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Governance, Issuance Restrictions, and Competition in Payment Card Networks

28 Pages Posted: 3 Jul 2007 Last revised: 15 Aug 2010

Robert S. Pindyck

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Date Written: July 2007

Abstract

I discuss the antitrust suit brought by the U.S. Department of Justice against Visa and MasterCard in 1998. Banks that issue Visa cards are free to also issue MasterCard cards, and vice versa, and many banks issue the cards of both networks. However, both Visa and MasterCard had rules prohibiting member banks from also issuing the cards of other networks, in particular American Express and Discover. In addition, most banks are members of both the Visa and MasterCard networks, so governance is to some extent shared. The DOJ claimed that restrictions on issuance and shared governance were anticompetitive and should be prohibited. Visa and MasterCard argued that these practices were procompetitive. The case raised important questions: Given that many banks issue both Visa and MasterCard, and that most merchants that accept one also accept the other, do the two networks really compete, and if so, how? And do Visa and/or MasterCard have market power, if so, in what market, and how is it exercised?

Suggested Citation

Pindyck, Robert S., Governance, Issuance Restrictions, and Competition in Payment Card Networks (July 2007). NBER Working Paper No. w13218. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=998003

Robert S. Pindyck (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management ( email )

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