Priceless:
The Case That Brought Down The Visa/​MasterCard Bank Cartel
By Lloyd Constantine
Kaplan Publishing
978-1-60714-456-4
352 pages; $26.95
October 6, 2009

Priceless: The Case That Brought Down The Visa/MasterCard Bank Cartel

The largest federal antitrust settlement in U.S. history – with a ground-breaking settlement of $3.4 billion – began with a shocking conversation overheard at a New York restaurant. Priceless: The Case That Brought Down The Visa/​MasterCard Bank Cartel, by author and lead counsel Lloyd Constantine, is a riveting non-fiction triumphant David and Goliath legal drama that captivates until the very last page. This fast-paced tale pits Constantine’s boutique law firm, representing America’s merchants, against the all-powerful credit card cartel of Visa and MasterCard. The high stakes litigation put his entire career at risk eventually crushing the monopoly and ended the cartel’s stranglehold on retailers, saving merchants and consumers upwards of $87 billion.

The Visa Check/​MasterMoney Antitrust Litigation began when clothing retailer The Limited approached Constantine to argue that Visa and MasterCard’s monopoly and outrageous fees constituted antitrust violations. The Limited tried to recruit other merchants but met with negative responses and all were unwilling to take on the giants Visa and MasterCard. The tables turned when Wal-Mart’s request for a fee reduction was rudely rebuffed by the cartel – and soon joined Constantine’s crusade along with others including Sears Roebuck, Circuit City and Safeway with five million stores soon following. Willing to risk losing absolutely everything, Constantine took the case on a contingency basis.

Priceless rips open the case to show the inner workings and the seamy underbelly of credit card companies, bringing to light the anti-consumer practices of Visa and MasterCard. The book reveals the failures of government agencies, which created companies “too big to fail” and permitted the abusive credit practices, now at the core of our current economic recession.

Constantine took on a decade-long struggle during the prime of his career that led his little firm twice to the U.S. Supreme Court until Judge John Gleason virtually imprisoned both sides at the settlement table the week before the trial began to hammer out a settlement that would be in the best interests of merchants, consumers and the American economy.

Lloyd Constantine, a graduate of Williams College and Columbia Law School, was Assistant Attorney General of Antitrust for New York State from 1980-1991. As Chair of the Antitrust Task Force of the National Association of Attorneys General from 1985-1989, he began a movement that led to uniform antitrust enforcement guidelines. In 1994 he opened a boutique antitrust specialty firm – Constantine & Partners, later Constantine Canon. His political involvements, including serving as senior advisor in the Spitzer administration, precluded him from telling this story until now.

Regular contributor to the Sunday "Perspectives" (Editorial) section of Hearst's Albany Times Union with op-eds on government, law and public policy. Read and comment at timesunion.com and on this website. "The Weekender" social commentary column appears on ccSCOOP.com, Columbia County's Home on the Web, and past columns are archived on this website under the Op-Ed button.
Nonfiction
A book about the ground-breaking case that shook the business and legal worlds to their very cores, New York-based law firm Constantine & Partners sought to end a devastating credit monopoly that personally touched millions of consumers. Its efforts culminated in the largest federal antitrust settlement in U.S. history.
Journal of the Plague Year
The March 10, 2008 disclosure that Governor Eliot Spitzer patronized prostitutes shocked admirers around the world who had celebrated him as the "Sheriff of Wall Street" and a likely future president.  Ironically, the author's disillusionment with Spitzer had begun to disappear 15 hours earlier, when Spitzer confessed to him what others would soon learn in a media storm of unprecedented intensity.  Journal of the Plague Year is Constantine's intimate account of the 17 calamitous months preceding the March 2008 revelation and the futile 61 hour battle waged by the author and the governor's wife to persuade Spitzer not to resign, but to instead fulfill promises made to the voters who had elected him in a record landslide.

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