Standard Oil Company of New Jersey v. United States 14, 15 16, 1910

Citation221 U.S. 1,31 S.Ct. 502,55 L.Ed. 619
Decision Date11 April 1910
Docket NumberNo. 398,398
PartiesSTANDARD OIL COMPANY OF NEW JERSEY et al., Appts., v. UNITED STATES. Argued March 14, 15, and 16, 1910. Ordered for reargument
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

[Syllabus from pages 1-4 intentionally omitted] Messrs. John G. Milburn, David T. Watson, John G. Johnson, Frank L. Crawford, M. F. Elliott, Martin Carey, John M. Freeman, and Ernest C. Irwin for appellants.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 4-20 intentionally omitted]

Page 20

Attorney General Wickersham, Messrs. Frank B. Kellogg, Charles B. Morrison, and Cordenio A. Severance for appellee.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 20-30 intentionally omitted]

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Mr. Chief Justice White delivered the opinion of the court:

The Standard Oil Company of New Jersey and thirty-three other corporations, John D. Rockefeller, William Rockefeller, and five other individual defendants, prosecute this appeal to reverse a decree of the court below. Such decree was entered upon a bill filed by the United States under authority of § 4 of the act of July 2, 1890 [26 Stat. at L. 209, chap. 647, U. S. Comp. Stat. 1901, p. 3201], known as the antitrust act, and had for its object the enforcement of the provisions of that act. The record is inordinately voluminous, consisting of twenty-three volumes of printed matter, aggregating about 12,000 pages, containing a vast amount of confusing and conflicting testi-

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mony relating to innumerable, complex, and varied business transactions, extending over a period of nearly forty years. In an effort to pave the way to reach the subjects which we are called upon to consider, we propose at the outset, following the order of the bill, to give the merest possible outline of its contents, to summarize the answer, to indicate the course of the trial, and point out briefly the decision below rendered.

The bill and exhibits, covering 170 pages of the printed record, was filed on November 15. 1906. Corporations known as Standard Oil Company of New Jersey, Standard Oil Company of California, Standard Oil Company of Indiana, Standard Oil Company of Iowa, Standard Oil Company of Kansas, Standard Oil Company of Kentucky, Standard Oil Company of Nebraska, Standard Oil Company of New York, Standard Oil Company of Ohio, and sixty-two other corporations and partnerships, as also seven individuals, were named as defendants. The bill was divided into thirty numbered sections, and sought relief upon the theory that the various defendants were engaged in conspiring 'to restrain the trade and commerce in petroleum, commonly called 'crude oil,' in refined oil, and in the other products of petroleum, among the several states and territories of the United States and the District of Columbia and with foreign nations, and to monopolize the said commerce.' The conspiracy was alleged to have been formed in or about the year 1870 by three of the individual defendants, viz.: John D. Rockefeller, William Rockefeller, and Henry M. Flagler. The detailed averments concerning the alleged conspiracy were arranged with reference to three periods, the first from §870 to 1882, the second from 1882 to 1899, and the third from 1899 to the time of the filing of the bill.

The general charge concerning the period from 1870 to 1882 was as follows:

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'That during said first period the said individual defendants, in connection with the Standard Oil Company of Ohio, purchased and obtained interests through stock ownership and otherwise in, and entered into agreements with, various persons, firms, corporations, and limited partnerships engaged in purchasing, shipping, refining, and selling petroleum and its products among the various states, for the purpose of fixing the price of crude and refined oil and the products thereof, limiting the production thereof, and controlling the transportation therein, and thereby restraining trade and commerce among the several states, and monopolizing the said commerce.'

To establish this charge it was averred that John D. and William Rockefeller and several other named individuals, who, prior to 1870, composed three separate partnerships engaged in the business of refining crude oil and shipping its products in interstate commerce, organized in the year 1870 a corporation known as the Standard Oil Company of Ohio, and transferred to that company the business of the said partnerships, the members thereof becoming, in proportion to their prior ownership, stockholders in the corporation. It was averred that the other individual defendants soon afterwards became participants in the illegal combination, and either transferred property to the corporation or to individuals, to be held for the benefit of all parties in interest in proportion to their respective interests in the combination; that is, in proportion to their stock ownership in the Standard Oil Company of Ohio. By the means thus stated, it was charged that by the year 1872, the combination had acquired substantially all but three or four of the thirty-five or forty oil refineries located in Cleveland, Ohio. By reason of the power thus obtained, and in further execution of the intent and purpose to restrain trade and to monopolize the commerce, interestate as well as intrastate, in petroleum and its products, the bill alleged that the combination and its mem-

Page 33

bers obtained large preferential rates and rebates in many and devious ways over their competitors from various railroad companies, and that by means of the advantage thus obtained many, if not virtually all, competitors were forced either to become members of the combination or were driven out of business; and thus, it was alleged, during the period in question, the following results were brought about: (a) That the combination, in addition to the refineries in Cleveland which it had acquired, as previously stated, and which it had either dismantled to limit production, or continued to operate, also from time to time acquired a large number of refineries of crude petroleum, situated in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and elsewhere. The properties thus acquired, like those previously obtained, although belonging to and being held for the benefit of the combination, were ostensibly divergently controlled, some of them being put in the name of the Standard Oil Company of Ohio, some in the name of corporations or limited partnerships affiliated therewith, or some being left in the name of the original owners, who had become stockholders in the Standard Oil Company of Ohio, and thus members of the alleged illegal combination. (b) That the combination had obtained control of the pipe lines available for transporting oil from the oil fields to the refineries in Cleveland, Pittsburg, Titusville, Philadelphia, New York, and New Jersey. (c) That the combination during the period named had obtained a complete mastery over the Oil industry, controlling 90 per cent of the business of producing, shipping, refining, and selling petroleum and its products, and thus was able to fix the price of crude and refined petroleum, and to restrain and monopolize all interstate commerce in those products.

The averments bearing upon the second period (1882 to 1899) had relation to the claim:

'That during the said second period of conspiracy the defendants entered into a contract and trust agreement,

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by which various independent firms, corporations, limited partnerships, and individuals engaged in purchasing, transporting, refining, shipping, and selling oil and the products thereof among the various states, turned over the management of their said business, corporations, and limited partnerships to nine trustees, composed chiefly of certain individuals defendant herein, which said trust agreement was in restraint of trade and commerce, and in violation of law, as hereinafter more particularly alleged.'

The trust agreement thus referred to was set out in the bill. It was made in January, 1882. By its terms the stock of forty corporations, including the Standard Oil Company of Ohio, and a large quantity of various properties which had been previously acquired by the alleged combination, and which was held in diverse forms, as we have previously indicated, for the benefit of the members of the combination, was vested in the trustees and their successors, 'to the held for all parties in interest jointly.' In the body of the trust agreement was contained a list of the various individuals and corporations and limited partnerships whose stockholders and members, or a portion thereof, became parties to the agreement. This list is in the margin.1

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The agreement made provision for the method of controlling and managing the property by the trustees, for the formation of additional manufacturing, etc., corpora-

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tions in various states, and the trust, unless terminated by a mode specified, was to continue 'during the lives of the survivors and survivor of the trustees named in the agreement and for twenty-one years thereafter.' The agreement provided for the issue of Standard Oil Trust certificates to represent the interest arising under the trust in the properties affected by the trust, which, of course, in view of the provisions of the agreement and the subject to which it related caused the interest in the certificates to be coincident with and the exact representative of the interest in the combination, that is, in the Standard Oil Company of Ohio. Soon afterwards it was alleged the trustees organized the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey and the Standard Oil Company of New York, the former having a capital stock of $3,000,000 and the latter a capital stock of $5,000,000, subsequently increased to $10,000,000 and $15,000,000, respectively. The bill alleged 'that pursuant to said trust agreement the said trustees caused to be transferred to themselves the stocks of all corporations and limited partnerships named in said trust agreement, and...

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