In 1976, Dresser Industries, Inc. (Dresser) (plaintiff) met with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) (defendant) regarding questionable foreign payments made by Dresser, possibly to influence foreign governments. The SEC made several requests for documents regarding these payments, pursuant to its civil discovery process, which Dresser denied. At the same time, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) was investigating possible criminal charges against Dresser regarding the same transactions. The SEC and Department of Justice worked together in their investigations of Dresser. Dresser subsequently brought suit against the SEC and Department of Justice to enjoin them from further investigation, alleging that the SEC could not use its civil discovery process to aid the DOJ in its criminal investigation. The district court ruled in favor of the SEC. Dresser then appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.