Court Cases

United States v. Trans-Missouri Freight Assoc. (1897)

  • The Trans-Missouri Freight Association was a group of 18 railroads
    • Every month, they met to decide rates, rules and regulations on shipping
    • Firms who undercut the agreed upon price were charged $100
  • Trans-Missouri claimed the collusion was to avoid “ruinous competition” and that they agreed upon “reasonable” rates
    • The courts ruled that this was a violation of the Sherman Act as it was a restraint of trade

United States v. Trenton Potteries Co. (1927)

  • This involved 23 producers of pottery fixtures for bathrooms to fix prices
  • Trenton admitted that they fixed prices but the question of the reasonableness of the fixed prices was brought up
    • Up until this point, the reasonableness of price fixing was unclear
  • This case set precedent that price fixing is a per se violation
    • Thus, all price fixing is deemed illegal!

United States v. Socony-Vacuum Oil Co. (1940)

  • Gasoline and oil were sold in three separate markets
    • The main market where most oil and gas went
    • The “hot oil” and “hot gas” market, where illegally produced (oil and gasoline produced in violation of state prorationing laws) oil and gas were sold at a discount
    • “Distress sales” where gasoline sold at low prices due to inadequate storage of independent refiners
  • The distress market caused prices to fall for major oil companies, so the major companies colluded to buy off all of the distress market oil with goals of raising prices
    • Each major oil company was paired with a “dance partner” and the pair would agree on a price
    • The major oil companies did not agree on a uniform price to charge
      • They claimed that the Trenton Potteries case did not apply
    • The courts disagreed and ruled that any conspiracy to set prices counts as a per se violation