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Approval of swipe-fee settlement could mean big payday for MN law firm

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A judge's approval of a multi-billion-dollar settlement in an antitrust lawsuit over bank card swipe fees could open the door to a big payday for the Minneapolis law firm that led the negotiations.

The Star Tribune reports U.S. District Judge John Gleeson approved the $5.7 billion settlement that 7 million retailers reached with Visa, MasterCard, and several major banks. The deal is considered the largest class-action antitrust settlement in U.S. history.

The settlement was first announced in the summer of 2012 but was not approved by Judge Gleeson until Friday. As Bloomberg reports, it follows a ruling that the credit card networks and banks colluded in fixing the fees they charge merchants whenever a customer pays with a card.

The first lawsuit in what would become a class action was filed by Twin Cities attorney K. Craig Wildfang in 2005, the Star Tribune says. Wildfang handles antitrust cases with the Minneapolis firm Robins Kaplan Miller & Ciresi.

According to the Business Journal, Wildfang requested more than $747 million in fees and expenses for his firm and others that worked on the case.

But in a story on Wildfang earlier this month, the Star Tribune wrote that requested legal fees had shrunk to about $570 million and that Robins Kaplan Miller & Ciresi hope to receive about one-quarter to one-third of that total. That would put the Minneapolis firm's payment in the range of $142 million to $190 million for its eight years of work, according to the newspaper.

The payment still may have to wait for more legal maneuvers to play out, though. Many of the country's largest retailers – such as Target, Walmart, and Amazon – opted out of the settlement, arguing that it does not do enough to rein in Visa and MasterCard. As NBC reports, some of those retailers are filing their own lawsuits.

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