the companies of overcharging them on fees that are paid when consumers use credit or debit cards to make purchases. A US appeals court in March upheld retailers’ multibillion-dollar settlement. The companies denied wrongdoing.
Plaintiffs lawyers in a November 3 filing in the case notified the court about what they called a “highly suspicious” settlement website.
They told the court that the website was brought to their attention by a company that said it received a voicemail purportedly from prominent rap artist Snoop Dogg touting the page. Snoop Dogg’s business team on Monday did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The attorneys who alerted the court did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Marutollo’s order directed the settlement site to respond to why the court should not issue a report and recommendation to “immediately take down the website.”
The case is In re Payment Card Interchange Fee and Merchant Discount Antitrust Litigation, US District Court, Eastern District of New York, 1:05-md-01720-MKB-VMS.


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