Sunday, November 29, 2020

Visa’s foray into fintech provokes DoJ antitrust investigation

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The U.S. Department of Justice, or DoJ, recently publicized an investigation into Visa’s ongoing acquisition of fintech company Plaid.  

“Today, the Department of Justice filed a petition in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts to enforce Bain & Company’s compliance with the department’s Civil Investigative Demand (CID),” the DoJ said in an Oct. 27 public statement. Essentially, U.S. authorities have taken legal action to obtain information from Boston-based consulting giant Bain & Company on Visa’s acquisition of Plaid. 

“On June 11, 2020, the division issued Bain a CID requiring the company to answer interrogatories and produce documentary material, including documents that discuss Visa’s pricing strategy and competition against other debit card networks that may be important to the division’s analysis of the proposed acquisition’s effects. The petition alleges that Bain has refused to produce these documents, claiming a seemingly blanket privilege over almost all of them.”

Payments behemoth and credit card provider Visa unveiled its $5.3 billion Plaid acquisition on Jan. 13, 2020. Citizens’ financial lives often require a number of apps or platforms, countless transactions, and siloed information. Plaid aimed to bridge the disconnect between those platforms and their involved information. 

“As alleged in the petition, Bain, a consulting firm, has withheld important documents demanded under the CID, asserting unsupported claims of privilege over the documents, thereby stymying the Antitrust Division’s investigation,” the DoJ statement said. 

Makan Delrahim, the Antitrust Division’s assistant attorney, noted the importance of such third parties giving pertinent information to authorities. “Too often, third parties seek to flout these requirements,” Delrahim said. The action stands as an accountability play, keeping Bain in line with regulatory expectations, while also seeking pressing details surrounding its investigation.

Earlier this year, following the acquisition’s announcement, Plaid faced at least two lawsuits. The first surfaced in June, alleging Plaid used customers’ information for its own gain. The second legal action came out in July, claiming a breach of privacy requirements.