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Priceless: The Case that Brought Down the Visa/MasterCard Bank Cartel Hardcover – October 6, 2009
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Constantine's brilliant but easy to read book is a David and Goliath story about his own career and the seminal Visa/MasterCard case that broke the back of a giant anticonsumer conspiracy and that reaffirmed the core pro-competition concept that lies at the heart of America and its economic system.” (Robert Abrams, Former Attorney General of New York)
Priceless lifts 'crusading lawyer' from the dustbin of cliches and gives the term new meaning. Lloyd Constantine tells the story of the nation's largest (by far) antitrust case with candor, clarity, and wit.” (Nick Taylor, award-winning author of American Made: The Enduring Legacy of the WPA: When FDR Put the Nation to Work)
At a time when class actions and plaintiffs' attorneys are under attack, this book is an essential corrective. It demonstrates that private enforcement can work—but only when dedicated counsel are willing to be their careers on a David-versus-Goliath battle with the industry. Lloyd Constantine and his colleagues broke a cartel that robbed consumers and restrained competition—and did it with virtually no help from the government. But they almost lost on several occasions. Big case litigation is a marathon, not a spring, and this behind-the-scenes account reveals the tactics—fair and foul—that defendants can use to crush their opponents. Many will not like how they are portrayed in this 'tell-all' account that is opinionated, acerbic, and pulls no punches. But much like A Civil Action, it provides a blunt, 'warts and all' perspective on the real world of mega-litigation.” (John Coffee, Adolf A. Berle Professor of Law, Columbia University Law School) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Lloyd Constantine is Counsel to Constantine Cannon LLP, a commercial litigation firm in New York and Washington, D.C. with an internationally acclaimed antitrust practice, where Eliot Spitzer worked for several years. He was lead counsel for the plaintiffs in the landmark Visa Check/MasterMoney Antitrust Litigation, which resulted in a $3.4 billion monetary settlement and an historic injunction, which the court valued as providing upwards of $87 billion in benefit for U.S. merchants and consumers. Constantine was Senior Advisor to Governor Spitzer from January 2007 until April 2008. He advised the Governor on a broad range of public policy issues and directed the Administration's initiatives in the areas of Higher Education, Local Government Efficiency, Public Authority Reform and the legal representation of New York's poor in civil and criminal proceedings. He is the author of Priceless: The Case That Brought Down the Visa/Mastercard Bank Cartel.
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Anyone who still harbors a shred of sympathy for these brands needs to focus on the evidence surrounding public deception to kill more efficient PIN debit (still happening today), conspiracy to restrict access from potential competitors and general distain of antitrust laws needs to read this book.
On the down side, Lloyd's views on the how politics played in the growth of Visa and MasterCard are a bit flawed. While he contends Regan/Bush/Bush lax approach to antitrust lead to the growth of the monopoly, he fails to point out that most of the market power growth and restrictive practices occured during the Clinton administration. Sadly, this highlights the fact that NO administration - including Obama, to date - has been willing to take on the banking lobby beyond "show trials".
He wrote in the Prologue to this 2009 book, "[In 1989] I was just beginning to realize the magnitude of what would be involved in our attempts to break up the Entreé joint venture... MasterCard's discussion about discrediting me suggested that what we had discovered, in a relatively cursory investigation of Visa and MasterCard, was just the tip of an anticompetitive iceberg. Moreover, the broader issues of what I considered to be the abandonment of antitrust enforcement by the Department of Justice... was a matter of great importance to the economy of the country... the Reagan-Bush officials at the Fed were fanatical believers that the market could cure everything and always deliver optimal results... The result was a great transfer of wealth from stores and consumers into the pockets of the banks and Visa/MasterCard. I swallowed my private anger against MasterCard, and proceeded in court with the Entreé case... The inside story of that ... case, which lasted more than seven years, is the subject of this book." (Pg. xii-xiii) Later, he adds, "That 1989 lawsuit... forced Visa and MasterCard to abandon their joint debit card operation and laid the groundwork for the Merchants' case. The Merchants' case was the contest that I had been training for all my life." (Pg. 10)
He states, "The overarching allegation in the Entreé complaint was that the new network was not really designed to operate actively so much as serve as an obstacle to the expansion of other fledgling debit card networks. Entreé fell apart as soon as we filed the complaint... the associations' lack of resolve soon became apparent. I believe one reason their quickly threw in the towel was MasterCard's post-traumatic stress, resulting from our discovery of their discussion about threatening me." (Pg. 25)
He explains, "The United States claimed [in its own case]... that Visa and MasterCard's exclusionary rules suppressed competition from American Express, Discover and others by barring their banks from issuing American Express or Discover brand credit or debit cards of the cards of any other network that Visa/MasterCard considered to be a competitor... Our focus had been on how these rules injured competition in the debit card market." (Pg. 91-92)
He recalls, "To show the defendants' contempt for common people, we showed another analysis prepared by Andersen for Visa... Over and over again, the analysis said that what was bad for consumers, stores and competition was good for Visa and MasterCard and vice versa." (Pg. 156) Eventually, "I accepted the fact that the case would settle. That night, the merchants, MasterCard and Visa signed short-form, but binding, memoranda of understanding containing the outlines of the Settlement. At that moment, I surrendered my plans for a beautiful trial."
He concludes, "At the moment that I realized I would eventually receive enough money that I never had to work again, I also realized that I must continue working. I thought that I needed to win the case. Though I'm very happy that we won, as I am happy about the money, I didn't really need the victory. I needed the game, the battle and the stretch. I needed to have a case in which we needed to do, and did, everything. I needed the work." (Pg. 245-246)
Not always a "page turner," this book is still an informative look at the anticompetitive practices of these two companies, and will interest many readers.