Shapiro v. United States

Decision Date21 June 1948
Docket NumberNo. 49,49
Citation92 L.Ed. 1787,68 S.Ct. 1375,335 U.S. 1
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

[Syllabus from pages 1-3 intentionally omitted] Mr. Bernard Tomson, of New York City, for Petitioner.

Mr. Philip B. Perlman, Sol. Gen., of Washington, D.C., for respondent.

Mr. Chief Justice VINSON delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner was tried on charges of having made tie-in sales in violation of regulations under the Emergency Price Control Act.1 A plea in bar, claiming immunity from prosecution based on § 202(g)2 of the Act, was overruled by the trial judge; judgment of conviction followed and was affirmed on appeal, 2 Cir., 159 F.2d 890. A contrary conclusion was reached by the district judge in United States v. Hoffman, 335 U.S. 77, 68 S.Ct. 1413. Because this conflict involves an important question of statutory construction, these cases were brought here and heard together. Additional minor considerations involved in the Hoffman case are dealt with in a separate opinion.

The petitioner, a wholesaler of fruit and produce, on September 29, 1944, was served with a subpoena duces tecum and ad testificandum issued, by the Price Administrator, under authority of the Emergency Price Control Act. The subpoena directed petitioner to appear before disignated enforcement attorneys of the Office of Price Administration and to produce 'all duplicate sales invoices, sales books, ledgers, inventory records, contracts ad records relating to the sale of all commodities from September 1st, 1944, to September 28, 1944.' In compliance with the subpoena, petitioner appeared and, after being sworn, was requested to turn over the subpoenaed records. Petitoner's counsel inquired whether petitioner was being granted immunity 'as to any and all matters for information obtained as a result of the investigation and examination of these records.' The presiding official stated that the 'witness is entitld to whatever immunity which flows as a matter of law from the production of these books and records which are required to be kept pursuant to M.P.R.'s 271 and 426.'3 Petitioner thereupon produced the records, but claimed constitutional privilege.

The plea in bar alleged that the name of the purchaser in the transactions involved in the information appeared in the subpoenaed sales invoices and other similar documents. And it was alleged that the Office of Price Administration had used the name and other unspecified leads obtained from these documents to search out evidence of the violations, which had occurred in the preceding year.

The Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the records which petitioner was compelled to produce were records required to be kept by a valid regulation under the Price Control Act; that thereby they became public documents, as to which no constitutional privilege against self-incrimination attaches; that accordingly the immunity of § 202(g) did not extend to the production of these records and the plea in bar was properly overruled by the trial court. 2 Cir., 159 F.2d 890.

It should be observed at the outset that the decision in the instant case turns on the construction of a com- pulsory testimony-immunity provision which incorporates by reference the Compulsory Testimony Act of 1893. This provision, in conjunction with broad record-keeping requirements, has been included not merely in a temporary wartime measure but also, in substantially the same terms, in virtually all of the major regulatory enactments of the Federal Government.4 It is contended that a broader construction of the scope of the immunity provision than that approved by the Circuit Court of Appeals would be more consistent with the congressional aim, in conferring investigatory powers upon the Administrator, to secure prompt disclosure of books and records of the private enterprises subjected to OPA regulations. In support of this contention, it is urged that the language and legislative history of the Act indicate nothing more than that § 202 was included for the purpose of 'obtaining information' and that nothing in that history throws any light upon the scope of the immunity afforded by subsection(g). We cannot agree with these contentions. For, thr language of the statute and its legislative history, viewed against the background of settled judicial construction of the immunity provision, indicate that Congress required records to be kept as a means of enforcing the statute and did not intend to frustrate the use of those records for enforcement action by granting an immunity bonus to individuals compelled to disclose their required records to the Administrator.

The very language of § 202(a) discloses that the record-keeping and inspection requirements were designed not merely to 'obtain information' for assistance in prescribing regulations or orders under the statute, but also to aid 'in the administration and enforcement of this Act and regulations, orders, and price schedules thereunder.'5

The legislative history of § 202 casts even stronger light on the meaning of the words used in that section. On July 30, 1941, the President of the United States, in a message to Congress, requested price-control legislation conferring effective authority to curb evasion and bootlegging.6 Two days later the Price Control Bill was introduced in the House by Representative Steagall, and referred to the Committee on Banking and Currency.

As introduced, and as reported out of the Committee on November 7, 1941, the bill included broad investigatory, record-keeping, licensing, and other enforcement powers to be exercised by the Administrator.7 While it was before the House, Representative Wolcott on November 28, 1941, offered as a substitute for § 201 a series of amendments, one of which authorized the Administrator 'to subpoena documents and witnesses for the purpose of obtaining information in respect to the establishment of price ceilings, and a review of price ceilings.'8 This amendment was adopted. Thereupon Representative Wolcott moved to strike out as 'redundant' the much broader and far more rigorous provisions in the bill (§ 202), which authorized the Administrator to 'require the making and keeping of records and other documents and making of reports,' and to 'obtain or require the furnishing of such information under oath or affirmation or otherwise, as he deems necessary or proper to assist him in prescribing any regulation or order under this act, and in the administration and enforcement of the act, and regulations and orders thereunder.'9 This amendment too was accepted by the House.10

It is significant to note that the Senate Committee on Banking and Currency began its consideration of the bill on December 9, 1941, the day after Congress declared the existence of a state of war between this country and the Imperial Government of Japan. Appearing before the Senate Committee in this wartime setting, the proponents of the original measure requested and secured the restoration of the enforcement powers which the House had stricken.11 They asserted that a major aspect of the investigatory powers contained in the bill as originally drafted was to enable the Administrator to ferret out violations and enforce the law against the violators.12 And it was pointed out that in striking down the authority originally given the Administrator in the committee bill to require the maintenance of records, the House had substantially stripped him of his investigatory and enforcement powers, 'because no investigatory power can be effective without the right to insist upon the maintenance of records. By the simple device of failing to keep records of pertinent transactions, or by destroying or falsifying such records, a person may violate the Act with impunity and little fear of detection. Especially is this true in the case of price-control legislation, which operates on many diverse industries and commodities, each industry having its own trade practices and methods of operation.

'The House bill also deprives the Administrator of the power to require reports and to make inspections and to copy documents. By this deprivation the Administrator's supervision over the operation of the act is rendered most difficult. He has no expeditious way of checking on compliance. He is left without ready power to discover violations.

'It should not be forgotten that the statute to be administered is an emergency statute. To put teeth into the Price Control Act, it is imperative that the Administrator's investigatory powers be strong, clear, and well adapted to the objective * * *.'13

Emphasis was placed on the restoration of licensing provisions, which the House had deleted from the Price Control Bill as originally drafted. The General Counsel for the OPA contended that licensing was the backbone of enforcement of price schedules and regulations.14 The World War I prototype of the Price Control Act, the Lever Act, had contained authority for the President to license the distribution of any necessaries whenever deemed essential 'in order to carry into effect any of the purposes of this Act * * *.'15 It was pointed out that 'The general licensing regulations prescribed under the Lever Act, applicable to all licensees, required the making of reports (rule 1), the permitting of inspection (rule 2), and the keeping of records (rule 3).'16 And it was noted that licensing had been employed in connection with the fuel provisions of the Act 'as a method of obtaining information, of insuring universal compliance, and of enforcing refunds of overcharges and the payment of penalty charges to war charities.' 17 By li- censing middlemen, 'Violations were readily discovered by examination of the records which each licensee was required to submit.'18

With this background,19 Congress restored licensing powers to the Administrator in the Price Control Bill as enacted, § 205, 50 U.S.C.A.App. § 925(f), 50...

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