MR. CHIEF JUSTICE STONE delivered the opinion of the Court.
This is a suit in the District Court for Southern New York, brought by the United States under § 4 of the Sherman
The district court denied, 58 F.Supp. 785, petitioners' motion to dismiss the complaint, made on the ground that exclusive jurisdiction of the matters charged in the complaint is vested in the first instance in the Federal Trade Commission, under §§ 1, 2, and 5 of the Webb-Pomerene Act of April 10, 1918, c. 50, 40 Stat. 516, 15 U.S.C. §§ 61, 62, 65. Petitioners then filed here petitions for certiorari under § 262 of the Judicial Code, 28 U.S.C. § 377, seeking review of the order of the district court denying the motion to dismiss.
The questions for decision are (1) whether the order of the district court, denying petitioners' motion to dismiss the complaint, may appropriately be reviewed here by writ of certiorari issued under § 262 of the Judicial Code and, if so, (2) whether §§ 1, 2, and 5 of the Webb-Pomerene Act confer primary jurisdiction on the Federal Trade Commission, exclusive of that of the district court, to pass upon alleged violations of the Sherman Act by export associations.
Section 4 of the Sherman Act invests the several district courts with jurisdiction to restrain violations of the Act;
The first paragraph of § 5 of the Webb-Pomerene Act requires each association engaged solely in export trade to file with the Federal Trade Commission a statement giving information concerning its officers and stockholders or members, and its place of business, and a copy of its articles of incorporation or its contract of association; the association is required to refile annually such statements with suitable corrections, and to furnish such further specified information as the Commission may from time to time request. Section 5 further provides in its second paragraph that whenever the Commission shall have reason to believe that an export association is violating the Sherman Act in the ways excepted by the provisos of § 2 from its exemptions, the Commission shall conduct an investigation into the alleged violations. If "it shall conclude that the law has been violated, it may make to
Petitioners do not question the district court's rulings, in denying their motion, that the complaint alleges violations of the Sherman Act, and that under its allegations petitioners are not within any immunity from the Sherman Act secured by § 2 of the Webb-Pomerene Act. Their sole contention on the merits is that § 5 of the latter Act, by authorizing the proceedings before the Federal Trade Commission, deprives the district courts of jurisdiction in Sherman Act cases until the Commission has made its
Petitioners argue that this Court may appropriately review the order of the district court by writ of certiorari, issued under § 262 of the Judicial Code. They point out that § 2 of the Expediting Act of February 11, 1903, as amended, 15 U.S.C. § 29, governing appeals in Sherman Act cases, makes no provision for appeals from interlocutory orders or judgments, and provides that "an appeal from the final decree of the district court will lie only to the Supreme Court." See United States v. California Canneries, 279 U.S. 553. But it is urged that the district court is deprived of its jurisdiction by § 5 of the Webb-Pomerene Act, until the Trade Commission has made the investigation and followed the further procedure outlined by § 5; that the assertion by the district court of its jurisdiction, without awaiting an investigation by the Commission, will entail protracted litigation and impose on the parties great expense before the error can be corrected on appeal from the final judgment to this Court. All this will be avoided, it is said, by awaiting action by the Commission. Hence petitioners insist that the case is appropriate for the exercise by this Court of its extraordinary power to review the order of the district court by writ of certiorari.
Section 262 of the Judicial Code provides that the Supreme Court, circuit courts of appeals and the district courts, "shall have power to issue all writs not specifically provided for by statute, which may be necessary for the exercise of their respective jurisdictions, and agreeable to the usages and principles of law." Under § 262, this Court has power, in aid of its appellate jurisdiction, to review judgments and orders of the district courts by
The traditional use of such writs both at common law and in the federal courts has been, in appropriate cases, to confine inferior courts to the exercise of their prescribed jurisdiction or to compel them to exercise their authority when it is their duty to do so. In re Chetwood, 165 U.S. 443, 462 (citing Tidd's Prac. [*]398, and Bac. Ab., Certiorari); Whitney v. Dick, supra, 139-140; Ex parte Peru, supra, 583, and cases cited.
But the present case is not the ordinary one of hardship resulting from overruling a plea in bar or denying a preliminary motion which, if well founded, would end the litigation on the merits — decisions which Congress, in the absence of other provisions for appeal, must have contemplated would, in the ordinary course, be reviewed on appeal from the final judgment. The questions now presented involve the propriety of the exercise, by the district court, of its equity jurisdiction, and an asserted conflict between its jurisdiction and that of an agency of Congress said to be charged with the duty of enforcing the antitrust laws in the circumstances of the present case. If petitioners' motion was well founded, its denial operated to thwart the asserted purpose of Congress to afford to export associations, which overstep the bounds of the granted immunity, opportunity, with the expert aid of the Trade Commission, to retrace their steps, without being subjected to the penalties of the law. Exercise of its jurisdiction by the district court would preclude the Commission from carrying out its asserted functions of investigation,
The hardship imposed on petitioners by a long postponed appellate review, coupled with the attendant infringement of the asserted Congressional policy of conferring primary jurisdiction on the Commission, together support the appeal to the discretion of this Court to exercise its power to review the ruling of the district court in advance of final judgment. The case is analogous to those in which this Court has, by writs issued under § 262, reviewed the action of district courts, alleged to be in excess of their authority, by which they have foreclosed the adjudication of rights or the protection of interests committed to the jurisdiction of a state officer or tribunal, see In re Chetwood, supra; McClellan v. Carland, supra; Ex parte Metropolitan Water Co., 220 U.S. 539; Ex parte Skinner & Eddy Corp., 265 U.S. 86; Maryland v. Soper (No. 1), 270 U.S. 9; Ex parte Northern Pacific R. Co., 280 U.S. 142; Colorado v. Symes, 286 U.S. 510; or by which they have deprived a party of a trial by jury. Ex parte Simons, 247 U.S. 231; Ex parte Peterson, 253 U.S. 300, 305.
For these reasons we think the case is an appropriate one for review of the district court's order by certiorari, and we pass to the consideration of the merits.
Petitioners do not deny that the allegations of the complaint are sufficient to charge violations of the Sherman Act not within the exemptions created by § 2 of the Webb-Pomerene
It is conceded that § 5 contains no explicit restriction on the authority of the United States to institute antitrust suits in the normal way, nor any explicit requirement that resort be had to the Commission prior to the institution of such an antitrust suit. Petitioners argue that this is to be implied from the structure of the Act, which first, by § 2, exempts from the Sherman Act certain activities of export associations, with specified exceptions; and then by the second paragraph of § 5, gives the Commission authority, in language substantially identical with that of the exceptions in § 2, to investigate such activities as continue to be violations of the Sherman Act. It is argued that Congress, by authorizing the Commission to investigate violations and in appropriate cases to report to the Attorney General any violations found, has expressed the purpose that the action by the Commission and the Attorney General should be consecutive and not concurrent.
It would follow that however strong the evidence, and however clear the violation of the Sherman Act, the Attorney General must await the action of the Commission, which may or may not undertake to proceed with the case, and that in any event the Attorney General and the courts must abide by the Commission's determination that there are no violations to report. During the twenty-eight years between the enactment of the Sherman Act and the passage of the Webb-Pomerene Act, the plenary authority and settled practice of the Department of Justice to
In determining whether the Webb-Pomerene Act curtailed the then existing authority of the United States to bring antitrust suits, it is important to consider what that Act did not do, as well as what it did. True, it exempted from the antitrust laws some, but not all, acts which would otherwise have been violations. But while it empowered the Commission to investigate, recommend and report, it gave the Commission no authority to make any order or impose any prohibition or restraint, or make any binding adjudication with respect to these violations.
This is in marked contrast to the Commission's power to issue cease and desist orders with respect to violations of § 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, as amended, 15 U.S.C. § 45,
It is suggested that Congress could not have contemplated "concurrent jurisdiction" of the Commission and the courts, because of the inconvenience to suitors in not being afforded an opportunity to mend their ways by
This argument overlooks the fact that the Commission's authority is to investigate and recommend, not to restrain violations of the antitrust laws (save as they may incidentally be violations of other statutes, which the Commission may enforce). The Commission, by its investigations and recommendations, may render a useful service in bringing violations to the attention of the Department of Justice or by showing that resort to the courts is unnecessary, either because there has been no violation or because the associations have satisfactorily corrected their trade practices. But the Commission, under the Webb-Pomerene Act, does not enforce the antitrust laws; its powers are exhausted when it has referred its findings to the Attorney General. Indeed, the provisions for such reference are necessary not because the Commission has a primary jurisdiction, but only because it cannot itself enforce the antitrust laws. Further, there is no want of specific authority for the United States to enforce the antitrust laws; the violations here alleged are not violations of the Webb-Pomerene Act, but of the Sherman Act, and it is the latter which provides for suits to be brought by the United States.
But even if the case were one of concurrent jurisdiction, we cannot assume that there would be any unseemly conflict between the Commission and the Department of Justice. Congress has found no such objection to the
As we have said, the Webb-Pomerene Act's grant of power to the Commission would curtail the authority of the United States to conduct antitrust suits only if it were deemed to be an implied repeal pro tanto of § 4 of the Sherman Act. As we pointed out in United States v. Borden Co., supra, 198-199, 203-206, such repeals by implication are not favored. There we held that provisions of the Capper-Volstead Act, 7 U.S.C. §§ 291, 292, comparable to those of §§ 2 and 5 of the Webb-Pomerene Act, did not operate to restrict the authority of the United States to maintain suits for violation of the antitrust laws.
Sections 1 and 2 of the Capper-Volstead Act, c. 57, 42 Stat. 388, 7 U.S.C. §§ 291, 292, authorized collective marketing by members of agricultural cooperatives but empowered the Secretary of Agriculture to issue cease and desist orders, upon investigation and findings that any such cooperative associations monopolized or restrained interstate trade and commerce to such an extent that the prices of any agricultural products were thereby unduly enhanced. And the Act gave jurisdiction to the district courts to enforce the Secretary's orders.
This Court rejected the contention that the Capper-Volstead Act gave to the Secretary "exclusive jurisdiction" to determine in the first instance whether the acts of the
Petitioners appeal to the familiar principle that equity will not lend its aid to a plaintiff who has not first exhausted his administrative remedies. Natural Gas Co. v. Slattery, 302 U.S. 300, 310-311; Myers v. Bethlehem Corp., 303 U.S. 41, 51, and n. 9, and cases cited. And especially they urge that the Government may not proceed with the prosecution of a Sherman Act case until the relevant issues have been submitted to and passed upon by an administrative tribunal established by the Government to determine those issues. See United States v. Pacific & Arctic Co., 228 U.S. 87, 106-108. To this the answer is, as already indicated, that the only function of the Federal Trade Commission under § 5 of the Webb-Pomerene Act is to investigate, recommend and report. It can give no remedy. It can make no controlling finding of law or fact. Its recommendation need not be followed by any court or administrative or executive officer.
Thus the words of the Webb-Pomerene Act and its setting lend no support to petitioners' contention. And there is nothing in its legislative history to show a Congressional purpose to restrict the authority of the United States to maintain suits for every kind of violation of the antitrust laws. The precise problem presented by the present case was not referred to in the committee reports or the debates, except in a remark by Senator Pomerene, indicating that
MR. JUSTICE ROBERTS concurs in this opinion in respect of this Court's exercise of jurisdiction under § 262 of the Judicial Code. He dissents from the decision that the District Court had power to hear the cause in the absence of an investigation and recommendation by the Federal Trade Commission.
"Whenever the Federal Trade Commission shall have reason to believe that an association or any agreement made or act done by such association is in restraint of trade within the United States or in restraint of the export trade of any domestic competitor of such association, or that an association either in the United States or elsewhere has entered into any agreement, understanding, or conspiracy, or done any act which artificially or intentionally enhances or depresses prices within the United States of commodities of the class exported by such association, or which substantially lessens competition within the United States or otherwise restrains trade therein, it shall summon such association, its officers, and agents to appear before it, and thereafter conduct an investigation into the alleged violations of law. Upon investigation, if it shall conclude that the law has been violated, it may make to such association recommendations for the readjustment of its business, in order that it may thereafter maintain its organization and management and conduct its business in accordance with law. If such association fails to comply with the recommendations of the Federal Trade Commission, said commission shall refer its findings and recommendations to the Attorney General of the United States for such action thereon as he may deem proper."