The opinion of the court was delivered by: GARTH
The basic issue before this Court is the statutory authority of the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) over mergers in the shipping industry. Does Section 15 of the Shipping Act (46 U.S.C. § 814)
grant the FMC authority over merger agreements in providing that "every agreement . . . controlling, regulating, preventing, or destroying competition" shall be filed with the FMC and that such agreements, if approved, shall be immune from the antitrust laws?
The chronology of events which preceded the applications before the Court may be summarized as follows: On October 27, 1969 R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company and its subsidiary, Sea-Land Service, Inc. entered into an Agreement -- Time Charter -- and Equipment Lease with Walter Kidde & Company, Inc. and its subsidiary, U.S. Lines, Inc. The October Agreement provided for the lease from U.S. Lines of 16 containerships and supporting equipment to Sea-Land and granted Sea-Land an option to purchase the ships and equipment at the expiration of the term of 20 years. That Agreement was submitted to the FMC for approval pursuant to 46 U.S.C. § 814.
On November 9, 1970 the defendants modified and amended the October Agreement by restructuring the transaction as a merger into U.S. Lines of RJI Corporation, a subsidiary of Reynolds organized for the purpose of implementing the merger. Under the restructured agreement, U.S. Lines will be the surviving corporation as between U.S. Lines and RJI Corporation, and will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Reynolds (and consequently an affiliate of Sea-Land, which is also owned by Reynolds).
A Supplemental Agreement was also entered into on November 9, 1970 by Reynolds and Kidde. It provides for alternative dispositions of the stock and assets of U.S. Lines in the event that the merger cannot be consummated.
Pursuant to the terms of the Merger Agreement, the defendants filed copies thereof with the FMC and the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) on November 9, 1970. The FMC has commenced hearings relating to the Merger Agreement, but the ICC has apparently not yet done so. Until the approval of both Commissions is obtained, the merger will not, according to the express terms of the Merger Agreement, be consummated.
The Antitrust Division of the Justice Department filed the instant complaint on December 15, 1970 to enjoin the implementation of the Merger Agreement and to obtain an order invalidating the Supplemental Agreement. The complaint alleges these agreements to be in violation of § 7 of the Clayton Act (15 U.S.C. § 18) and § 1 of the Sherman Act (15 U.S.C. § 1), respectively, due to their present and anticipated anti-competitive effect upon certain international segments of the U.S. shipping industry.
On January 5, 1971 the FMC petitioned for leave to intervene as a party, pursuant to Rule 24, F.R.C.P., and applied for a stay or dismissal of the instant proceedings to enable it to complete the FMC proceedings concerning the subject matter herein. The disposition of these FMC applications depends upon the answer to the question initially set forth, to wit: Does Section 15 of the Shipping Act (46 U.S.C. § 814) grant the FMC authority over merger agreements in providing that "every agreement . . . controlling, regulating, preventing, or destroying competition" shall be filed with the FMC and that such agreements, if approved, shall be immune from the antitrust laws?
At the outset, the issue of this Court's jurisdiction must be clarified. The Sherman and Clayton Acts invested the several District Courts with jurisdiction to restrain violations of said Acts, 15 U.S.C. §§ 4 & 25. Nothing in the Shipping Act can be construed as a withdrawal of jurisdiction from this Court over antitrust actions concerning shipping agreements which have not yet been approved by the FMC, Carnation Co. v. Pacific Westbound Conference, 383 U.S. 213, 15 L. Ed. 2d 709, 86 S. Ct. 781 (1966), or though approved, were outside the statutory competence of the FMC. Hence, the issue before the Court is the appropriateness of "prior resort " i.e., " . . . whether . . . the Court should exercise . . . its jurisdiction initially or require 'prior resort' to the appropriate administrative agency."
The chief argument of the FMC and the defendants is that the ordinary meaning of the statutory language ("every agreement . . . controlling, regulating, preventing or destroying competition") is broad enough to include the Merger Agreement. The Justice Department vigorously opposes this contention by recourse to legislative history.
This Court is persuaded that Congress did not intend to subject merger agreements to the supervision of the FMC. Therefore, the answer to the question initially posed above is that Section 15 does not grant the FMC authority over merger agreements. In so holding, I rely in large part upon the Alexander Report,
which was the source of the Congressional policy embodied in the Shipping Act. My interpretation of Congress' intent in this area is based on numerous factors, including the distinctive utilization of the term "agreement" in the Alexander Report.
Section 15 of the Shipping Act is substantially a transcription of the recommendations of the Alexander Report.
The essential provisions as well as the unique terminology of the Report are evident in the Act. The agreements referred to in Section 15 are exemplified in the eighty agreements discussed in the foreign trade segment of the Alexander Report.
Consistently throughout the Report, mergers and other corporate reorganizations, when occasionally mentioned, are referred to by the terms "consolidation by ownership"
and "control through acquisition",
or variations thereof. Never is the word "agreement" used in the Report to refer to a merger agreement. It is clear that the Alexander Committee distinguished conceptually between agreements in the ...