United States v. Concentrated Phosphate Export Association, No. 29

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtMARSHALL
Citation393 U.S. 199,21 L.Ed.2d 344,89 S.Ct. 361
Docket NumberNo. 29
Decision Date25 November 1968
PartiesUNITED STATES, Appellant, v. The CONCENTRATED PHOSPHATE EXPORT ASSOCIATION, Inc., et al

393 U.S. 199
89 S.Ct. 361
21 L.Ed.2d 344
UNITED STATES, Appellant,

v.

The CONCENTRATED PHOSPHATE EXPORT ASSOCIATION, Inc., et al.

No. 29.
Argued Oct. 24, 1968.
Decided Nov. 25, 1968.

Page 200

Warren Christopher, U.S. Deputy Atty. Gen. Dept. of Justice, for appellant.

Samuel W. Murphy, Jr., New York City, for appellees.

Mr. Justice MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court.

Involved in this case are 11 sales of concentrated phosphate made between 1961 and 1966 by appellee association. The phosphate was supplied by the association's members,1 which are all producers of fertilizer, and was

Page 201

then shipped to the Republic of Korea under the United States foreign aid program. The Government, in a civil antitrust complaint filed on December 21, 1964, contended that the concerted activities of the association and its members in regard to these 11 sales violated § 1 of the Sherman Act, 26 Stat. 209 (1890), as amended, 15 U.S.C.A. § 1. Appellees defended on the ground, inter alia, that their activities were exempted from antitrust liability by § 2 of the Webb-Pomerene Act, 40 Stat. 517 (1918), 15 U.S.C. § 62,2 as 'act(s) done in the course of export trade.' The trial court held that the Webb-Pomerene Act did immunize appellees' conduct, D.C., 273 F.Supp. 263 (1967), and dismissed the complaint.

Page 202

The Government perfected a direct appeal to this Court under the Expediting Act, 32 Stat. 823 (1903), as amended, 15 U.S.C. § 29. Probable jurisdiction was noted, 390 U.S. 1001, 88 S.Ct. 1245, 20 L.Ed.2d 102 (1968).

I.

We are met at the outset with appellees' contention that this case is now moot. Appellees' argument rests on two events which occurred after the case had been submitted to the District Court. On January 1, 1967, the Agency for International Development (AID), the State Department agency in charge of the foreign aid program, amended its regulations to preclude Webb-Pomerene associations from bidding on certain procurement contracts whenever procurement was limited to United States suppliers.3 According to appellees, this new regulation made it uneconomical for the association to continue in operation, 4 since a large proportion of AID-financed procurement is limited to American sources.5 Accordingly, on December 28, 1967, appellee association dissolved itself.6 The new regulation and the dissolution, we are told, moot this case.

Two factors make this argument untenable. First of all, the dissolved association was not the only defendant in this case. The Government sought injunctive relief against the association's members as well; they were to be

Page 203

prohibited from forming any new export associations without court approval and from continuing in effect any prices jointly agreed upon. Therefore, even if dissolution would have made it impossible to frame effective relief were the association the only party, here there is no such difficulty. Secondly, the new AID regulation does not apply to all contracts on which the former members of the association might bid. Whenever foreign bidders are eligible, AID still permits American Webb-Pomerene associations to compete. In fact, foreign bidders were eligible in all 11 of the transactions which gave rise to this suit. Therefore, however much the new regulation may reduce the practical importance of this case, it does not completely remove the controversy. Absent the relief prayed for, appellees would be free to act in concert in certain situations where the Government contends they must compete.

The test for mootness in cases such as this is a stringent one. Mere voluntary cessation of allegedly illegal conduct does not moot a case; if it did, the courts would be compelled to leave '(t)he defendant * * * free to return to his old ways.' United States v. W. T. Grant Co., 345 U.S. 629, 632, 73 S.Ct. 894, 897, 97 L.Ed. 1303 (1953); see, e.g., United States v. Trans-Missouri Freight Ass'n, 166 U.S. 290, 17 S.Ct. 540, 41 L.Ed. 1007 (1897). A case might become moot if subsequent events made it absolutely clear that the allegedly wrongful behavior could not reasonably be expected to recur. But here we have only appellees' own statement that it would be uneconomical for them to engage in any further joint operations. Such a statement, standing alone, cannot suffice to satisfy the heavy burden of persuasion which we have held rests upon those in appellees' shoes. United States v. W. T. Grant Co., 345 U.S., at 633, 73 S.Ct. 894. Of course it is still open to appellees to show, on remand, that the likelihood of further violations is sufficiently remote to make injunctive relief unnecessary. Id., at 633—636, 73 S.Ct. 894. This is

Page 204

a matter for the trial judge. But this case is not technically moot, an appeal has been properly taken, and we have no choice but to decide it.

II.

The 11 transactions involved in this case were not simple cash purchases by the Republic of Korea.7 Not only were they financed by the United States Government; AID retained effective control over them at every stage.

The transactions involved were controlled by an impressive network of international treaties and agreements, as well as by American statutes, regulations, and administrative procedures. The procurement process, as revealed by the stipulated record, was rather involved. It began when funds were appropriated by Congress. Those funds were allocated to various development programs by AID, in accordance with the provisions of the applicable statutes and AID's assessments of its priorities. The money allocated to Korea by this process was not simply shipped to Seoul, to be used as Korea wished. In fact, most of it never left this country. In accordance with a series of agreements, Korea was authorized to request that the United States finance purchases of certain 'eligible commodities.'8 A rather complicated 'Procure-

Page 205

ment Authorization Application' was then prepared on an AID form for Korean signature. The application sets forth not only the goods to be purchased but also rather detailed specifications of quality, delivery plans, bidding procedures, and a statement explaining Korea's need for the goods. Even though AID officials obviously must have participated in drafting these 'requests,' AID was in no way obligated to approve them. The agreement with Korea specifically states that AID 'may decline to finance any specific commodity or service when, in its judgment, such financing would be inconsistent with the purposes of this grant or of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended.' When each transaction was approved, a 'Procurement Authorization' was issued by AID; it was specifically made subject to detailed regulations which specify the procedures to be followed in awarding any contracts.9 It also contained an authorization to a specified American bank to pay for the goods to be procured.

After AID had in this way chosen what goods were to be purchased, either of two methods of procurement was used. In two cases, the Government itself let the contracts, through its General Services Administration. In the other nine cases, the formal act of letting the contracts was performed by the Office of Supply of the Republic of Korea (OSROK). In performing this task, the Koreans were subject to detailed regulation by AID. The invitation for bids even had to be submitted to AID so that it could be circulated in this country. All documents had to be in English, and criteria for selecting the winning contractors were carefully defined in advance. An abstract of bids received and a notice naming the contractor selected had to be sent to Washington. Finally, a letter of credit was issued, the supplier paid, and the payor bank reimbursed by the United States Treas-

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ury. The goods were shipped consigned to OSROK, but AID—as a last precaution—reserved the right to vest title in itself if 'such action is necessary to assure compliance with the provisions or purposes of any act of Congress.' 22 CFR § 201.44 (1968).

We are asked to decide whether transactions of this sort constitute 'act(s) done in the course of export trade,' within the meaning of the Webb-Pomerene exemption from the Sherman Act.10 Although the Webb-Pomerene Act has been on the statute books for a half century, this is the first time this Court has been called upon to interpret the meaning of the words 'export trade.' Upon a full consideration of the language, the purpose, and the legislative history of the statute, we reverse the judgment below.

III.

The Webb-Pomerene Act was passed 'to aid and encourage our manufacturers and producers to extend our foreign trade.' H.R.Rep. No. 1118, 64th Cong., 1st Sess., 1 (1916). Congress felt that American firms needed the power to form joint export associations in order to compete with foreign cartels. But while Congress was willing to create an exemption from the anti-trust laws to serve this narrow purpose, the exemption created was carefully hedged in to avoid substantial injury to domestic interests. Congress evidently made the economic judgment that joint export associations could increase American foreigh trade without depriving American consumers of the main advantages of competition.

This reading of the Act is confirmed both by its structure and its legislative history. The Act itself contains

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a number of provisos obviously designed to protect domestic interests from the combinations Congress was authorizing. No act done by the export association could be 'in restraint of trade within the United States,' § 2, 15 U.S.C. § 62; the words 'export trade' were to exclude, among other things, 'selling for consumption * * * within the United States,' § 1, 15 U.S.C. § 61; and the association was forbidden to enter into any agreement 'which artificially or intentionally enhances or depresses prices within the United States * * *, or which substantially lessens competition within the United...

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789 practice notes
  • Donovan v. Cunningham, No. 82-2296
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    ...See, e.g., Allee v. Medrano, 416 U.S. 802, 94 S.Ct. 2191, 40 L.Ed.2d 566 (1974); United States v. Concentrated Phosphate Export Ass'n., 393 U.S. 199, 89 S.Ct. 361, 21 L.Ed.2d 344 (1968); United States v. Realty Multi-List, Inc., 629 F.2d 1351, 1387-88 (5th Cir.1980). This is because "[t]he ......
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    ...be expected to recur." Friends of the Earth, 528 U.S. at 190, 120 S.Ct. 693 (citing United States v. Concentrated Phosphate Exp. Assn., 393 U.S. 199, 203, 89 S.Ct. 361, 21 L.Ed.2d 344 Finally, UNITE insists that, strictly speaking, only "prevailing party" statutes were presented to the Supr......
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    ...before voluntary cessation can be held to moot a once live case or controversy. See United States v. Concentrated Phosphate Export Ass'n, 393 U.S. 199, 203, 89 S.Ct. 361, 21 L.Ed.2d 344 (1968). We therefore conclude that the present case remains We now turn to the heart of Parents's claim: ......
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    ...Committee for Human Rights, 404 U.S. 403, 92 S.Ct. 577, 30 L.Ed.2d 560 (1972); United States v. Concentrated Phosphate Export Ass'n, 393 U.S. 199, 89 S.Ct. 361, 21 L.Ed.2d 344 (1968); Liner v. Jafco, Inc., 375 U.S. 301, 84 S.Ct. 391, 11 L.Ed.2d 347 (1964); United States v. W.T. Grant Co., 3......
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  • Donovan v. Cunningham, No. 82-2296
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • October 17, 1983
    ...See, e.g., Allee v. Medrano, 416 U.S. 802, 94 S.Ct. 2191, 40 L.Ed.2d 566 (1974); United States v. Concentrated Phosphate Export Ass'n., 393 U.S. 199, 89 S.Ct. 361, 21 L.Ed.2d 344 (1968); United States v. Realty Multi-List, Inc., 629 F.2d 1351, 1387-88 (5th Cir.1980). This is because "[t]he ......
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    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • May 24, 2002
    ...be expected to recur." Friends of the Earth, 528 U.S. at 190, 120 S.Ct. 693 (citing United States v. Concentrated Phosphate Exp. Assn., 393 U.S. 199, 203, 89 S.Ct. 361, 21 L.Ed.2d 344 Finally, UNITE insists that, strictly speaking, only "prevailing party" statutes were presented to the Supr......
  • Parents Involved v. Seattle School Dist. 1, No. 01-35450.
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    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • April 16, 2002
    ...before voluntary cessation can be held to moot a once live case or controversy. See United States v. Concentrated Phosphate Export Ass'n, 393 U.S. 199, 203, 89 S.Ct. 361, 21 L.Ed.2d 344 (1968). We therefore conclude that the present case remains We now turn to the heart of Parents's claim: ......
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    ...Committee for Human Rights, 404 U.S. 403, 92 S.Ct. 577, 30 L.Ed.2d 560 (1972); United States v. Concentrated Phosphate Export Ass'n, 393 U.S. 199, 89 S.Ct. 361, 21 L.Ed.2d 344 (1968); Liner v. Jafco, Inc., 375 U.S. 301, 84 S.Ct. 391, 11 L.Ed.2d 347 (1964); United States v. W.T. Grant Co., 3......
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    ...Practice, 3rd Edition 1009, 1017 (9th Cir. 2007) (alterations in original) (quoting United States v. Concentrated Phosphate Exp. Ass’n , 393 U.S. 199, 203 (1968)). he party alleging mootness bears a “heavy burden” in seeking dismissal. Laidlaw , 528 U.S. at 189. It must show that it is “abs......
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    ...Porter v. Bowen, 496 F.3d 1009, 1017 (9th Cir. 2007) (alterations in original) (quoting United States v. Concentrated Phosphate Exp. Assn, 393 U.S. 199, 203 (1968)). he party alleging mootness bears a “heavy burden” in seeking dismissal. Laidlaw, 528 U.S. at 189. It must show that it is “ab......
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