I Am A Plaintiff

I've just received notice that I'm a member of the class in the In re Currency Conversion Fee Antitrust Litigation (MDL 1409) case. The defendant credit card companies are settling massive claims that they bilked card holders by manipulating fees and exchange rates on foreign-currency purchases. They of course deny everything, but are still coughing up a massive payout — one in which consumers will get actual cash instead of valueless coupons.

The proposed settlement offers me three choices:

  1. $25 cash money.
  2. Estimate how many days I was abroad in 1996-2006, and get a rebate of 1% of what they guess I spent with my credit card based on some formula they do not disclose. Key to that formula is whether I characterize my travel as sometimes/often/mostly “business,” “visiting friends or relatives,” or “vacation or leisure”. (In fact it was some of each.)
  3. Provide detailed receipts of my credit card usage abroad in that period and get 3% back.

Option 3 is out — too much work.

But I think I can figure out how much I was abroad by going over my back calendar files. It was a lot.

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46 Responses to I Am A Plaintiff

  1. Steve Smith says:

    Don’t be so quick to eliminate option 3. If I recall correctly, the credit card issuers can supply the data to make a detailed claim, given the dates of travel.

    In my case, I can claim it to the penny, because I have kept everything in Quicken for years.

    I traveled to Canada (Cape Breton, very lovely) last year in October. I recall noticing that my statement showed explicitly that they were attaching a surcharge for each line item. I was irate. On an earlier trip to Italy, there was no such indicator.

    And I found out when I looked into it that the charges are in two parts: MC/Visa started a while back charging 1% on foreign transactions. And then the issuing banks tacked on another 2% just for good measure. It turns out that my credit union does not add the extra 2% charge. In fact, until recently they were absorbing the 1% fee.

  2. Randy Paul says:

    I came up about 220 days on option 2.

  3. Mark Eckenwiler says:

    I, too, concluded that Option 3 would be too much work. Option 2 looks preferable, although there’s no indication how the compensation will actually be calculated under this option. (The short questionnaire is telling, though; one assumes that visits to “friends/relatives” will be compensated at a lower rate than business travel days.)

  4. Michael says:

    Ah, but is business or leisure a bigger spender? I can’t find the report on which the “algorithm” is based, much less the algorithm itself:

    The Settlement Administrator will calculate the amount of the refund under Refund Option 2 using an algorithm. The algorithm is designed to provide an estimate of a Claimant’s refund using the information supplied in the Claimant’s Refund Option 2 claim form and other data, including from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s survey noted above. The algorithm calculation for a Refund Option 2 claim will be based on a 1% foreign transaction fee.

    It’s sort of interesting that a settlement offer could be sent out in a way that doesn’t allow one to compute one’s entitlement, surely a necessary element for deciding whether to opt-out. I guess option 3 is considered to fulfill that need.

  5. Emma says:

    So this is legitimate? My boss said it was a scam.

  6. aschop says:

    I got the same communication. It looks like a scam to me. I think they are fishing for bank account numbers. I would not send in these documents until they checked out.

  7. michael says:

    There really is such a case. That doesn’t prove the notices are real, but I have never heard of such an elaborate scam — long printed form,mass mailing, web pages, 800 number, realistic looking legal documents…

    And, for what it’s worth, the Washington Post thinks it is real too (scroll to bottom of article).

  8. Randy Paul says:

    I got the same communication. It looks like a scam to me. I think they are fishing for bank account numbers. I would not send in these documents until they checked out.

    If they are, then perhaps they might have asked for them.

    In anyevent, I did file the initial paperwork and I was kind of expecting it.

  9. Randy Paul says:

    Aschop,

    I did a Whois search and came up with the following:

    Registrant:
    Heffler, Radetich & Saitta LLP

    Registered through: GoDaddy.com, Inc. (http://www.godaddy.com)
    Domain Name: CCFSETTLEMENT.COM

    Domain servers in listed order:
    NS41.DOMAINCONTROL.COM
    NS42.DOMAINCONTROL.COM

    For complete domain details go to:
    http://who.godaddy.com/whoischeck.aspx?Domain=CCFSETTLEMENT.COM
    Verio Inc. – Growing Your Business, One Click At A Time

    Go Daddy’s link provides the following info:

    Registrant:
    Heffler, Radetich & Saitta LLP

    1515 Market Street
    Suite 1700
    Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19102
    United States

    Registered through: GoDaddy.com, Inc. (http://www.godaddy.com)
    Domain Name: CCFSETTLEMENT.COM
    Created on: 07-Jul-06
    Expires on: 07-Jul-08
    Last Updated on: 30-Oct-07

    Administrative Contact:
    McCann, Jeff jmccann@heffler.com
    Heffler, Radetich & Saitta LLP
    1515 Market Street
    Suite 1700
    Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19102
    United States
    2156658870

    Heffler, Radetich & Saitta is a CPA firm.

    It looks on the up and up to me.

  10. it is scam . they are fishing for bank account numbers

  11. Michael says:

    There really is such a case; there really is such a settlement. What evidence do you have for the claim that the people sending out the forms and/or running the web site are not in fact connected to the real case and/or the real settlement?

  12. jim says:

    There’s a caveat that refunds will be reduced if the volume of claims is too high. In the light of that, one might consider the cries of “scam” to be attempts to reduce the volume of claims. But perhaps I am too cynical.

  13. David M. Hartzell says:

    My Mother received this letter today. It looks like a scam designed to make a settlement agreement look like something else. I am jumping to a conclusion on this one by presuming that the law firm Heffler et al are actually working for the affected credit card companies to fool a recipient into agreeing to an out-of-court settlement before investigating any further.

    Two things jump out at me. 1 – There is a warning at the bottom right of the second page to not contact your credit card company or your bank. That does not make any sense to me, as I would want to contact my credit card company to find out more about this. 2 – MDL 1409 was terminated on August 17th, 2001, according to the cached google page from the United States Judicial panel on Multidistrict Litigation site. The case is not mentioned anywhere else on that site as its archives go back only to 2002.

    Is this a scam of some kind? Yes, it sure is. Of what kind? I really can’t tell. It’s fishy, it stinks, but I can’t identify the smell. It might actually be lawful, but it is at best very misleading.

    I’ve suggested to my Mom that she show this to her financial adviser for further investigation.

  14. michael says:

    Maybe you should keep on looking a bit further down the google results for MDL 1409? Lots much more recent than 2001!

    Westlaw has several opinions from the Southern District of New York dated 2006 relating to MDL 1409, captioned “In re Currency Conversion Fee Antitrust Litigation”. The case has received a lot of press in the last two years. It exists.

  15. Anon says:

    Has anyone attempted to contact the court regarding this matter? I know there is a warning not to at the bottom of the page, but when something is as fishy as this it might be a good idea.

  16. Randy Paul says:

    I am jumping to a conclusion on this one by presuming that the law firm Heffler et al are actually working for the affected credit card companies to fool a recipient into agreeing to an out-of-court settlement before investigating any further.

    Obviously, for if you had bothered to go their website you would have noticed that it’s a CPA firm and not a law firm.

  17. Unpech says:

    Looks legit.

    Is there any potential benefit in opting out?

    If submitting my claim request results in a demand for personal financial information, e.g., I will ignore it, disinfect my hands and burn my keyboard.

  18. dcharris says:

    The MDL date you are discussing is the transfer date. An MDL is the consolidation of cases in multiple districts (Multi-District Litigation). To simplify the process and create one set of procedural and discovery rulings all of the cases are transferred into an MDL until they are ready to go to trial. MDLs usually take years to completely resolve.

    This is an ongoing case that is being administered out of the federal court in the Southern District of New York. The attorneys are required to notify everyone who might be a claimant. If you opt out, your only recourse is to go after the credit card company directly. As with other class-type lawsuits, the attorneys get the best deal, but then most of us wouldn’t even know about this except for the attorneys and most of us don’t have enough in damages to file a separate lawsuit. If you join in the settlement, you will have an opportunity to object to the attorney’s fees.

  19. justalawyer says:

    Re: “Two things jump out at me. 1 – There is a warning at the bottom right of the second page to not contact your credit card company or your bank. That does not make any sense to me, as I would want to contact my credit card company to find out more about this”:

    As a lawyer who has dealt in class action settlements before, I can tell you that this is standard. The customer service reps who answer calls will be clueless about this and it makes no sense to bug them. Besides, answering questions from class claimants is one way that class counsel earns its keep. From the defense side, I see no reason they should not take these calls – call ‘em. I’m going to. Also, for those wondering why it says not to contact the court, the court doesn’t need a bunch of class claimants tying up its phone lines. I am still investigating the facts of this particular class notice, but these things that are jumping out at people are NOT reasons to disbelieve it.
    As to account number fishing . . . the form I’m looking at does not request my account number at all on option 1, only the last four digits on option 2. Option 3 is more invasive, so I won’t be doing that until I contact the firms involved.

  20. This is a legitimate case, although I also have my doubts about this letter.

    Clicking on the link will go to the story {finally} on NPR about it. (again, in case it doesn’t show: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=17265338)

    But the questions the letter raises for me are: what is the difference for me, in the consequences between choice 2 and choice 3? I lived for more than a year abroad and had to pull money out of the atms for EVERY expense, rent, school tuition, EVERYTHING, earning in the currency there or having a bank account there were not legal for someone on my visa. But the nightmare of calculating everything is RIDICULOUS, especially considering the quantity of people affected and the fact that choice 2 and 3 people will get their refunds reduced first if there is not enough money in the settlement.

    The letter read to me as follows: We screwed you. And now we’re going to screw you again, by, at a minimum, robbing you of your time for little or nothing.

    I’m angry because I RESEARCHED WHAT CARDS GAVE THE BEST DEALS IN OVERSEAS TRANSACTIONS. I LOOKED. AND CHANGED CARDS, impacting my credit report. AND THESE PERCENTAGES WERE NOT DISCLOSED.

    Has anyone found any SPECIFICS on the difference in calculations between choice 2 & 3?

  21. Silly says:

    You’re all so paranoid. It is legit.

  22. If you are worried about a scam, google the address you will be mailing to. Same for when you are given phone numbers you are asked to call. I was initially worried that someone was trying to get a copy of my signature.

    Google gave me a better business bureau site that says the PO Box belongs to “U.S. District Court Settlement Administrator”. Also some news sites. Not to say it couldn’t still be a scam, but it would be a huge one.

  23. Clovis says:

    It is legit; ample evidence of the case and the settlement are everywhere. Don’t you think that a scam of this magnitude would have been investigated and hung out to dry in every mass media outlet by now? And no forms/fields ask for any personal information (SS#, account numbers, etc).

    Anyway, I figured I had 75 days abroad in the past 10 years, filed online, took option 2, and hopefully someday some amount of money will grace my mailbox after we have all blissfully forgotten about the whole thing.

  24. Red Rotors says:

    Posted by “Michael”

    “Ah, but is business or leisure a bigger spender? I can’t find the report on which the “algorithm” is based, much less the algorithm itself”

    Well here is a link to the reports;
    http://tinet.ita.doc.gov/cat/f-2006-101-001.html

    I’m guessing it would take an insider to get to the algorithim itself, but do post if you get a hold of it.

  25. Amanda says:

    My guess is the equation will look like this

    Total number of days outside of US:
    Daily expenditure based on ITA’s yearly report on travelers and average expenditures based on type of travel. Average out number of days over the 10 years. Each year has a different average expenditure
    Multiple days time average expenditures for years.
    Multiple this total by percent given by ITA for average expenses paid for by credit or debit
    (example 1996 was 71% (CC) and 5% (DC))
    Then multiple the total by 1%.

    At least this is what my guess is on what the formula may be.

  26. Fred says:

    I cannot see why some of us are paranoid about this. Only Option 3 actually asks for any kind of account information. Options 1 & 2 don’t even do that. I have filed it. Lets hope something shows up at my doorstep one fine morning.

  27. Option3 says:

    I did not mind doing option 3. Put I did not provide them with my account numbers, nor do I intend to. What happens when that database turns up on a missing laptop like has happened too much already.

  28. Nikko says:

    Can everyone get off the “it’s a scam” bandwagon. No one has indicated with solid evidence to state otherwise, and those who have indicated that it is NOT a scam have already offered enough to support that it’s legit.

    Now, back to one of the earliest questions posted here, by choosing option #2, does anyone know if business or leisure’s algorithm considered higher spending algorithms???

  29. Jenp says:

    OK I used option two – lived abroad during the period. Does anyone know when we’ll get money?

  30. Traveler says:

    http://www.ccfsettlement.com/
    There’s an update on the web site.

  31. rusty says:

    good question Jenp. when will the settlement be settled?

  32. rob c. says:

    I filed a request for settlement…the least complicated option over 9 months agon and have heard nothing since. What should I do? Is there a way to find out what the status of the case is since it is now 2009?

  33. michael says:

    Not much joy from the web site:

    Current Status – In re Currency Conversion Fee Antitrust Litigation (MDL 1409)

    The current status of this class action settlement is that a decision to grant final approval of the settlement is pending before the Court. The issuance of refund checks for valid timely claims will not commence until after the Court enters an order granting final approval of the settlement, any potential appeals are resolved, and the Settlement Administrator has validated the claims. At this time, the Court has not yet issued a final approval order. A notice will be posted to this website once the Court issues an order.

    With the expiration of the claims submission period, on May 30, 2008, the Settlement Administrator has commenced the process of auditing and validating claims. Please be advised that any claims postmarked or faxed after May 30, 2008 will be considered late. Also, any changes to your address or contact information should be sent in writing to the Settlement Administrator.

    Please continue to check this website for additional information about the settlement and claims administration as it becomes available.

    If you have a question you would like to send to the Settlement Administrator, please use the Contact Us page of this website, or write to the Settlement Administrator at P. O. Box 290, Philadelphia, PA 19105-0290. The telephone service, 1-800-945-9890, is for information purposes only and a live operator is not available.

  34. Anita Davis says:

    It is now 2009. I was curious about how far this “settlement” letter would go. To be eligible, the fees were based on foreign transactions (page 1). I have never been out of the country. I have one credit card that I’ve always used since 1999. There’s been nothing to follow up. What do you think?

  35. Antonio says:

    I received a letter at the end of January, 2009 auditing the information I had sent them. It gave me 20 days to send all the proof or I would be dropped from the Law Suit. I did send all the proof as requested but have not heard anything.

  36. Mike Dee says:

    this is for real . i found out about it when i received one of my credit card bills about three years ago. there was a insert with the bill telling me how to file. I called my credit card companies the two i had used for overseas transaction and they supplied me with eight years of back statements. my total was $33,000 dollars and i am going for option three.I hope it comes to a head soon i should receive about $1,000.00

  37. aurora arroyo says:

    i recive the letter no november 30 2007. i no recive nothing, what happen

  38. Just me says:

    I never use credit cards, so I was not part of this class action. After reading the post and the comments, I am curious whether anyone ever received a check.

  39. michael says:

    Last I heard, (quite plausible) objections had been filed to the proposed settlement. I have not heard of a ruling on those objections. So presume the case is still grinding along.

  40. BobK says:

    Has anyone heard or read anything.
    Does anyone even look at this site I wonder?

    • Michael says:

      According to In re Currency Conversion Fee Antitrust Litigation (MDL 1409) (last updated January 31, 2011):

      The Court granted final approval of the settlement in a Memorandum and Order, dated October 22, 2009, and, on November 4, 2009, the Court entered a Final Judgment and Order of Dismissal in this case. Eleven appeals were filed challenging the Court’s approval of the settlement. The parties are defending these appeals before the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. To date, six of the eleven appeals were either withdrawn or dismissed, and one appeal was decided against the appellant after briefing and oral argument. Four appeals now remain before the Court of Appeals.

      The issuance of refund checks for valid, timely claims will not commence until after the remaining four appeals are resolved (in favor of the Court-approved settlement), and the Settlement Administrator has validated the claims. Updates on these four appeals will be posted to this website.

  41. ACinRoma says:

    Has anyone received a check? This has been going on for so long, I think they should pay us interest too…

    • BobK says:

      Please note 10,000,000 claims filed. Keep your day job.

      http://www.ccfsettlement.com/faqs/#idQ23

      The Court granted final approval of the settlement in a Memorandum and Order, dated October 22, 2009, and, on November 4, 2009, the Court entered a Final Judgment and Order of Dismissal in this case. Eleven appeals were filed challenging the Court’s approval of the settlement. All of the appeals are now concluded. Ten of the eleven appeals were either withdrawn or dismissed, and one appeal was decided against the appellant after briefing and oral argument.

      On October 5, 2011 the Court entered an Order authorizing the Settlement Administrator to disburse the available settlement funds. Participation in this settlement has been extraordinary, with more than 10,000,000 claims submitted. We request that you remain patient as the Settlement Administrator finalizes the procedures necessary to administer and mail checks for this enormous volume of claims. Please continue to monitor this website for updates concerning the refund process. If you have changed your address, you should send any updated information to the Settlement Administrator.

  42. Wow... says:

    I got a check the end of November, and was checking it out so I could determine if it was legit. I vaguely recall filling out a simple form, now that I’ve been reminded. Hey – it’s $20 I wasn’t expecting, and I don’t spend that much time out of the country…

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