American Express has filed a lawsuit against Visa, MasterCard and eight major banks seeking damages for business lost as a result of anti-competitive business practices.
The suit, which was filed in the US District Court in Manhattan, does not specify an amount of monetary compensation, but American Express says it expects to seek damages that could total in the billions of dollars.
The legal action follows the decision by the US Supreme Court in October to uphold a ruling that Visa and MasterCard violated federal antitrust laws by banning their member banks from issuing cards from rival firms such as American Express and Morgan Stanley Discover.
In a statement, American Express says those practices had effectively locked it out of the bank-issued card business in the US.
Kenneth Chenault, chairman and CEO, American Express, says: "The card associations functioned as a cartel. Banks who had expressed an interest in working with us were stopped before they could start."
American Express says individual banks named in the suit have been identified in part, on being members of one or both of Visa and MasterCard's board of directors at the time the illegal rules were adopted. These include JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Capital One, US Bancorp, Household Bank, Wells Fargo, Providian National Bank and USAA Federal Savings Bank.
Chenault says: "We intend to hold the associations and their member banks accountable for their illegal actions and seek compensation for the value that would have been generated for our shareholders," he says.