This case presents the question whether the federal antitrust laws allow a defendant, against whom civil damages, costs, and attorney's fees have been assessed, a right to contribution from other participants in the unlawful conspiracy on which recovery was based. We granted certiorari to resolve a conflict in the Circuits. 449 U.S. 949 (1980).
Petitioner and the three respondents manufacture and sell ready-mix concrete in the New Orleans, La., area. In 1975, the Wilson P. Abraham Construction Corp., which had purchased concrete from petitioner, filed a civil action in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana naming petitioner as defendant;
The complaint sought treble damages plus attorney's fees under § 4 of the Clayton Act, 38 Stat. 731, 15 U. S. C. § 15, which provides:
Through discovery, petitioner learned that Abraham believed respondents were the other concrete producers that had participated in the alleged price-fixing scheme.
On appeal, the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed, holding that, although the Sherman and the Clayton Acts do not expressly afford a right to contribution, the issue should be resolved as a matter of federal common law. Wilson P. Abraham Construction Corp. v. Texas Industries, Inc., 604 F.2d 897 (1979). The court then examined what it perceived to be the benefits and the difficulties of contribution and concluded that no common-law rule of contribution should be fashioned by the courts.
The common law provided no right to contribution among joint tortfeasors. Union Stock Yards Co. v. Chicago, B. & Q. R. Co., 196 U.S. 217 (1905); W. Prosser, Law of Torts § 50, pp. 305-307 (4th ed. 1971). See Merryweather v. Nixan, 8 Term Rep. 186, 101 Eng. Rep. 1337 (K. B. 1799). See also Northwest Airlines, Inc. v. Transport Workers, ante, at 86-87, n. 16. In part, at least, this common-law rule rested on the idea that when several tortfeasors have caused damage, the law should not lend its aid to have one tortfeasor compel others to share in the sanctions imposed by way of damages intended to compensate the victim. E. g., Atkins v. Johnson, 43 Vt. 78, 81-82 (1870). See Leflar, Contribution and Indemnity Between Tortfeasors, 81 U. Pa. L. Rev. 130, 130-134 (1932). Since the turn of the century, however, 39 states and the District of Columbia have fashioned rules of contribution in one form or another, 10 initially through judicial action and the remainder through legislation. See Northwest Airlines, Inc. v. Transport Workers, ante, at 86-87, and n. 16. Because courts generally have acknowledged that treble-damages actions under the antitrust laws are analogous to common-law actions sounding in tort,
The parties and amici representing a variety of business
Proponents of a right to contribution advance concepts of fairness and equity in urging that the often massive judgments in antitrust actions be shared by all the wrongdoers. In the abstract, this position has a certain appeal: collective fault, collective responsibility. But the efforts of petitioner and supporting amici to invoke principles of equity presuppose a legislative intent to allow parties violating the law to draw upon equitable principles to mitigate the consequences of their wrongdoing. Moreover, traditional equitable standards have something to say about the septic state of the hands of such a suitor in the courts, and, in the context of one wrongdoer suing a co-conspirator, these standards similarly suggest that parties generally in pari delicto should be left where they are found. See supra, at 634.
Respondents and amici opposing contribution point out that an even stronger deterrent may exist in the possibility, even if more remote, that a single participant could be held fully liable for the total amount of the judgment. In this view, each prospective co-conspirator would ponder long and hard before engaging in what may be called a game of "Russian roulette."
The parties and amici also discuss at length how a right to contribution should be structured and, in particular, how to treat problems that may arise with the allocation of damages among the wrongdoers and the effect of settlements. Dividing or apportioning damages among a cluster of co-conspirators presents difficult issues, for the participation of each in the conspiracy may have varied. Some may have profited more than others; some may have caused more damages to the injured plaintiff. Some may have been "leaders" and others "followers"; one may be a "giant," others "pygmies."
The contentions advanced indicate how views diverge as to the "unfairness" of not providing contribution, the risks and trade-offs perceived by decisionmakers in business, and the various patterns for contribution that could be devised. In this vigorous debate over the advantages and disadvantages of contribution and various contribution schemes, the parties, amici, and commentators have paid less attention to a very significant and perhaps dispositive threshold question: whether courts have the power to create such a cause of action absent legislation and, if so, whether that authority should be exercised in this context.
Earlier this Term, in Northwest Airlines, Inc., v. Transport Workers, ante, p. 77, we addressed the similar question of a right to contribution under the Equal Pay Act of 1963, 29 U. S. C. § 206 (d), and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U. S. C. § 2000e et seq. We concluded that a right to contribution may arise in either of two ways: first, through the affirmative creation of a right of action by Congress, either expressly or by clear implication; or, second, through the power of federal courts to fashion a federal common law of contribution. Ante, at 90-91.
There is no allegation that the antitrust laws expressly establish a right of action for contribution. Nothing in these statutes refers to contribution, and if such a right exists it must be by implication. Our focus, as it is in any case involving the implication of a right of action, is on the intent of Congress. E. g., California v. Sierra Club, ante, p. 287; Universities Research Assn. v. Coutu, 450 U.S. 754 (1981); Transamerica Mortgage Advisors, Inc. v. Lewis, 444 U.S. 11 (1979); Touche Ross & Co. v. Redington, 442 U.S. 560 (1979). Congressional intent may be discerned by looking to the legislative history and other factors: e. g., the identity of the class for whose benefit the statute was enacted, the overall legislative scheme, and the traditional role of the states in providing relief. See California v. Sierra Club, supra; Cort v. Ash, 422 U.S. 66 (1975).
Petitioner readily concedes that "there is nothing in the legislative history of the Sherman Act or the Clayton Act to indicate that Congress considered whether contribution was available to defendants in antitrust actions." Brief for Petitioner 10. Moreover, it is equally clear that the Sherman Act and the provision for treble-damages actions under the Clayton Act were not adopted for the benefit of the participants in a conspiracy to restrain trade. On the contrary, petitioner "is a member of the class whose activities Congress intended to regulate for the protection and benefit of an entirely distinct class," Piper v. Chris-Craft Industries, Inc., 430 U.S. 1, 37 (1977) (emphasis added). The very idea of treble damages reveals an intent to punish past, and to deter future, unlawful conduct, not to ameliorate the liability of wrongdoers. The absence of any reference to contribution in the legislative history or of any possibility that Congress was concerned with softening the blow on joint wrongdoers in this setting makes examination of other factors unnecessary. California v. Sierra Club, ante, at 298; Touche Ross & Co. v.
There is, of course, "no federal general common law." Erie R. Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 78 (1938). Nevertheless, the Court has recognized the need and authority in some limited areas to formulate what has come to be known as "federal common law." See United States v. Standard Oil Co., 332 U.S. 301, 308 (1947). These instances are "few and restricted," Wheeldin v. Wheeler, 373 U.S. 647, 651 (1963), and fall into essentially two categories: those in which a federal rule of decision is "necessary to protect uniquely federal interests," Banco Nacional de Cuba v. Sabbatino, 376 U.S. 398, 426 (1964), and those in which Congress has given the courts the power to develop substantive law, Wheeldin v. Wheeler, supra, at 652.
The vesting of jurisdiction in the federal courts does not in and of itself give rise to authority to formulate federal
In areas where federal common law applies, the creation of a right to contribution may fall within the power of the federal courts. For example, in Cooper Stevedoring Co. v. Fritz Kopke, Inc., 417 U.S. 106 (1974), we held that contribution
The antitrust laws were enacted pursuant to the power of Congress under the Commerce Clause, Art. I, § 8, cl. 3, to regulate interstate and foreign trade, and the case law construing the Sherman Act now spans nearly a century. Nevertheless, a treble-damages action remains a private suit involving the rights and obligations of private parties. Admittedly, there is a federal interest in the sense that vindication of rights arising out of these congressional enactments supplements federal enforcement and fulfills the objects of the statutory scheme. Notwithstanding that nexus, contribution among antitrust wrongdoers does not involve the duties of the Federal Government, the distribution of powers in our federal system, or matters necessarily subject to federal control even in the absence of statutory authority. Cf. Bank of America v. Parnell, 352 U.S. 29, 33 (1956). In short, contribution does not implicate "uniquely federal interests" of the kind that oblige courts to formulate federal common law.
Federal common law also may come into play when Congress has vested jurisdiction in the federal courts and empowered them to create governing rules of law. See Wheeldin v. Wheeler, supra, at 652. In this vein, this Court has read § 301 (a) of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U. S. C. § 185 (a), not only as granting jurisdiction over defined
Accord, United States v. United States Gypsum Co., 438 U. S., at 438, and n. 14; 2 P. Areeda & D. Turner, Antitrust Law ¶ 302 (1978). See 21 Cong. Rec. 2456, 2460, 3149, 3152 (1890).
It does not necessarily follow, however, that Congress intended to give courts as wide discretion in formulating remedies to enforce the provisions of the Sherman Act or the kind of relief sought through contribution. The intent to allow courts to develop governing principles of law, so unmistakably clear with regard to substantive violations, does not appear in debates on the treble-damages action created
The Senator added that common-law actions in state courts might still exist, but recovery of treble damages would not be available, for its source is federal, not state, law. Ibid. This description of the power of federal courts under the Act suggests a sharp distinction between the lawmaking powers conferred in defining violations and the ability to fashion the relief available to parties claiming injury.
In contrast to the sweeping language of §§ 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act, the remedial provisions defined in the antitrust laws are detailed and specific: (1) violations of §§ 1
That presumption is strong indeed in the context of antitrust violations; the continuing existence of this statutory scheme for 90 years without amendments authorizing contribution is not without significance. There is nothing in the statute itself, in its legislative history, or in the overall regulatory scheme to suggest that Congress intended courts to have the power to alter or supplement the remedies enacted.
Our cases interpreting the treble-damages action, see, e. g., Hawaii v. Standard Oil Co., 405 U.S. 251 (1972); Zenith Radio Corp. v. Hazeltine Research, Inc., 401 U.S. 321 (1971); Perma Life Mufflers, Inc. v. International Parts Corp., 392 U.S. 134 (1968), do not suggest that, in the past,
We are satisfied that neither the Sherman Act nor the Clayton Act confers on federal courts the broad power to formulate the right to contribution sought here.
The policy questions presented by petitioner's claimed right to contribution are far-reaching. In declining to provide a right to contribution, we neither reject the validity of those arguments nor adopt the views of those opposing contribution. Rather, we recognize that, regardless of the merits of the conflicting arguments, this is a matter for Congress, not the courts, to resolve.
The range of factors to be weighed in deciding whether a right to contribution should exist demonstrates the inappropriateness of judicial resolution of this complex issue. Ascertaining what is "fair" in this setting calls for inquiry into the entire spectrum of antitrust law, not simply the elements
Accord, United States v. Topco Associates, 405 U.S. 596, 611-612 (1972).
Because we are unable to discern any basis in federal statutory or common law that allows federal courts to fashion the relief urged by petitioner, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is
"Jurisdiction over controversies concerning rights in interstate streams is not different from those concerning boundaries. These have been recognized as presenting federal questions."