Visa Inc. last week sent an e-mail update to its clients notifying them that the brand has placed Heartland Payment Systems Inc. in a "probationary period" because of the data compromise the processor disclosed earlier this year, according to a copy of the message obtained by CardLine. In the message, Visa outlines the actions it is taking to "protect the Visa system," including removing Heartland from its list of service providers compliant with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard and subjecting it to "more-stringent security assessments, monitoring and reporting," according to the communication signed by Ellen Richey, Visa chief enterprise risk officer. Visa also is fining Heartland's sponsoring banks to "assure compliance with system rules," according to the e-mail. Neither Visa nor Heartland would comment specifically about Heartland's probationary status. Heartland is undergoing a PCI assessment it believes will be completed by no later than May, according to Heartland spokesperson (CardLine, 3/13). "Everybody has to play this one close to the vest because there are massive political powers at play," says Paul Martaus, president of the Mountain Home, Ark.-based consulting firm Martaus & Associates Inc. Visa has "to make sure the consuming public feels comfortable with the level of security associated with the credit card processing systems," he says.