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J.P. Morgan Credit-Card Settlement Advances

--J.P. Morgan Chase agreed to pay $100 million --Customers alleged company violated contracts by increasing minimum monthly payments --Fairness hearing on settlement is set for Nov. 16 A federal judge has granted preliminary approval to a $100 million settlement of a class-action lawsuit alleging J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. (JPM) violated credit-card borrowers' contract terms by raising their minimum monthly payments. The settlement, filed last month in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, would put to rest claims that the nation's largest bank by assets increased the amounts that certain customers were required to pay on their card-loan balances during the economic downturn. Judge Maxine Chesney has set a fairness hearing on the settlement for Nov. 16, according to a court document filed Thursday. A spokesman for J.P. Morgan declined to comment Friday. A master class-action complaint filed in 2009 said the plaintiffs accepted offers from J.P. Morgan to transfer loan balances at other banks to J.P. Morgan credit-card accounts. The customers were offered fixed-rate, long-term loans, though J.P. Morgan later increased the minimum amount borrowers must pay on their accounts each month to 5% of their outstanding loan balance from 2%, according to the complaint, filed on behalf of about one million credit cardholders. Borrowers who fail to make their minimum monthly payments typically pay late fees. Reuters first reported news of the settlement receiving preliminary approval Friday. The settlement is the latest card-related accord for J.P. Morgan, which along with numerous other large banks have been hit with lawsuits over overdraft policies and merchant transaction fees. J.P. Morgan earlier this year agreed to pay $110 million to settle claims it reordered customers' debit-card transactions to generate additional overdraft fees. Bank of America Corp. (BAC), PNC Financial Services Group Inc. (PNC) and other banks have agreed to settle similar lawsuits. Last month Visa Inc. (V), MasterCard Inc. (MA) and numerous banks that issue their credit cards, including J.P. Morgan, agreed to pay merchants $6.05 billion to settle allegations that they fixed the price of transaction fees retailers pay each time a customer swipes a card. J.P. Morgan's share of the settlement is $1.2 billion, the New York-based bank said in a regulatory filing Thursday. That settlement is pending in federal court in Brooklyn. J.P. Morgan is the second-largest U.S. credit card issuer based on purchase volume, according to the Nilson Report, a payments-industry newsletter. J.P. Morgan's shares were down 0.4% at $36.77 in recent trading. Write to Andrew R. Johnson at andrew.r.johnson@dowjones.com Subscribe to WSJ: http://online.wsj.com?mod=djnwires

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