CREDIT CARDS

Supreme Court rules for American Express

The Supreme Court handed American Express a win Monday in a lawsuit over rules it imposes on merchants who accept its cards.

Under their contracts, merchants who accept American Express generally can’t encourage customers to use other credit cards, even though Visa and MasterCard generally charge merchants lower fees. American Express prevents those merchants from offering patrons discounts or other incentives to use other cards or expressing a preference for other cards. The federal government and a group of states sued over American Express’s anti-steering provisions, arguing that they violate federal law.

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The Supreme Court noted that the company has traditionally charged higher fees to merchants than competitors because it delivers wealthier cardholders who spend more money.

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The court ruled 5 to 4 in favor of American Express, allowing it to continue to bar merchants from steering customers to cards with lower fees.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Clarence Thomas, Anthony M. Kennedy, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch ruled for American Express.

In a statement, American Express said the ruling “ will help to promote competition and innovation in the payments industry.”

Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote a dissenting opinion for himself and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, calling the court’s decision “contrary to basic principles of antitrust law.”

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Stephanie Martz, National Retail Federation general counsel, called the ruling “a blow to competition and transparency in the credit card market.”

— Associated Press

ENVIRONMENT

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2 more suits challenge proposed Minn. mine

Environmental groups filed two more lawsuits Monday challenging the Interior Department’s decision to reinstate the federal mineral rights leases for the proposed Twin Metals copper-nickel mine in northeastern Minnesota.

One of the lawsuits was filed by the Wilderness Society, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Izaak Walton League of America. The other was filed by Minneapolis-based Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness. A similar lawsuit was filed Thursday by nine businesses that rely on the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, plus Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness. All were filed in federal court in Washington.

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The Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management reinstated the leases last month, reversing a decision by the Obama administration that cited potential harm to the Boundary Waters from acid mine drainage.

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Twin Metals, owned by the Chilean mining company Antofagasta, has said the mine would create jobs without harming the wilderness.

— Associated Press

Also in Business

Sales of new U.S. homes jumped 6.7 percent in May, with purchases in the South accounting for all monthly gains. The Commerce Department said Monday that new homes sold last month at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 689,000, up from 646,000 in April. The South reported monthly sales growth of 17.9 percent; sales were flat in the Midwest and fell in the Northeast and West. For the first five months of this year, new-home sales have risen 8.8 percent as low unemployment and a shortage of homes for sale have boosted demand.

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A bill for a rail line that will let train passengers travel between midtown Manhattan and LaGuardia Airport was signed into law Monday by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D). The $1.5 billion plan calls for an elevated train line connecting the airport with the No. 7 subway and Long Island Rail Road stations in Queens at Willets Point, location of Citi Field, home of the New York Mets. Officials said the new 1.5-mile line will get travelers to the airport in 30 minutes from either Penn Station or Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan.

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Wells Fargo will pay more than $5.1 million to settle U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission charges it improperly pushed retail customers to actively trade complex investments to generate higher fees. The SEC on Monday said the payout includes a $4 million civil fine, plus the return of ill-gotten gains and interest, over misconduct by the Wells Fargo Advisors brokerage in its sale of market-linked investments. Wells Fargo was accused of reducing investor returns by encouraging customers to actively trade investments that were intended to be held to maturity, and despite a policy prohibiting “short-term trading” and “flipping.”

— From news reports

Coming today

9 a.m.: Standard & Poor's releases S&P/Case-Shiller index of home prices for April.

10 a.m.: The Conference Board releases the Consumer Confidence Index for June.

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