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Law firm defends work in $5.6 bln card fee case after disclosing fake claims

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By Mike Scarcella

June 7 (Reuters) -A law firm that earlier said it unknowingly submitted fake claims as part of a $5.6 billion settlement with Visa and MasterCard told a U.S. judge on Thursday that other parties had also submitted fraudulent material in the case.

Responding to a request for more information from the Brooklyn judge overseeing the antitrust case, New York-founded Milberg Coleman Bryson Phillips Grossman said it had terminated its relationship with nearly 2,000 merchant plaintiffs since disclosing the false claims last month.

The firm said it was being singled out unfairly and that other companies “and/or” law firms had also submitted fraudulent claims in the case.

“It is a very unfortunate part of the settlement process, particularly in a settlement as large as this one,” Milberg's filing said, without naming any company or firm.

Visa and Mastercard agreed to the $5.6 billion settlement in 2018 to resolve claims from millions of merchants who said they had overpaid credit and debit card fees. Milberg did not help craft the settlement but had sought part of the fund for its clients.

Representatives from Milberg and attorneys for the retailer class did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Visa and Mastercard denied any wrongdoing in agreeing to settle.

Last month, attorneys for the class of 12 million retailers said they learned about fraudulent claims submitted by Milberg and raised their concerns to the court.

“If Milberg knows of fraud, it should alert class counsel or the court,” the class attorneys wrote in Thursday's filing, jointly submitted with Milberg.

Milberg in its May response said it had withdrawn dozens of "proofs of authorization" that are part of the claims process for clients. The firm blamed a third-party “referral” source, and the firm said it was no longer pursuing any new clients in the Visa and Mastercard case.

The class attorneys at plaintiffs’ firms Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd and Robins Kaplan said the court should consider punishing Milberg, or referring it to the U.S. Justice Department.

Milberg said it was making an effort to be “fully transparent” with the class attorneys. It said the idea of punishing the firm or referring it to law enforcement was “absurd.”

The case is Payment Card Interchange Fee and Merchant Discount Antitrust Litigation, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, 1:05-md-01720-MKB-VMS.

Read more:

US judge orders probe of Novartis $30 mln settlement claims process

Law firm says fake claims were submitted in $5.6 bln credit card settlement

Scammers flood US class action settlements with fraudulent claims

Reporting by Mike Scarcella


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