The Independent Community Bankers of America has failed to convince the Department of Justice to drop its lawsuit against Visa U.S.A. and MasterCard International.

In a letter dated April 30, the Washington-based trade group told federal prosecutors that Citigroup's decision to switch primary allegiance from Visa to MasterCard was evidence of competition in the industry and grounds to drop the antitrust action.

In a letter that reached the ICBA last Wednesday, Joel I. Klein, assistant attorney general in the Justice Department's antitrust division, wrote: "Citibank's decision to resign from the Visa board and convert most of its portfolio to MasterCard is a step toward a more competitive marketplace in which banks governing Visa and MasterCard are dedicated to the brand they govern.

"Unfortunately, one bank's decision cannot alleviate the competitive concerns expressed in our complaint."

Kenneth Guenther, executive vice president of the trade group, said it disagrees with the premise of the Justice Department's lawsuit, which was initiated last October.

"We think a decision by the major player in the market does change the dynamics of the case," Mr. Guenther said in an interview.

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