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decided: February 15, 1932.



Hughes, Van Devanter, McReynolds, Brandeis, Sutherland, Butler, Stone, Roberts

Author: Sutherland

[ 284 U.S. Page 478]

 MR. JUSTICE SUTHERLAND delivered the opinion of the Court.

The United States Navigation Company is a corporation operating ships in foreign commerce. It brought this suit in the federal district court for the southern district of New York to enjoin respondents from continuing an alleged combination and conspiracy in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act, c. 647, 26 Stat. 209, Title 15, U. S. C., §§ 1-7, and of the Clayton Act, c. 323, 38 Stat. 730, Title 15, U. S. C., §§ 12-27. The district court granted a motion to dismiss the amended bill on the ground, principally, that the matters complained of were

[ 284 U.S. Page 479]

     within the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States Shipping Board, under the Shipping Act of 1916, c. 451, 39 Stat. 728, Title 46, U. S. C., §§ 801-842, as amended by the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, c. 250, 41 Stat. 988. 39 F.2d 204. The circuit court of appeals affirmed. 50 F.2d 83.

For present purposes, the substance of the pertinent allegations of the bill may be stated as follows: The petitioner, during the time mentioned in the bill, operated steamships for the carriage of general cargo between the port of New York and specified foreign ports. The respondents are corporations also engaged in foreign commerce between the United States and specified foreign countries, carrying ninety-five per cent. of the general cargo trade from North Atlantic ports in the United States to the ports of Great Britain and Ireland. These corporations and the petitioner are the only lines maintaining general cargo services in that trade. Respondents have entered into and are engaged in a combination and conspiracy to restrain the foreign trade and commerce of the United States in respect of the carriage of general cargo from the United States to the foreign ports named, with the object and purpose of driving the petitioner and all others not parties to the combination out of, and of monopolizing, such trade and commerce. The conspiracy involves the establishment of a general tariff rate and a lower contract rate, the latter to be made available only to shippers who agree to confine their shipments to the lines of respondents. The differentials thus created between the two rates are not predicated upon volume of traffic or frequency or regularity of shipment, but are purely arbitrary and wholly disproportionate to any difference in service rendered, the sole consideration being their effect as a coercive measure. The tariff rate in numerous instances is as much as one hundred per cent. higher than the contract rate. The disproportionately

[ 284 U.S. Page 480]

     wide spread of these differentials is wholly arbitrary and unreasonable. The respondents have put into effect what is called a scheme of joint exclusive patronage contracts, by which shippers are required to agree to ship exclusively by their lines, and to refrain from offering any shipments to petitioner. Unless they so agree, the shippers are forced to pay the far higher general tariff rates. This plan is resorted to for the purpose of coercing shippers to deal exclusively with respondents and refrain from shipping by the vessels of petitioner, and thus exclude it entirely from the carrying trade between the United States and Great Britain.

Other means to accomplish the same end are alleged, such as, giving rebates; spreading false rumors and falsely stating that petitioner is about to discontinue its service; making use of their combined economic bargaining power to coerce various shippers, who are also producers of commodities used in large quantities by respondents, to enter into joint exclusive contracts with them; and threatening to blacklist forwarders and refuse to pay them joint brokerage fees unless they discontinue making, or advising shippers to make, shipments in petitioner's ships. Certain overt acts are alleged as being in furtherance of the combination, conspiracy, and attempt to monopolize. A more detailed analysis of the amended bill, is embodied in the statement of the case which precedes the opinion of the court below.

It may be conceded that, looking alone to the Sherman Antitrust Act, the bill states a cause of action under §§ 1 and 2 of that act, and, consequently, furnishes ground for an injunction under § 16 of the Clayton Act, unless the Shipping Act stands in the way; and this was the view of both courts below.

The Shipping Act is a comprehensive measure bearing a relation to common carriers by water substantially the same as that borne ...

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