Greyhound Corporation v. Mt Hood Stages, Inc

Decision Date01 June 1978
Docket NumberNo. 77-598,77-598
PartiesThe GREYHOUND CORPORATION et al., Petitioners, v. MT. HOOD STAGES, INC., etc
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

57 L.Ed.2d 239
98 S.Ct. 2370
437 U.S. 322
The GREYHOUND CORPORATION et al., Petitioners,



No. 77-598.
Argued April 24, 1978.
Decided June 1 , 1978.

On October 7, 1964, respondent motor carrier instituted a proceeding before the Interstate Commerce Commission in which it asked the ICC to reopen proceedings in which the ICC, over respondent's opposition, had approved petitioner's acquisition of several bus companies, alleging that petitioner had not lived up to representations that the acquisitions would not adversely affect respondent. On December 14, 1964, the United States petitioned for leave (and later was allowed) to intervene in the ICC proceeding, stating that respondent's allegations made "a serious charge" but that it did not know whether they were "true or false." After extensive hearings, the ICC decided against petitioner. In the meantime on July 5, 1968, respondent filed an action in District Court alleging, inter alia, violations of the federal antitrust laws, and the jury found violations of the Sherman Act and fraudulent concealment of such violations. The court held that the Government's petition to intervene in the ICC proceeding served to toll the statute of limitations under § 5(i) of the Clayton Act (which provides that "[w]henever any civil or criminal proceeding is instituted by the United States to prevent, restrain, or punish violations of any of the antitrust laws, . . . the running of the statute of limitations in respect of every private . . . right of action arising under said laws and based in whole or in part on any matter complained of in said proceeding shall be suspended during the pendency thereof and for one year thereafter"), with the result that the Act's four-year period of limitations extended back to December 14, 1960, when it was combined with fraudulent concealment to create a 20-year damages period. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the literal wording of § 5(i) was not controlling and that § 5(i)'s purpose in furthering effective enforcement of the antitrust laws by permitting private litigants to benefit from governmental antitrust enforcement efforts would be advanced by treating the United States' petition to intervene as the "functional equivalent of a direct action" by the United States. Held : The Clayton Act's statute of limitations was

Page 323

not tolled under § 5(i) by the filing of the Government's petition to intervene in the ICC proceeding. Pp. 330-337.

(a) The ICC proceeding was plainly not "instituted by the United States" within the meaning of § 5(i). It strains accepted usage to argue that a party who intervenes in a proceeding instituted by someone else has also "instituted that proceeding." In fact, the United States not only did not institute the ICC proceeding but was not in a position to do so, since in view of its statement that it did not know whether respondent's allegations were "true or false," it could not in good faith have made the charging allegations necessary to institute the proceeding. Pp. 330-331.

(b) Neither had the United States, within the meaning of § 5(i), "complained of" anything on which the District Court action was based, since in the ICC proceeding its petition to intervene charged petitioner with no wrongdoing, took no position on the merits, sought no relief, and disclaimed any knowledge of the relevant facts, seeking only an opportunity for respondent to establish its allegations. Pp. 331-332.

(c) What is now § 5(i) was enacted to ensure that private litigants would have the benefit of prior Government antitrust efforts, and this purpose would not be served by construing § 5(i) as applicable to the facts of this case, where respondent is seeking to benefit not from a Government antitrust action, but from an ICC proceeding respondent itself in tituted. Pp. 332-334.

(d) Application of § 5(i) to this case would also fail to give weight to Congress' purpose in amending the Clayton Act to provide a uniform four-year period of limitations and thus eliminate the prior confusion caused by determining the period of limitations by state law. P. 334.

555 F.2d 687, vacated and remanded.

John R. Reese, San Francisco, Cal., for petitioners.

Eugene C. Crew, San Francisco, Cal., for respondent.

Page 324

Mr. Justice BLACKMUN delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case presents the issue whether § 5(i) of the Clayton Act, as amended, 88 Stat. 1706, 90 Stat. 1396, 15 U.S.C. § 16(i) (1976 ed.),1 operates to toll the running of the Act's statute of limitations 2 from the date on which the United States filed a petition for leave to intervene in an Interstate Commerce Commission proceeding previously instituted by the plaintiff.


Petitioner Greyhound 3 and respondent Mt. Hood Stages, Inc. (doing business as Pacific Trailways), are motor common

Page 325

carriers of passengers and package express and are subject to regulation by the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC). Greyhound is the largest common carrier by bus in the United States. Mt. Hood is one of Greyhound's comparatively small competitors; it operates over routes in Oregon, Idaho, and Utah. Its principal routes are between Portland, Eugene, and Albany, Ore., in the west, and Salt Lake City, in the east, and between Klamath Falls, Ore., in the south, and Biggs and The Dalles, Ore., in the north. Greyhound's route authority surrounds that of Mt. Hood.

During the period from 1947 to 1956, Greyhound acquired control of eight bus companies operating in the Western United States. See Mt. Hood Stages, Inc., 104 M.C.C. 449, 450, and n. 1 (1968). In the proceedings before the ICC, Mt. Hood opposed four of those acquisitions,4 alleging that, if the acquisitions were approved, Greyhound could route traffic around Mt. Hood's operat ons and thereby deprive the public of the most convenient service and jeopardize Mt. Hood's continued existence.5

Greyhound successfully contended, however, that the acquisitions were not intended to, and would not, have such consequences. Greyhound represented to the ICC that the acquisitions

"would not adversely affect connecting carriers; that arrangements with such carriers, including interchange of traffic and open gateways, would be maintained; that it was not the policy of Greyhound to route passengers over circuitous routes; that its agents were instructed to quote the direct route as well as the Greyhound route and give passengers their choice; and that Greyhound had always

Page 326

carried MH's schedules in its folders and cooperated in every way to acquaint the public with its service and thus promote additional traffic and business for their lines." 6

Greyhound also represented to the Commission that it would continue the joint through-bus arrangement with Mt. Hood.7 As Greyhound had anticipated, the ICC relied on these representations in determining that the proposed acquisitions were in the public interest. Id., at 454-457, 461.

In July 1964, Greyhound terminated the through-bus arrangement with Mt. Hood. On October 7 of that year, Mt. Hood filed a petition with the Commission, pursuant to § 5(10) (formerly § 5(9)) of the Interstate Commerce Act,8 alleging that Greyhound had not lived up to various representations it had made to the ICC and asking the Commission to reopen the acquisition proceedings "for further hearing to consider the necessity of attaching certain terms, conditions and limitations to the privileges therein granted" or, in the alternative, to order Greyhound to divest itself of operations acquired in those proceedings. App. 4. The allegations in Mt. Hood's petition to the Commission were essentially the same as those Mt. Hood made later in this antitrust suit, that

Page 327

is, that Greyhound had canceled the through-bus connection, had scheduled connecting service so as to preclude reasonable connections with Mt. Hood, had directed Greyhound's agents and independent joint ticket agents to send traffic around Mt. Hood's routes through use of longer all-Greyhound routes, and had interfered in various ways with the distribution of Mt. Hood's schedules and the quotation of Mt. Hood's rates and services, all with the intent of injuring Mt. Hood. Id., at 10-11.

Slightly more than two months later, on December 14, 1964, the United States petitioned for leave to intervene in the ICC proceeding. Id., at 36. In its petition, the United States stated it had an interest in the proceeding and it urged that the Commission hold a hearing on Mt. Hood's allegations. The Government's petition observed that Mt. Hood's allegations "make a serious charge," id., at 37, but added: "We have no way of knowing whether those of Mt Hood's allegations which Greyhound denies are true or false; resolution of such controversies is a typical function of a hearing." 9 Id., at 37-38.

On May 27, 1965, the United States and others were granted permission to intervene in the ICC proceeding. Id., at 43. Such permission, however, was on condition that it "shall not be construed to allow intervenors to introduce evidence which will unduly broaden the issues raised in this proceeding." Ibid.

After an extensive evidentiary hearing, the examiner resolved all factual issues against Greyhound and recommended entry of an order requiring Greyhound to abide by the representations it had made in the acquisition proceedings. Mt. Hood

Page 328

Stages, Inc., 104 M.C.C., at 464-496. On April 5, 1968, Division 3 of the ICC sustained the examiner's findings but deferred entry of a supplemental order to allow voluntary negotiations between the parties. Id., at 462-463.

On July 5, 1968, Mt. Hood filed this action in the United States District Court for the District of Oregon for damages and injunctive relief, alleging violations of the antitrust laws and common-law and statutory unfair competition. App. 46. Mt. Hood's complaint alleged, as to the antitrust...

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