NEW YORK – Visa told a federal judge yesterday not to grant a stay in final approval for the landmark antitrust settlement, saying a delay would injure millions of merchants waiting for their share of the $7.2 billion payout.

In fact, some plaintiffs in the suit like Kroger Inc. have already begun reporting financial gains from the settlement, even though the judge has yet to issue final approval of the deal. Kroger reported a 62% surge in third quarter earnings yesterday, fueled by projected gains on the antitrust case.

The landmark settlement now pits one-time allies in the seven-year-old case against each other, with 10 of the 19 named merchant plaintiffs now opposing the deal.

The merchant plaintiffs favoring the deal, including Kroger, Hy-Vee, Meijer, Publix, Railey’s, and Rite Aid, filed an objection with the court yesterday to the opponents’ request for a stay in the case while they appeal portions of a Nov. 10 preliminary ruling by U.S. Judge John Gleeson.

Six of the case’s original 19 plaintiffs, including the National Association of Convenience Stores, the National Restaurant Association, Home Depot, D'Agostino Supermarkets Inc., said they will appeal the judge’s preliminary because it bars all plaintiffs—even those opposed to the deal—from pursuing additional legal remedies. Judge Gleeson issued an order yesterday giving the group until Monday to argue why he should issue a stay.

The objectors case makes for a strange combination of parties now, pitting the original plaintiffs group against their original partners in the antitrust case and the defendants—Visa and MasterCard.

Visa, MasterCard and the merchant plaintiffs group that favors the deal told Judge Gleeson in separate filings yesterday he should reject the stay because the objecting plaintiffs in the case will not be harmed because they will be able to appeal his decision after he issues a final ruling. But, the groups say a stay will injure the other parties, namely eight million merchants that will share the $7.2 billion payout.


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