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Transamerica Corp. v. Board of Governors of Federal Reserve System.

July 16, 1953

TRANSAMERICA CORPORATION
v.
BOARD OF GOVERNORS OF THE FEDERAL RESERVE SYSTEM.



Author: Maris

Before MARIS, GOODRICH and KALODNER, Circuit Judges.

Opinion of the Court

MARIS, Circuit Judge:

Transamerica Corporation, a corporation of Delaware, has petitioned this court to review an order of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System entered against it under Section 11 of the Clayton Act to enforce compliance with Section 7 of the Act. The Board's complaint was issued June 24, 1948 charging Transamerica with having violated Section 7 in that for many years it and its predecessors have continuously and systematically been acquiring the stocks of independent commercial banks located in the five States of California, Oregon, Nevada, Washington and Arizona, and that the effect of such acquisitions may be to substantially lessen competition, restrain commerce or tend to create a monopoly.

Hearings were held on the Board's complaint before a member of the Board as hearing officer. The hearing officer submitted recommended findings to the Board to which exceptions were filed. After hearing the exceptions the Board, two members dissenting, on March 27, 1952 entered the order here challenged, finding that Transamerica's acquisitions and ownership of the stocks of the various banks named in the complaint constituted a violation of Section 7 of the Clayton Act and requiring Transamerica to divest itself of all such stocks, except that of Bank of America National Trust and Savings Association, within an overall period of two years and ninety days.

At the outset we are confronted with a question of jurisdiction. Transamerica sought to have the Board's complaint dismissed and here seeks to have it set aside upon the ground that under Section 11 of the Clayton Act the only authority given to the Board is to enforce compliance with those sections of the Act which are "applicable to banks, banking associations and trust companies," and that the provisions of Section 7 here sought to be enforced do not apply to such institutions.To determine the validity of this contention we turn first to the language of Section 7 of the Clayton Act, which is as follows:

"Sec. 7. That no corporation engaged in commerce shall acquire, directly or indirectly, the whole or any part of the stock or other share capital of another corporation engaged also in commerce, where the effect of such acquisition may be to substantially lessen competition between the corporation whose stock is so acquired and the corporation making the acquisition, or to restrain such commerce in any section or community, or tend to create a monopoly of any line of commerce.

"No corporation shall acquire, directly or indirectly, the whole or any part of the stock or other share capital of two or more corporations engaged in commerce where the effect of such acquisition, or the use of such stock by the voting or granting of proxies or otherwise, may be to substantially lessen competition between such corporations, or any of them, whose stock or other share capital is so acquired, or to restrain such commerce in any section or community, or tend to create a monopoly of any line of commerce.

"This section shall not apply to corporations purchasing such stock solely for investment and not using the same by voting or otherwise to bring about, or in attempting to bring about, the substantial lessening of competition. Nor shall anything contained in this section prevent a corporation engaged in commerce from causing the formation of subsidiary corporations for the actual carrying on of their immediate lawful business, or the natural and legitimate branches or extensions thereof, or from owning and holding all or a part of the stock of such subsidiary corporations, when the effect of such formation is not to substantially lessen competition. ..."*fn1

It will be seen that the significant language of Section 7 is that "No corporation shall acquire ... the stock ... of two or more corporations engaged in commerce where the effect of such acquisition ... may be" that denounced by the section. This language is so clear and unambiguous as to leave no room for construction.*fn2 Its sweep includes all "corporations engaged in commerce" without exception. The Board found, and Transamerica does not contest the finding, that the commercial banks the stocks of which are here involved were engaged in interstate commerce.*fn3 Those banks must, therefore, be held to be within the preview of Section 7.

Transamerica argues that Congress has not in the past regulated the banking business by legislation directed to corporations generally but rather by special banking legislation and it says that the legislative history indicates that Congress did not intend to depart from this practice in the Clayton Act. In particular Transamerica points to Section 8 of the Act which deals specifically with interlocking directors of banks.

It may readily be admitted that Congress has in the past customarily dealt with the banking business by special legislation directed solely to that end. This it did under its fiscal and currency powers.*fn4 Indeed more than 100 years ago the Supreme Court had held that banking was not commerce.*fn5 It is, therefore, doubtless true that members of Congress in enacting Section 7 of the Clayton Act in 1914 did not specifically contemplate that "corporations engaged in commerce" would include banks. We find nothing in the legislative history, however, to indicate that Congress did not intend by Section 7 to exercise its power under the commerce clause of the Constitution to the fullest extent. The avowed purpose of the Clayton Act was to supplement the Sherman Act by arresting in their incipiency those acts and practices which might ripen into a violation of the latter act. Since the general language of the Sherman Act was designed by Congress "to go to the utmost extent of its Constitutional power in restraining trust and monopoly agreements"*fn6 the supplementary geheral language of the Clayton Act was undoubtedly intended to have the same all inclusive scope.

We turn then to the merits of the case. The Transamerica group had its origin in 1904 when A. P. Giannini organized the Bank of Italy (now Bank of America National Trust and Savings Association) with headquarters in San Francisco. This bank is said to be the largest bank in the world, due principally to the fact that more than 550 independent banks and branches in the State of California have been acquired and either converted into branches of Bank of America or merged or consolidated with it. Until 1917 these acquisitions were made by individual officers of the bank, who pledged their personal credit when stock of an independent bank was being purchased. In that year Stockholders Auxiliary Corporation, a Transamerica predecessor, was organized and this company thereupon acted as purchaser of independent banks in California destined for inclusion within the Bank of America system.

In 1918 another corporation, Bancitaly Corporation, was organized by A. P. Giannini, the largest stockholder of which was Stockholders Auxiliary Corporation. This company acquired the stocks of various banks located in New York City and certain foreign countries. Later on it also acquired stock interests in California banks.In 1924 still another corporation was formed called Americommercial Corporation and it, too, acquired controlling stock interests in California banks. In 1928 Transamerica Corporation, the petitioner here, was organized to take over stock control of Bank ...


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