J.E. Lawrence & Company is proud to serve PKF O’Connor Davies and their clients.
JEL specializes in helping companies recover financial claims owed them as a result of class action settlements. The following are comprehensive answers to questions we receive about class action settlements, making claims, JEL’s services, the MasterCard/Visa case and PKF-specific issues.
Frequently Asked Questions
IS THIS A SCAM?
No. Class action settlements arise from situations in which businesses have been overcharged or have been financially damaged in some other way (even if they didn’t know it happened). Your claim is a demand for payment of money you are legally owed.
WHY DO I HAVE MONEY COMING TO ME? / WHY WOULD I BE OWED MONEY?
Class action settlements occur all the time. They result from wrong doing by companies who have engaged in unlawful, anti-competitive practices such as predatory pricing, bid-rigging, or price fixing. Unless you actively monitor new cases as they arise, you may not know that your business has a valid claim from a specific settlement.
AM I REALLY OWED THE MONEY?
Yes. If you are a qualified claimant for a particular class action settlement, you are really owed the money.
HOW DO SETTLEMENTS OCCUR?
When customers or competitors believe a company has engaged in anti-competitive practices, they form a ‘class’ consisting of all the companies that are presumed to have been wronged who then institute a lawsuit. Some class action settlements are the result of successfully winning that lawsuit and some are the result of the defendant(s) settling out of court in order to avoid a trial.
HOW MUCH WILL I BE GETTING BACK?
The decision as to what percentage of your claim will be refunded to you is a function of the nature of the case, the size of the settlement fund and the number and aggregate amount of claims received. However, large claims can generate $100 thousand – or even $1 million refunds.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I CHOOSE NOT TO RECOVER THE MONEY?
If you are a qualified claimant in a settlement case and you elect not to submit a claim, the money you would have otherwise received remains in the fund and is distributed to the other claimants.
WHEN CAN I EXPECT PAYMENT?
Determination of the final submission date for a case is entirely at the discretion of the presiding judge and this date can be extended for any number of valid reasons. Thus, receipt of payment can take several years from the time a claim is submitted. However, since business settlements frequently often involve large sums, submitting a claim is generally worth the effort – especially with JEL managing the process.
WHO IS GETTING MY INFORMATION AND DATA?
Every case is different. In some instances, the Claim Administrator may already have access to an accurate accounting of the claim to which you are entitled. In other cases, the full and accurate amount of your claim may be known only to you. In such cases, J.E. Lawrence & Company will advise you of the need for, and increased benefit of providing documentation of the correct amount so that you receive the full award to which you are entitled. Moreover, should it prove necessary to submit such information, J.E. Lawrence & Company will advise those in your firm designated to provide it so that we can prepare your claim. The Claim Administrator will use your information solely for the purpose of establishing the validity and size of your claim.
DO I NEED AN ACCOUNTANT?
In cases where the Claim Administrator already has an accurate accounting of the size of your claim, no additional effort is needed on your part. If the full and accurate amount of your claim is known only to you, those who normally maintain your accounting records may need to provide this information to include in your claim.
CAN I DO THIS ON MY OWN?
Yes. No-cost assistance is usually available from the Class Administrators and Class Counsels during claims-filing periods. No one is required to sign up with any third-party service in order to participate in any monetary relief.
THEN WHY WOULD I NEED HELP?
There are a number of considerations in deciding whether to manage your own claim activity:
- Class action cases can drag on in the courts for years. Keeping up with developments, changes and requests from the court, along with deadline extensions present the risk of “losing track” of the case.
- Assigning an employee the responsibility for managing your case creates the risk of “losing track” of the case as a result of employee turnover – especially in highly active job markets.
- Most employees are fully engaged in the day-to-day demands of their jobs – a condition that makes keeping track of a case which may only need their attention “from time to time” difficult and again, subject to “losing track” of the case.
- There is also the question of whether monitoring, tracking and complying with the changes and decisions that can occur during the often-lengthy settlement claims process is the highest and best use of your valuable time, skills and resources.
Finally, JEL makes sure our clients also receive timely notice of future cases as they arise so that they don’t miss out on the future refunds to which they are entitled.
WHAT ARE MY OPTIONS FOR RECOVERING THE MONEY I’M OWED?
Realistically there are two choices: manage your own case or engage a professional firm like JEL to do it for you.
WHAT WILL THIS COST?
Unlike law and accounting firms, J.E. Lawrence & Company requires no fees upfront; only a signed authorization to work on your behalf. Once your claim is paid, JEL receives a pre-agreed-upon percentage of the payment as compensation for services rendered over the course of the claims process.
Top Ten Reasons for Using JEL to Manage your Claim
- You can maintain focus on running your business while JEL handles your claim.
- Leverage JEL’s expertise in claims tracking, filing and recovery.
- Avoid high-dollar upfront costs and legal fees. JEL doesn’t get paid until you do.
- Relax as JEL takes the lead in monitoring and complying with required changes in claims procedures.
- Rest easy knowing that JEL will recover every dollar to which you are entitled.
- JEL is in compliance with all court requirements for third-party claims filing services.
- JEL is the employee who never quits. Normal employee turnover and changes in business ownership can result in you loosing track of your claim.
- JEL manages your claim over the often lengthy time frames that cases can take.
- JEL advocates on your behalf when payouts don’t comport with your initial claim amounts.
- JEL operates with Professionalism and Total Integrity
MasterCard/Visa Case Details
Plaintiffs allege that defendants Visa, MasterCard and their member banks have engaged in anti-competitive practices, including collusion, that artificially inflated the interchange fee that all merchants paid (and continue to pay) to accept Visa and MasterCard branded credit and debit cards. It is further alleged that interchange fees, which are neither cost-based nor negotiated between merchants and the banks with whom they deal directly, raise merchant discount fees to supra-competitive levels and have generated enormous profits for the Bank Defendants with respect to interchange fees in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act.
Settlement: $5.56 to $6.26 billion
Who is Eligible?
All persons, businesses, and other entities that have accepted Visa and/or MasterCard Credit and/or Debit Cards in the United States from approximately January 1, 2004 to January 25, 2019. This Class does not include the named Defendants, their directors, officers, or members of their families, or their co-conspirators, or the United States Government.
- The Visa network and its member banks;
- The MasterCard network and its member banks
Submission Deadline: TBD
No claim forms are available at this time, and no claim-filing deadline exists. If the Court grants final approval and any appeals are resolved, the Court will approve a claim form and set a claim deadline.
No-cost assistance will be available from the Class Administrator and Class Counsel during any claims-filing period. No one is required to sign up with any third-party service in order to participate in any monetary relief. For additional information regarding the status of the litigation, interested persons may visit www.paymentcardsettlement.com, the Court-approved website for this case.
WHAT DO I DO IF I DON’T HAVE INFORMATION ON OLD VISA\MC TRANSACTIONS. IS THERE A PHONE NUMBER OR WEBSITE I CAN VISIT TO OBTAIN OLD STATEMENTS?
We are not aware of any client attempting to directly contact either MasterCard or Visa for transaction history data. If a company has not already done so, the place to start is with the credit card servicing company they used during the time period in question. For some, it is just one bank or one company, but many of our clients have had multiple servicers over the fifteen years covered by the case. In the absence of actual data, we suggest using a best estimate.
Each of our clients has its own thoughts as to what constitutes a ‘best estimate.’ One route several have taken, is to use a percentage of annual sales. Others with larger, more diverse businesses where credit card usage is the norm, simply use their yearly sales. Both are legitimate estimates and appropriate for the purposes of entering a claim.
ONCE PKF SENDS A CLIENT OVER TO JEL AND IT IS IN JEL’S SYSTEM, SHOULD THE CLIENT EXPECT AN EMAIL FROM J.E. LAWRENCE ACKNOWLEDGING RECEIPT OF THEIR CLAIM?
Yes. All clients will receive a notice from JEL following the submission of their claim, informing them that their claim has been successfully submitted and a claim number has been assigned to their claim by the Claim Administrator. Note, however, that the claim period for MasterCard/Visa has not opened yet, so this notice could be months away.
A client’s retained copy of the fully executed Agreement is their proof that they are in JEL’s system.
Additionally, JEL communicates periodically with all clients to keep them updated on the progress (or lack thereof) of any cases for which they have signed an agreement with JEL.
SHOULD CLIENTS INCLUDE IN THE CLAIM AMOUNT, CHARGES THAT COME THROUGH A THIRD PARTY, LIKE PAYPAL?
No. PayPal is a competitor of MasterCard and Visa, and they are not part of the settlement.
SHOULD CLIENTS INCLUDE IN THE CLAIM AMOUNT, CHARGES THAT COME FROM SELLING THEIR PRODUCT THROUGH AMAZON?
No. When Amazon pays your client for the product your client sold through Amazon, the transaction is completed. If Amazon paid your client with ‘Amazon’s MasterCard or Visa credit card’ (unlikely) then your client would be able to include the payment in their claim amount. If Amazon accepted MasterCard or Visa from the consumer for the sale of your client’s product, Amazon would then have a claim in this settlement, but not your client.
IS THERE A DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSION?
One of the major issues with the Visa/MC case is the inordinate length of time the case has taken to work its way through the legal process. The fact is that after almost ten years, the claim period has not even opened, let alone closed! So, there is no established deadline for submission (assuming that PKFOD has not arbitrarily imposed one).
However, a few notes may be in order:
a. In the past, we have experienced Prospects who – upon being approached by JEL wouldn’t commit until there was a Close Date for submissions. We’ve never been able to definitively determine what their motivation was. But there is absolutely no benefit to them for waiting. If anything, it could be a detriment as the end of claims periods are always crazy busy as late arrivals try to submit their claim. And, in the case of Visa/MC, those prospects may still be ‘waiting’ when in fact they have entirely forgotten about it and are in jeopardy of not submitting a claim at all!
b. Thanks to our relationship with the Claim Administrator for Visa/MC, we will be submitting claims electronically. So, as soon as the claim period opens, we’ll be submitting all the claims we are currently managing. Better to be first than last. The fact that PKF is directing their clients to PKF’s web page to submit their claim, further recommends a now vs. later strategy.
c. This may be a test by your client. Some of our less honorable competitors lie by telling Prospects that there is a looming deadline and that they need to sign up ‘right now’ so their claim can be submitted. We know this because we occasionally approach Prospects who tell us that they have “already submitted” their claim and when we press them further, we find out the details. Several prospects have even switched to JEL upon learning they were not dealt-with truthfully.
I CAN GET THE EXACT ESTIMATE AMOUNTS BY SELECTING THE VISA/MC CODES IN MY ACCOUNTING SOFTWARE. IS THAT ADEQUATE OR WILL THEY REQUEST OTHER DOCUMENTATION?
This is an excellent way to ‘get the numbers’. So, by all means do it. Whether it is adequate or whether the Claim Administrator will request other documentation is unknowable. Sometimes claim administrators ask for additional information (e.g. affidavits, hard copy proof, etc.) in the middle of the claim period (!) and often after the claim period closes. For example, for a case that recently closed, the claim administrator was changing their mind and asking for additional documentation and procedural changes one and two weeks before the close date! Dealing with this kind of nonsense is one of the hidden benefits of using JEL for claim submission.Fin