Eastern District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis yesterday approved a settlement between MasterCard and Visa and the federal government, which had accused the credit card companies of stifling competition by preventing merchants from encouraging their customers to use competing cards with lower fees.

The two companies had already agreed to the settlement when U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder filed the lawsuit last October following a two-year investigation (NYLJ, Oct. 6, 2010). American Express, which was also a defendant in the government’s suit, did not take part in the settlement and is still defending the suit.

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