U.S. District Court Judge John Gleeson lashed out at retailers and retail associations objecting to the proposed anti-trust cards settlement, declaring that websites they have published so far to ostensibly inform retailers about their rights under the settlement in fact mislead them.
Gleeson was responding to a motion from the plaintiffs that support the settlement which alleged that settlement opponents had been misleading retailers about the settlement in an attempt to undermine it.
“We're here on class plaintiffs' motion and I have no intention, I don't know how long you plan to be here, there are so many of you. I don't have any intention to roll
up my sleeves and get down in the weeds about these websites,” Gleeson said at the opening of the session, according to a transcript of the hearing Thursday in New York. “I think they're misleading and need to be corrected.”
He went on to make it clear that he would not entertain arguments to the contrary.
“Just to give one example of my take on it. There's different degrees of 'misleadingness,' and my concern right now is not with the disputes among you about the relative merits of the settlement, we’ll deal with that in due course,” the judge said.
“My concern is with these members...the absent members of the class and whether they're making decisions based on bad information based on misleading information. And it looks to me like they're being manipulated. And these are your own, for the most part, not always, these are your own members. I don't know why this would happen,” he said.
Later, he expressed incredulity when a lawyer for the groups which published the sites tried to argue that they were not really misleading.
“You have to be a lawyer. You have to be a lawyer to actually believe that, for example, this bolded "If you do nothing, the Court will assume you approve of the settlement,” Gleeson declared.
“You'll have to be lost in our world of lawyering to believe that undoes the damage that's done by this "Take Action Now" and by burying the link to the site in frequently asked questions. I'm not going to belabor this with you. I'm just talking basic fairness,” the judge said.
Gleeson declined to define how the problem of the websites should be resolved but ordered the two sites to meet together and craft a solution which he expected to see in a week.
“In the first instance, I'm going to direct that you sit down with class counsel guided by my comments here today and the ones I’ll make by the time we're done and try to comply,” Gleeson said. “I got 500 other cases, I don't feel like sitting down and figuring out myself what the remedy is. I'm going to direct you to take a crack at it with class counsel.”