Ever since the nation's largest banks and retailers announced a tentative deal to settle a high-stakes lawsuit over interchange fees, a great deal of attention has been paid to whether enough dissenting merchants will band together to scuttle the agreement.

But if the settlement is to take effect, it may also have to get past a second, little-discussed hurdle: the U.S. Department of Justice, which has the right to object on the grounds that the deal is bad for consumers.

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