In Priceless, author and lead counsel Lloyd Constantine relates the dramatic account of backroom strategizing and courtroom conniving during the high-stakes litigation. Constantine, who led the team representing the plaintiffs, vividly describes how the case pitted retailers against credit card companies, and pries the lid off dodgy debit card practices. The plaintiffs, including Wal-Mart, Sears Roebuck, The Limited, Safeway, and a class of five million stores, pitted their financial futures against Visa and Mastercard in this war between giants.

In the vein of breakout bestsellers like A Civil Action and A Confederacy of Fools, this fast-paced narrative, peppered with larger-than-life characters, tears open the case and shows readers how the more than $3-billion-dollar settlement came about. The riveting story features cameos by lawyers, judges, and businessmen, including then University of Arkansas law professor Bill Clinton and New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. The triumph is also a David and Goliath tale, in which a small boutique law firm beats four of the largest law firms in the world, including London-based law firm Clifford Chance.

What they’re saying about Priceless

“Constantine’s brilliant but easy to read book is a David and Goliath story about his own career and the seminal Visa/ MasterCard case that broke the back of a giant anticonsumer conspiracy and that reaffirmed the core pro-competition concept that lies at the heart of America and its economic system. Priceless is the story of Lloyd Constantine’s grit, determination, courage, and commitment to do battle against seemingly insurmountable odds on behalf of the fundamental American concept of a free enterprise system.”

–Robert Abrams, Former Attorney General of New York

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“At a time when class actions and plaintiffs’ attorneys are under attack, this book is an essential corrective. It demonstrates that private enforcement can work-but only when dedicated counsel are willing to bet their careers on a David-versus-Goliath battle with the industry. Lloyd Constantine and his colleagues broke a cartel that robbed consumers and restrained competition-and did it with virtually no help from the Government. But they almost lost on many occasions. Big case litigation is a marathon, not a sprint, and this behind-the-scenes account paints a provocative picture of the tactics-fair and foul-that defendants can use to crush their opponents. Credit must also go to the judges, including John Gleeson and Sonia Sotomayor, who kept this class action alive in the face of endless attempts to derail it. Many will not like how they are portrayed in this “tell-all” account that is opinionated, acerbic, and pulls no punches. But, much like A Civil Action, it provides a blunt, ‘warts and all,’ unflattering perspective on the real world of mega-litigation.”

–John Coffee, Adolf A. Berle Professor of Law, Columbia University Law School

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Priceless lifts ‘crusading lawyer’ from the dustbin of clichés and gives the term new meaning. Lloyd Constantine tells the story of the nation’s largest (by far) antitrust case with candor, clarity, and wit. Every consumer with a debit card should be grateful to him for the outcome, and every consumer advocate should read Priceless for its many reminders of how things really work.”

–Nick Taylor, Award-winning Author of
American Made: The Enduring Legacy of the WPA: When FDR Put the Nation to Work

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“Aspiring litigators, fans of Court TV and everyone holding a VISA or MasterCard will be fascinated by this candid, often bare-knuckled account of one of the largest antitrust cases in recent years.”


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“Lloyd Constantine represented Wal-Mart, the Limited, Sears and others in a federal antitrust lawsuit against VISA and MasterCard filed in 1996. Dubbed the Merchants’ Case for short (the matter evolved into a class action involving five million merchants), it alleged that VISA and MasterCard, a joint venture owned by U.S. banks, ‘operated as a bank cartel that had monopoly power in the credit card market . . . [and] used their monopoly power to dominate the newer debit card market.’ Constantine’s highly informative book covers the long, tumultuous history of that landmark case with passion.

“Constantine starts with the nitty-gritty, discussing a decisive event for initiating the lawsuit. When Wal-Mart discovered it had no negotiating room with VISA and MasterCard, it was not happy that its status as the Biggest Customer cut no bargaining ice and went in search of legal counsel. Constantine, with experience in lawsuits against VISA and MasterCard for related collusive practices, developed an elegant strategy for the case and was hired. As he makes clear, once you land the clients, then you hunker down to the daily legal grind to win the case–in this instance, defending 350 depositions, analyzing 54 expert reports and attending so many hearings that judges become more familiar to you than your own family.

“Constantine is especially adept at showing that factors beyond anybody’s control affect the way a case plays out. Assembled in one courtroom are a huge number of very-big egos; various parties with vastly different goals; judges making sometimes curious rulings; and expert witnesses introducing odd spins into the case. With so many unpredictable players and so much at stake, anything can happen. One moment of high drama occurs when a witness for the defense blurts out an unexpected piece of information that supports the plaintiff’s claim of collusion and signals the judge that central facts have been purposely misrepresented to the court. Another bombshell drops when an expert witness admits that he didn’t write the report he signed and, in fact, disagrees with many of the assertions made in it.

“As soon as a jury is seated in 2003, another surprise happens: the parties settle the case. Constantine’s team prevailed in most of its claims; the settlement agreement broke up the cartel, committed a $3.05 billion cash payment to merchants and required redesign of debit and credit cards. Yet Constantine is frank about what he hoped for but didn’t get. And in his eloquent argument on the importance of antitrust law, it turns out it’s not always about the money.”

–John McFarland

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