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Why So Few Mega-Credit Card Class Action Settlements?

posted by Adam Levitin

JPMorgan Chase and Class Counsel have received preliminary approval of a $100 million class settlement in In re Chase Bank USA, NA "Check Loan" Contract Litigation (MDL 2032), a case involving Chase's increases in minimum payment amounts on some Chase cardholders who had taken advantage of low-APR balance transfers.  If confirmed, the proposed settlement would be, as far as I can determine, the second largest private settlement (or judgment) in a consumer class action relating to credit cards.  In re Providian Credit Card cases settled for $105 million right at the end of 2000, and Rosted v. First USA Bank settled for $87 million in 2001.  There have been larger settlements between card issuers and regulators, such as the CFPB's recent settlement with Capital One for $210 million (approximately 2/3s of which is restitution to consumers), the FTC's $114 million settlement with CompuCredit in 2008, and the OCC's $300 million restitution order against Providian in 2000. 

Given the huge volume of consumer credit card complaints both before and after the CARD Act, it's interesting to note how rare 9-figure private settlements have been. Whether this is a reflection on the state of our class action litigation system or a reflection on the actionable strength of consumers' complaints is unclear, but I would have expected to see more large consumer credit card class actions settlements. I'd be curious to hear others' thoughts on whether I'm expecting too much or why there haven't been more such settlements (or if I've missed some big ones).


Arbitration clauses.

Oh duh! That would seem to explain a lot. It raises the question of why we've seen any successful class actions at all.

At the end of 2009, Chase, along with Bank of America, Capital One, and HSBC, agreed to remove the arbitration clauses from their credit card agreements for three-and-a-half years in settlement of the claims against them in Ross v. Bank of America. See http://www.arbitration.ccfsettlement.com/documents/files/2010-02-23-stip-and-agreement-with-chase.pdf.

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