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Federal Trade Commission v. Cement Institute

United States Supreme Court
333 U.S. 683 (1948)


Facts

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) (defendant) opened an investigation into the pricing practices of the 74 corporate members of the Cement Institute (Cement) (plaintiff), a cement industry trade association. The FTC found that the companies’ prices over a series of years, even in sealed bids, were consistently identical, down to a fraction of a penny. Cement argued that cement was a standard product with no available modifications. Further, Cement argued that there was significant price competition in the industry. Thus, according to Cement, the lack of price differences among companies was not surprising, and, without more, is not evidence of price-fixing. Finally, Cement argued that the FTC had prejudged the outcome in the complaint, based on reports the FTC had filed with the president and Congress. In those reports, the FTC opined that the cement industry’s pricing practices were illegal. Consequently, Cement asked the FTC to disqualify itself from consideration of the complaint. The FTC declined and found that the companies had engaged in an elaborate price-fixing scheme, in violation of federal antitrust law. The FTC issued a cease-and-desist order. Cement filed suit appealing the order, and the court of appeals reversed. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Black, J.)

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