Kudos to David Boies:

Fresh off his depiction in “Recount” — the HBO movie about the 2000 election fiasco — David Boies, along with partner Don Flexner, have, on behalf of American Express, negotiated one of the largest antitrust settlements ever for an individual company: $1.8 billion. The settlement with Mastercard comes on the heels of a similar $2.25 billion settlement, also handled by Boies, between AmEx and Visa.

The background: The Supreme Court ruled in 2004 that Visa and MasterCard violated antitrust laws by prohibiting their member banks from offering credit cards that could be used on rival payment networks. AmEx and Discover sued. Here are reports from the WSJ and NYT.

Really, though, kudos to Mr. Feinberg:

Kenneth R. Feinberg, who handled the earlier settlement with Visa and who also oversaw administration of the 9/11 compensation fund, acted as arbitrator in the case during secret negotiations that lasted eight weeks.

And while we’re at it, don’t forget to review the AAA rules for large, complex commercial disputes. There are two myths about commercial arbitration worth dispelling while on the subject.

First, you are generally not entitled to three arbitrators; you can ask for them, but the only time you’ll get them is if you and the other party cannot agree on arbitrators and the case is worth more than $1 million.

Second, there is no rule prohibiting discovery in commercial arbitration, there just isn’t any entitlement to it. I frequently recommend following the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure with regard to written discovery, except for depositions, which are limited usually to just the principle witnesses.

Of course, the best part of arbitration from the plaintiff’s perspective is the finality, where the pressure of an unappealable award strongly encourages settlement. When you litigate a case through the civil system, there is virtually no chance of settlement prior to scheduling of trial, and, indeed, a good number of cases have to get through verdict and at least some of the appeal before the offers become reasonable. That takes years.

As you can see from the AmEx arbitration, nearly $2 billion dollars changing hands took eight weeks.