Attorneys of the Year: K. Craig Wildfang
Posted: 12:30 pm Mon, February 25, 2013
By Nancy Crotti
Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi
K. Craig Wildfang led a team that will likely save millions of small merchants and their customers a lot of money, one transaction at a time.
A partner at Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi, Wildfang in 2003 represented Best Buy and other large corporations in an antitrust claim against Visa and MasterCard. The suit challenged the legality of the setting of interchange or “swipe” fees by the banks that then owned the credit card companies.
After settling those claims, Wildfang was sure there was a larger problem. He found that small merchants, who pay the highest rates on swipe fees, wanted to take on the credit card companies.
The class swelled to about 8 million merchants. Wildfang led a team of law firms in a seven-year battle against Visa and MasterCard. They reviewed more than 70 million pages of documents in discovery and deposed more than 400 witnesses. Wildfang, who had managed complex antitrust litigation for the U.S. Department of Justice and for private clients, ran the litigation like a CEO.
“It’s like running a business in a way, except that you have people in charge of various things and you supervise them and try to make sure they’re staying on task,” Wildfang said.
The turning point came when the class plaintiffs sued MasterCard in 2006 and Visa in 2008 over corporate reorganizations that took them public. Wildfang’s team claimed that the reorganizations were essentially mergers for the purposes of freeing the credit card companies from ongoing antitrust liability, in violation of the Clayton Act.
Two months before the scheduled trial, Wildfang’s team won a settlement of $7.25 billion and injunctive relief eliminating the remaining anti-competitive rules.
“We went on this crusade in 2005, and here we are,” Wildfang said. “We hope to facilitate new, lower-cost payment systems.”