This is the final installment in my four-part series on the credit card merchant fee antitrust class action. The district court is currently considering whether to approve the settlement. Prior posts described the settlement and addressed the damages and injunctive relief provisions. This one focuses on the release that the class would provide to the defendants.
Although broad releases are common in class actions, this settlement is unusual. Typically, class settlements (1) release the defendants from further liability for past conduct, and (2) bar them from engaging in the future in the problematic conduct that gave rise to the litigation. The proposed settlement here, by contrast, (1) fails to enjoin the merchants from continuing most of the practices that led to the litigation; and (2) releases the defendants from liability for their past and future conduct with respect not only to the rules examined in the litigation, but any to (1) any existing Visa or MasterCard rule; (2) any future rule that is substantially similar to an existing one; or (3) any conduct relating to a rule that fits into categories (1) or (2).