Silver v. New York Stock Exchange

Decision Date20 May 1963
Docket NumberNo. 150,150
Citation10 L.Ed.2d 389,83 S.Ct. 1246,373 U.S. 341
PartiesHarold J. SILVER, doing business as Municipal Securities Company, et al., Petitioners, v. NEW YORK STOCK EXCHANGE
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

[Syllabus from pages 341-342 intentionally omitted] David I. Shapiro, Washington, D.C., for petitioners.

A. Donald MacKinnon, New York City, for respondent. Archibald Cox, Sol. Gen., for the United States, as amicus curiae, by special leave of Court.

Mr. Justice GOLDBERG delivered the opinion of the Court.

We deal here today with the question, of great importance to the public and the financial community, of whether and to what extent the federal antitrust laws apply to securities exchanges regulated by the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. More particularly, the ques- tion is whether the New York Stock Exchange is to be held liable to a nonmember broker-dealer under the antitrust laws or regarded as impliedly immune therefrom when, pursuant to rules the Exchange has adopted under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, it orders a number of its members to remove private direct telephone wire connections previously in operation between their offices and those of the nonmember, without giving the nonmember notice, assigning him any reason for the action, or affording him an opportunity to be heard.


The facts material to resolution of this question are not in dispute. Harold J. Silver, who died during the pendency of this action, entered the securities business in Dallas, Texas, in 1955, by establishing the predecessor of petitioner Municipal Securities (Municipal) to deal primarily in municipal bonds. The business of Municipal having increased steadily, Silver, in June 1958, established petitioner Municipal Securities, Inc. (Municipal, Inc.), to trade in corporate over-the-counter securities. Both firms are registered broker-dealers and members of the National Association of Securities Dealers, Inc. (NASD); neither is a member of the respondent Exchange.

Instantaneous communication with firms in the mainstream of the securities business is of great significance to a broker-dealer not a member of the Exchange, and Silver took steps to see that this was established for his firms. Municipal obtained direct private telephone wire connections with the municipal bond departments of a number of securities firms (three of which were members of the Exchange) and banks, and Municipal, Inc., arranged for private wires to the corporate securities trading departments of 10 member firms of the Exchange, as well as to the trading desks of a number of nonmember firms.

Pursuant to the requirements of the Exchange's rules, all but one of the member firms which had granted private wires to Municipal, Inc., applied to the Exchange for approval of the connections.1 During the summer of 1958 the Exchange granted 'temporary approval' for these, as well as for a direct teletype connection to a member firm in New York City and for stock ticker service to be furnished to petitioners directly from the floor of the Exchange.

On February 12, 1959, without prior notice to Silver, his firms, or anyone connected with them, the Exchange's Department of Member Firms decided to disapprove the private wire and related applications. Notice was sent to the member firms involved, instructing them to discontinue the wires, a directive with which compliance was required by the Exchange's Constitution and rules. These firms in turn notified Silver that the private wires would have to be discontinued, and the Exchange advised him directly of the discontinuance of the stock ticker service. The wires and ticker were all removed by the beginning of March. By telephone calls, letters, and a personal trip to New York, Silver sought an explanation from the Exchange of the reason for its decision, but was repeatedly told it was the policy of the Exchange not to disclose the reasons for such action.2

Petitioners contend that their volume of business dropped substantially thereafter and that their profits fell, due to a combination of forces all stemming from the removal of the private wires—their consequent inability to obtain quotations quickly, the inconvenience to other traders in calling petitioners, and the stigma attaching to the disapproval. As a result of this change in fortunes, petitioners contend, Municipal, Inc., soon ceased functioning as an operating business organization, and Municipal has remained in business only on a greatly diminished scale.

The present litigation was commenced by Silver as proprietor of Municipal and by Municipal, Inc., against the Exchange in April 1959, in the Southern District of New York.3 Three causes of action were asserted. The first, seeking an injunction and treble damages,4 alleged that the Exchange had, in violation of §§ 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act, conspired with its member firms to deprive petitioners of their private wire connections and stock ticker service. The second alleged that the Exchange had tortiously induced its member firms to breach their contracts for wire connections with petitioners, and the third asserted that the Exchange's action constituted a tort of intentional and wrongful harm inflicted without reasonable cause.

Petitioners moved for summary judgment on the antitrust claim, and for an accompanying permanent injunction against the Exchange's coercion of its members into refusing to provide private wire connections and against the Exchange's refusal to reinstate the stock ticker service. The district judge, after considering the respective affidavits of the parties, granted summary judgment and a permanent injunction as to the private wire connections, 196 F.Supp. 209, holding that the antitrust laws applied to the Exchange, and that its directive and the ensuing compliance by its members constituted a collective refusal to continue the wires and was a per se violation of § 1 of the Sherman Act. The judge so held on the basis that, although the Exchange had the power to regulate the conduct of its members in dealing with listed securities, its members' relations with nonmembers with regard to over-the-counter securities were not sufficiently germane to the fulfillment of its duties of self-regulation under the Securities Exchange Act to warrant its being excused from having to answer for restraints of trade such as occurred here by removal of the private wires. He left the issues of treble damages and costs to a later trial. With reference to the stock ticker service, the judge held that there were triable issues of fact as to whether the Exchange's action could be considered to have been the concerted action of its members and as to whether, if the Exchange was to be regarded as having acted by itself, any violation of § 2 of the Sherman Act had occurred. He therefore denied summary judgment as to that aspect of petitioners' claims.

On the Exchange's appeal from the grant of partial summary judgment the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed over the dissent of one judge. 302 F.2d 714. The court held that the Securities Exchange Act 'gives the Commission and the Exchange disciplinary powers over members of the Exchange with respect to their transactions in over-the-counter securities, and that the policy of the statute requires that the Exchange exercise these powers fully.' Id., at 720. This meant that 'the action of the Exchange in bringing about the cancellation of the private wire connections * * * was within the general scope of the authority of the Exchange as defined by the 1934 Act,' id., at 716, and dictated a conclusion that '(t)he Exchange is exempt from the restrictions of the Sherman Act because it is exercising a power which it is required to exercise by the Securities Exchange Act,' id., at 721. The court, however, did not exclude the possibility that the Exchange might be liable on some other theory, and remanded the case for consideration of petitioners' second and third causes of action.

This Court granted certiorari. 371 U.S. 808, 83 S.Ct. 26, 9 L.Ed.2d 53. What is before us is only so much of the first cause of action as relates to the collective refusal to continue the private wire connections, since petitioners did not attempt to appeal from the denial of summary judgment as to the portion relating to the discontinuance of the stock ticker service. Summary judgment was never sought as to the second and third causes of action, hence those are also not in issue at the present time.


The fundamental issue confronting us is whether the Securities Exchange Act has created a duty of exchange self-regulation so pervasive as to constitute an implied repealer of our antitrust laws, thereby exempting the Exchange from liability in this and similar cases.


It is plain, to begin with, that removal of the wires by collective action of the Exchange and its members would, had it occurred in a context free from other federal regulation, constitute a per se violation of § 1 of the Sherman Act. The concerted action of the Exchange and its members here was, in simple terms, a group boycott depriving petitioners of a valuable business service which they needed in order to compete effectively as broker-dealers in the over-the-counter securities market. Fashion Originators' Guild of America v. Federal Trade Comm., 312 U.S. 457, 61 S.Ct. 703, 85 L.Ed. 949; Associated Press v. United States, 326 U.S. 1, 65 S.Ct. 1416, 89 L.Ed. 2013; Klor's, Inc. v. Broadway-Hale Stores, Inc., 359 U.S. 207, 79 S.Ct. 705, 3 L.Ed.2d 741; Radiant Burners, Inc. v. Peoples Gas Light & Coke Co. 364 U.S. 656, 81 S.Ct. 365, 5 L.Ed.2d 358. Unlike listed securities, there is no central trading place for securities traded over the counter. The market is established by traders in the numerous firms all over the country through a process of constant communication to one another of the latest offers to buy and sell. The private wire connection, which allows...

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