Discover Financial Services is seeking $6 billion in damages in its antitrust lawsuit against Visa Inc. and MasterCard Worldwide, according to documents unsealed yesterday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Discover filed the lawsuit in October 2004, shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a lower-court ruling in an antitrust case won by the U.S. Department of Justice that forced Visa and MasterCard to allow their member banks to issue credit cards on rival networks. Discover and AmEx alleged in separate lawsuits that Visa's and MasterCard's exclusionary rules hampered their ability to grow over many years. Last year, AmEx reached a $2.25 billion settlement with Visa in its lawsuit, which is similar to Discover's (CardLine, 11/7/07). MasterCard, which has not settled with either AmEx or Discover, said in a statement yesterday that Discover's damages claim is baseless. It contends that after MasterCard withdrew restrictions preventing its member banks from offering cards from rival networks, Discover has not experienced any significant increase in its overall percentage of credit card volume from third-party issuance. Visa earmarked $650 million for settling its Discover lawsuit in a $3 billion fund it established to settle future lawsuits after its record-setting initial public offering in March. "AmEx's settlement of more than $2 billion was considered pretty hefty, so I doubt we would see an amount as high as $6 billion in Discover's case," Eva Weber, an analyst with Boston-based Aite Group, tells CardLine. She expects Visa to settle its case with Discover as soon as possible. "It would seem that Visa would want to resolve this sooner rather than later, so the company can move forward," Weber says.

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