Visa Inc. said the Justice Department had opened an antitrust investigation into company policies that forbid merchants to surcharge customers for paying with cards or to steer customers to other forms of payment.

The San Francisco company disclosed the probe in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission Friday. It said it was cooperating with the department.

American Express Co. in New York, MasterCard Inc. in Purchase, N.Y., and Discover Financial Services in Riverwoods, Ill., have said in the last month that they were cooperating with similar investigations.

Rules against steering prompted three drugstore companies to sue Amex in June, alleging that provisions in their agreements with the company violate antitrust laws by restraining them from steering customers to other payment cards, which often carry a lower merchant discount rate.

The Visa filing also disclosed that Joseph W. Saunders, its chairman and chief executive officer, made $10 million last year, including a $950,000 base salary, a $1.9 million bonus, $336,684 in stock, and $3.27 million in options.

Visa raised $19 billion through an initial public offering this year. At midmorning Friday its shares had slipped 1% from Thursday's closing price, to $47.60. They were up 8% from the IPO price but down by almost half from a high reached in May.

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