CCF Settlement...
December 13, 2007 6:34 AM   Subscribe

Any experience with or deeper information about the Foreign Currency Conversion Fee Antitrust Litigation (whew) settlement?

I got the mailing regarding the settlement of the class action lawsuit against banks charging excessive (is there any other kind of bank fee?) fees on foreign currency transactions. The basic info is here: You may have gotten this too.

There's been internets rumblings that this is a scam to get your bank and cc data. I accept that it is legit.

My question is this: I'd like to file under "Refund Option 3" where you need to list the amount of foreign transactions by year. I lived overseas and used my cc and atm a lot during the eligible period, so it seems worth the effort for 1-3% of around $10K per year for 5 or 6 years.

But somewhere out there there should be someone who's gone through this process, or who has some insider tips into how to maximize the return or who can tell me that there's some cap somewhere and I'm not going to get as much as I think unless I... I don't know what. Or even the criteria on which the "administrator" (a judge?) is going to decide what the refund rate is going to be.

The FAQs on the site are a good start, but other than that I haven't been able to google up much more than some news articles and the debate over whether or not this is an elaborate phishing scam.

Any suggestions, insights into this? IANL answers welcome.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy to Work & Money (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
There's been internets rumblings that this is a scam to get your bank and cc data. I accept that it is legit.

I agree with you. I received my letter, and filed under option 2 ("estimate how much time you spent overseas"). That's the only information I leaked, except that I confirmed my postal address. They sent me a number, which I gave back to them. That, at least, couldn't be phishing.
posted by cmiller at 6:41 AM on December 13, 2007

I keep all my old transactions in Quicken and can relatively easily determine how many of them are foreign.
posted by grouse at 6:50 AM on December 13, 2007

FYI There is a cap on the total amount to be paid out, so whatever you do do it quickly.
posted by Gungho at 6:54 AM on December 13, 2007

The plan of distribution (PDF) lays out more details. The percentage you get back depends on what kind of card you have, though most of them are 3%. If you don't provide your card #, you will only get 1%.

Incidentally, no one should use option 1. The payment for option 2 is the greater of the minimum payment (option 1) or the calculated amount. So you can't lose there.
posted by smackfu at 7:27 AM on December 13, 2007

I think this is the relevant court case.
posted by charlesv at 8:11 AM on December 13, 2007

I'm pretty sure the reason you were mailed the form is that your credit card issuer gave your information to the court. All the parties involved already have your information and the risk of putting yourself in any greater danger by filing a claim would therefore be nil.

If you didn't get a form in the mail, you have to divulge a credit card account number that you used overseas during the period covered by the lawsuit to prove you are a member of the class. This is probably where the tin-foil hatters are getting the "OMG they're stealing my CC numbers!"
posted by the christopher hundreds at 8:44 AM on December 13, 2007

Best answer: I can't say which option is the best. I just got my form and haven't had a chance to review it carefully. But I can offer some background on the legitimacy and procedures that might be of interest.

1. This is legit, and fairly easy to verify. For example, the preliminary order approving the settlement [pdf] posted on the settlement website is an actual court order issued by Judge William H. Pauley III of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York on November 8, 2006. To verify this, get yourself a PACER account, then go to the SDNY CM/ECF system (case management/electronic filing) page, run a query for this case: 1:01-md-01409-WHP (this is what charlesv identified above). You can look at every item ever entered into the docket. This particular court order was entry 471.

2. Numerous lawsuits were filed in federal courts all over the country. A list of these cases, including all the actions filed in various federal and state courts, is on the second page of the mailing you received, and on the website They were consolidated by the multi-district litigation (MDL) panel, which means that one judge presides over all of them for certain stages. 1:01-md-01409-WHP is the case identifier for the entire multi-district litigation. If you manage to look at the docket for this case, at the very top, you will see a list of all the other cases which were transferred to Judge Pauley as part of the MDL.

3. The claims administrator is not the Judge. It is the accounting firm of Heffler Radetich & Saitta LLP, a neutral third party hired by the parties in the class action law suit and approved by the court to manage the disbursement of a settlement fund, according to the terms agreed on in the settlement. Judges don't have the resources to sit around and process 50,000 of these things. The administrator doesn't actually decide anything about the refund rate. That is determined by the parties when they negotiate the settlement, and detailed in the plan of distribution that smackfu linked to. The administrator just does the accounting and processing.

4. The defendants in this law suit are the credit card companies. Guess what... they already know everything about you. But you have to prove to the claims administrator that you are you, and that you have whatever credit cards you have, in order to get the refund associated with owning those cards. The risk in giving them this information is minimal compared to the risk of having and using the credit cards in the first place. They've been hired solely for the purpose of helping you get your cut of the settlement money.

A little primer on class action litigation might be helpful for those interested.

Basically, what happens is this. A law suit is brought on behalf of a group of people (the proposed class) who share some common attribute.* Assuming that the court agrees that this group meets certain standards, the court will certify the class. Once that happens, the plaintiff in that law suit is a representative for everyone in the class. Most of the time, these cases settle. Because there are a whole lot of members of the class who are not actually participating in the settlement negotiation, the court has to approve any settlement that will affect the rights of all those class members.

The parties who have reached the settlement (the defendants and the lead plaintiff) will ask the court to preliminarily approve the settlement. That's the first order I linked above. When the court grants preliminary approval, the claims administrator will send out notices of the proposed settlement, including the terms of the settlement, to all of the potential class members. They can object to the terms of the settlement, opt out of the settlement, or accept it.

After that, the parties will ask the court for final approval of the settlement. The court usually holds what is called a "fairness hearing" when it will listen to the objectors and consider all of the various arguments. There is a long list of criteria the court must consider in approving a class action settlement.

In this case, the court did not immediately approve the settlement. Instead, he appointed Professor Francis E. McGovern from Duke Law School as a Special Master to work with the parties on amending the proposed plan for distributing the settlement fund. Then they hired an economic expert to assist, and so on.

Eventually, they hammered out a deal that the court found fair enough. That deal includes court approval of all the documents you got in the mail. The parties probably spent 100s of hours revising and fighting over the exact words in those forms. No joke. Those documents are exhibits to the Settlement Agreement [pdf] itself. The parties agreed that these forms would go out to all class members to collect certain data. The claims adminsitrator will then process the forms, determine each claimant's share of the total settlement, and send checks. They have to have certain information about you (and in this case, your credit cards) to be able to make those calculations.

*In this case, the class is defined as "(i) as to the settlement damages class, all Persons who or which were holders of United States-issued MasterCard- or Visa-branded Credit or Debit Cards or United States-issued Diners Club-branded Credit Cards and made a Foreign Transaction from February 1, 1996 to the date of Preliminary Approval (the “Settlement Damages Class”); and (ii) as to the settlement injunctive class, all Persons who or which were holders of United States-issued MasterCard- or Visa-branded Credit or Debit Cards or United States-issued Diners Club-branded Credit Cards as of the date of Preliminary Approval (the “Settlement Injunctive Class”); provided, that Defendants are not members of the Settlement Classes."
posted by jewishbuddha at 2:50 AM on December 14, 2007

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