Wells Fargo Cancels Lavish Wynn Hotel Event

February 3, 2009

During the past few weeks, we have tempered our discussions of the failing bank, along with MasterCard and Visa’s roll in devastating the global economy.  One issue we are not reading, amidst the record job losses and banking mismanagement is why the credit card giants aren’t lowering their anticompetitive merchant interchange fees?

At our company, we are reaping strong returns, due to our innovative new photo imaging business model at ScanMyPhotos.com. We reinvented our business, while Visa and MasterCard simply charged more for supporting and antiquated pricing model as its technology leaped ahead of what was once an analog payment network. 

Their actions help fuel our amplified commitment for calling attention to Visa and MasterCard’s unfair merchant interchange rates and its member banks continued monopoly of  charging nearly $60 billion in antiquated annual interchange fees when you use a credit and debit card.

Other businesses are struggling to survive, but we are more determined than ever to win this litigation.  Many member banks have failed and some CEO’s have been dismissed.  However, their allegedly illegal price-fixing and ruinous financial burden on merchants and consumers continues.

Today, we learn that Well Fargo, a named defendant in the multi billion dollar merchant interchange litigation has decided that The Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas is not the place to host their upcoming event for their home lending unit.  The same for Citigroup (another named defendant) for trying to spend $50 million of taxpayer dollars on a corporate jet. 

As millions of jobs are lost and our economy rests on the brink of collapse, the least MasterCard and Visa can provide is immediate relief from their anticompetitive and illegally-based price-fixing scheme.  If Denny’s can give away free breakfasts after the Super Bowl, think of the marketing grist that MasterCard and Visa would gain from saving retailers and consumers billions of dollars.

“Citigroup, U.S. in Talks to Create ‘Bad Bank'” (via WSJ)

November 23, 2008

Citigroup Inc. is nearing agreement with U.S. government officials to create a structure that would house some of the financial giant’s risky assets, according to people familiar with the situation.” (source: WSJ)

Commentary: Wouldn’t it be nice if all businesses could restructure their bad assets to create a phony holding company to pretty up their books?  Will the government also be acquiring the bank’s legal liabilities, including the multi billion dollar merchant interchange antitrust class-action for which Citigroup is a named defendant?  As a part owner, will the U.S. demand that Citigroup’s ownership in Visa and MasterCard be used to leverage away the unfair credit card interchange fees?

More on Visa Inc.

November 21, 2008

Form 10-K for VISA INC.

  • Visa says might incur “significant” charges in FY09
  • The Credit Card Fee That Will Fleece You

  • Visa and MasterCard’s Impact From Banking Instability and Upheavel

    September 29, 2008

    Another outcome from the global banking crisis, including today’s news that Citigroup will acquire the banking operations of Wachovia, raises added concerns. While the banking industry’s two giant credit card associations want consumers to think that Visa and MasterCard play fairly, do not violate the law and offer boundless competition within the credit card market, the reality is that the banking industry consolidation is yielding an even more unstable and a more tilted playing area. 

    Banks are defaulting and being nationalized.  How will this impact their credit card operations and will they attempt to further raise merchant interchange fees in an attempt to strengthen their balance sheets on the backs of businesses and consumers?

    After Visa and MasterCard went public in an attempt to shift ownership from the banks, now many of the leading banks are consolidating and their percentage of control is creeping back.  JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America and Citigroup, all named defendants in the Payment Card Interchange Fee and Merchant Discount Antitrust Litigation, are amassing assets and extending their cartel-like market power over the electronic payment system.

    Consumers and businesses have lost confidence in the banking industry. Its corporate leaders are under fired, or have been fired. Government intervention at this late hour is doomed and the question remains: why didn’t the government clamp down on the trillions in unstable and ruinous mortgages years ago. A similar question is why did the government permit banks to reap hundreds of billions in anticompetitive and unfair fees at the expense of merchants and consumers?

    While the banking crisis is taking all the attention, merchant interchange fees continue to slice away at our nation’s economy.  These fees generate nearly $50 billion each year at the expense of Americans; it removes much needed capital from our economy and is aggressively plundered by the banks as we are learning on the failed housing market and other disastrous schemes.

    According to The Wall Street Journal (Sept 29), “Citigroup has put up for sale a Japanese call center valued at about $2 billion, the latest push by the financial conglomerate to drum up fresh capital.”  If the banks are desperately seeking cash, as a merchant, I am extra worried that they will again hit up their interchange pricing fiefdom to  get fast cash at the expense of retailers and consumers. 

    Is Citigroup’s Credit Card Business Restructing an Attempt to Hedge Bank from Antitrust Liability?

    March 31, 2008

    Call it what you want, but the attempt by Citigroup Inc. to restructure it’s credit card business could be nothing more than a scheme to protect the bank from its multi-billion dollar merchant interchange credit card liability.  Just as MasterCard and Visa sought to distance itself from the interchange antitrust price-fixing complaint, the litigation is based on transgressions dating back years.

    Just as with MasterCard and Visa’s new shareholders, the question for Citi is who will be left holding the interchange woes as part of the consumer restructuring?  Is the consolidation of its worldwide credit card businesses, run by Steven Freiberg, CEO of Global Cards, an attempt to distance the bank of its alleged liabilities?  If investors could pump billions into a questionable Visa Inc IPO, will anyone even notice what seems like a shell game to cast off what could end up drowning the bank?

    This summer, the 1960’s television sitcom, “Get Smart” is making its theatrical release.  What might this have to do with Citi’s restructuring?  Everything.  To paraphrase the ongoing joke in “Get Smart,” ah, the old A, B, C way to spin off their business trick. Today’s news of the restructuring of its credit card business might be followed by similar attempted liability escapes by other banking giants.  From our prospective, this has more to do with the old adage of how to raise money and hedge your risks.  As the story goes, there are three types of investments for betting on new oil wells. “Type A” – a sure thing – is where you know that oil is in the ground, it is seeping out of the surface — you are swimming in the stuff and that is where you personally invest along with your closest friends and family members. “Type B” – we’ll, we’re in Texas and there’s just got to be oil here – is when there might be oil, but you have to drill and explore; this is where you get the neighbors and distant friends to go along.  And, “Type C” – throwing darts at a map – is where you haven’t a clue; this is where “investors” risk the capital. With a multi-billion dollar antitrust price-fixing class action threatening the core of Visa, MasterCard and its thousands of member banks’ merchant Interchange revenue stream, what better way to hedge your investment than to split off the impending liability? 

    WayTooHigh.com: Influencing Opinions and Raising Awareness

    March 25, 2008

    Today marks the third year since ScanMyPhotos.com launched WayTooHigh.com – The Credit Card Interchange Report. It is also about the time we received that infamous rate increase letter from Chase Paymentech which was sent to millions of merchants just like us.

    Some rates have risen more than 300% in the past few years. The most recent rate “adjustmentletter arrived days ago, but does not identify the new fees until after they take effect. That sympathetic letter from our payment processing service announced a rate increase when cardholders had us process their affinity, frequent-flier signature cards; a quality causing retailers to effectively also be taken on a ride. That was the letter which led to The Wall Street Journal front-page Marketplace profile on our parent company [30 Minute Photos Etc.] and the beginning of our Federal class-action complaint against Visa, MasterCard and international major banks.

    Changes have occured over the years. Merchant interchange rates have continued to ascend, while our traditional photographic film business wallowed due to the same technological shifts which made digital more practical.  These are the efficiencies which also helped bring down many antiquated analog services.  Next to film, the yellow page directories, fax machines and thousands of other businesses, the changing times also drew attention to the $40 billion annual merchant interchange debacle which didn’t budge.

    But, unlike other businesses that were forced to change, the two giant credit card associations and their 80% market power kept trudging along.  Today, film, phone books and other once shining business models are historic vestiges from an antiquated past.  However, the electronic payment network, which today is super-fast, efficient and liberated from the days of manual credit card imprinters and carbon-copy receipts (that had to be mailed away for processing) remains.When you study the free interchange processing for checks, and international interchange rates that are a third and less the cost in the U.S., you quickly understand that Visa and MasterCard’s game – managed by thousands of member banks – is blemished.  Their anti-competitive price-fixing is illegal and drawing international attention and loud shouts from Washington D.C.

    While this website has been written in our voice, as a retailer who best understands the issues, we have also become the leading personality and fixture behind the interchange battle.  And, it continues to gaining traction.  Visa and MasterCard restructured their companies, but the issues and fees remain as do their potential liability.The mix of banks, public relations and legal firms which read our comments each day is shared with close scrutiny by Visa, MasterCard, and much more importantly by other business owners, governments and associations around the world.  From giant multi-national conglomerates to “mom-and-pop” shopkeepers, we have been reporting, sharing commentary and observations with the world community which is also causing grief to Visa and MasterCard.  WayTooHigh.com and the nearly fifty other class-actions suits after we filed the first are shining a knock-down message that time is running out on the cartel’s imposing might.

    Many of you have been following the shift in our business too – from film to digital and our extraordinary international media coverage for the new super-fast photo scanning business model we pioneered. From multiple articles in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and scores of other media coverage, the entrepreneurial passions at ScanMyPhotos.com was successful in making the leap from analog to digital. So, why hasn’t Visa and MasterCard also transitioned from an ancient , cost-based interchange fee structure to one that represents today’s technological realities?

    In the late 1980’s technology evolved where transactions were processed electronically and paper records were not needed for most payment card transactions.  Since that time, the costs of various components of credit card transaction processing (phone, data processing and Internet services have decreased significantly.  These changes led to significant reductions in the costs of processing payment card transactions.

    As class-representatives, on behalf of the millions of merchants with shared dedicated to eradicating supra-competitive interchange fees, we will continue to engage and call attention to this multi-billion dollar injustice.

    News Update From ScanMyPhotos.com

    “Carlyle Capital in Default, on Brink of Collapse (via Reuters)

    March 13, 2008

    More trouble for the banks.  By way of pure coincidence, Carlyle Group, the buy out firm is in default on ($16.6 billion) – nearly as much money as Visa hopes to raise next week. 

    Perhaps they can double-down.  

    Can the banks hold on until the Visa Inc. IPO bailout? 

    Click here to read the Reuters article.