Visa, MasterCard respond to Amex antitrust lawsuit

NEW YORK: Visa and MasterCard are circling the PR wagons after American Express filed a lawsuit against them last week alleging "illegal, anti-competitive practices."

NEW YORK: Visa and MasterCard are circling the PR wagons after American Express filed a lawsuit against them last week alleging "illegal, anti-competitive practices."

Amex has hired lawyer David Boies, whose past clients include Al Gore, Napster, and IBM. Thus far, the high-profile attorney is handling much of the messaging work himself.

In a conference call, Boies said the suit "deals with conduct that was repeatedly found to be unlawful" by the courts and should therefore be relatively clear-cut. "This shouldn't be a long, drawn-out litigation," he said.

Robert Glick, VP for public affairs and communications at Amex, said the company had no need for an outside agency's assistance with the litigation.

"We will manage the communications in-house," he said. "The most important thing was to get the message out [at the press conference], which I think we did successfully."

Visa and MasterCard immediately fought back against the allegations, issuing statements that portrayed Amex as a company that was looking to the courts to solve its own past business mistakes.

Visa's primary communication vehicle is a website, visamediacenter.com, that serves as a one-stop shop for the company's version of the litigation, including corporate statements, press releases, and a decidedly negative spin on Amex's strategy in the case.

Creative Response Concepts is handling Visa's PR for the lawsuit, but both the Virginia-based agency and the client declined to discuss their strategy, citing the ongoing legal issues.

Sharon Gamsin, VP of global communications and corporate PR at MasterCard, declined to disclose whether the company was working with an outside agency for the suit.

The suit, which also names eight banks as defendants, comes on the heels of a Supreme Court decision last month upholding a lower court ruling that Visa and MasterCard's policy of barring member banks from issuing Amex cards was a violation of antitrust laws.

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