Financial services firms being sued by the Trinity County, California, District Attorney are urging the federal judge overseeing the case to disqualify private law firms from helping to prosecute the action.

Discover Financial Services and Citigroup Inc. filed motions arguing that private law firms hired by District Attorney Eric Heryford are managing the litigation and should be disqualified— or, in the alternative, have contingency fee arrangements voided. The companies argue the arrangement violates state law that "bars district attorneys from retaining private counsel without the California attorney general’s consent." The contingency fee setup flies in the face of "the heightened duty of neutrality imposed on government attorneys," the companies assert.

In the suit, D.A. Heryford accuses Discover, Citigroup, First Premier Bank, Alliance Data Systems Corp. and American Bankers Management Co. Inc. of using improper tactics to trick customers into buying credit card protection plans. These alleged tactics include "slamming"—when the company enrolls a consumer in an ancillary product even though the consumer did not explicitly approve payment for it.

Alliance Data is represented by Terrence M. Jones, Taylor Steinbacher and Martin C. Bryce Jr. of Ballard Spahr LLP.