Discover Financial Services said that the large settlements American Express Co. won in its antitrust lawsuit against Visa Inc. and MasterCard Inc. illustrate the scale of the injury Discover suffered from policies that restrained bank members of the two card networks from issuing products with competing brands.
"The billions of dollars that have been agreed to for Amex do, I think, underscore the significance of the actual damages which we have been subject to over many years." David W. Nelms, Discover's chief executive, said in a conference call last week to discuss the Riverwoods, Ill., card company's results for its second fiscal quarter, which ended May 31.
Visa and MasterCard eliminated the policies in 2004 as a result of a Justice Department lawsuit filed six years earlier. About the time the policies were eliminated, Discover and Amex filed their own suits against Visa and MasterCard for damages they incurred from those polices.
"Time is on our side as you look at our continued strong results in third-party payments and in third-party acquiring of business and deals, and now in fact being able to take our network global. And none of that would have been possible with the old rules," Mr. Nelms said.
Amex settled with MasterCard last week for up to $1.8 billion and with Visa in November for up to $2.25 billion. The settlements are to be paid in quarterly installments through 2011.
In April the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ordered Discover, Visa, and MasterCard to enter nonbinding mediation.
"We've held a session, but nothing to report" from that mediation, Mr. Nelms said.
Discover's case against Visa and MasterCard is scheduled to go to trial in September.
Sanjay Sakhrani, an analyst at KBW Inc.'s Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc., wrote in a research note published last week, "We continue to believe that a settlement is the most likely route for a resolution" of the Discover lawsuits.
During the call, Roy A. Guthrie, Discover's chief financial officer, addressed steps his company is taking in anticipation of possible changes in accounting rules for off-balance-sheet entities that house securitized receivables.
"Much of this is not clear. There's uncertainty about the timing, about the nature of the transition, and the regulatory capital impact. That has led us to maintain a very conservative bias to retain capital," Mr. Guthrie said. "Thus, we've not been active with our share repurchase program during the quarter and are unlikely to move off that position for the time being."