Timken Roller Bearing Company v. United States/Dissent Jackson

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United States Supreme Court

341 U.S. 593

Timken Roller Bearing Company  v.  United States

 Argued: April 24, 1951. --- Decided: June 4, 1951

Mr. Justice JACKSON, dissenting.

I doubt that it should be regarded as an unreasonable restraint of trade for an American industrial concern to organize foreign subsidiaries, each limited to serving a particular market area. If so, it seems to preclude the only practical means of reaching foreign markets by many American industries.

The fundamental issue here concerns a severely technical application to foreign commerce of the concept of conspiracy. It is admitted that if Timken had, within its own corporate organization, set up separate departments to operate plants in France and Great Britain, as well as in the United State, 'that would not be a conspiracy. You must have two entities to have a conspiracy.' [1] Thus, although a single American producer, of course, would not compete with itself, either abroad or at home, and could determine prices and allot territories with the same effect as here, that would not be a violation of the Act, because a corporation cannot conspire with itself. Government counsel answered affirmatively the question of the Chief Justice: 'Your theory is that if you have a separate corporation that makes the difference?' [2] Thus, the Court applies the well-established conspiracy doctrine that what it would not be illegal for Timken to do alone may be illegal as a conspiracy when done by two legally separate persons. The doctrine now applied to foreign commerce is that foreign subsidiaries organized by an American corporation are 'separate persons,' and any arrangement between them and the parent corporation to do that which is legal for the parent alone is an unlawful conspiracy. I think that result places too much weight on labels.

But if we apply the most strict conspiracy doctrine, we still have the question whether the arrangement is an unreasonable restraint of trade or a method and means of carrying on competition in trade. Timken did not sit down with competitors and divide an existing market between them. It has at all times, in all places, had powerful rivals. It was not effectively meeting their competition in foreign markets, and so it joined others in creating a British subsidiary to go after business best reachable through such a concern and a French one to exploit French markets. Of course, in doing so, it allotted appropriate territory to each and none was to enter into competition with the other or with the parent. Since many foreign governments prohibit or handicap American corporations from owning plants, entering into contracts, or engaging in business directly, this seems the only practical way of waging competition in those areas.

The philosophy of the Government, adopted by the Court, is that Timken's conduct is conspiracy to restrain trade solely because the venture made use of subsidiaries. It is forbidden thus to deal with and utilize subsidiaries to exploit foreign territories, because 'parent and subsidiary corporations must accept the consequences of maintaining separate corporate entities,' [3] and that consequence is conspiracy to restrain trade. But not all agreements are conspiracies and not all restraints of trade are unlawful. In a world of tariffs, trade barriers, empire or domestic preferences, and various forms of parochialism from which we are by no means free, I think a rule that it is restraint of trade to enter a foreign market through a separate subsidiary of limited scope is virtually to foreclose foreign commerce of many kinds. It is one thing for competitors or a parent and its subsidiaries to divide the United States domestic market which is an economic and legal unit; it is another for an industry to recognize that foreign markets consist of many legal and economic units and to go after each through separate means. I think this decision will restrain more trade than it will make free.


^1  Argument of government counsel reported 19 L.W. 3291 et seq.

^2  See note 1, supra.

^3  See note 1, supra.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).