Roosevelt relaxes anti-trust laws as part of "New Deal"


WASHINGTON, July 1, 1933 (UP) -- The most daring innovation in President Roosevelt's economic "New Deal" is the relaxation of the anti-trust laws, administration of which has for 40 years tested the relative courage or timidity of successive occupants of the White House.

Since the turn of the century the chief problem of American industry has been to bring into existence larger units without running afoul of the anti-trust laws, and this problem has continually occupied the best legal talent of the country.


The policy of the government has varied between the strenuous swinging of the "Big Stick" against "Big Business" to a tacit acquiescence in business combination where it did not reach the extreme of monopoly. In either case, the fear of prosecution has been a deterrent to numerous forms of industrial and commercial cooperation which might have served the public welfare.


The new provisions of law, recently approved by Congress, which mark the changing attitude toward business combination, are found in the agricultural relief and the industrial recovery acts.

Section 8 of the agricultural act authorizes the secretary of Agriculture to enter into marketing agreements with processors, associations of producers, and others engaged in the handling, in the current of interstate or foreign commerce of any agricultural commodity or product thereof, after due notice and opportunity for hearing to interested parties. "The making of any such agreement shall not be held to be in violation of any of the anti-trust laws of the 'United States, and any such agreement shall be deemed to be lawful, provided, that no such agreement shall remain in force after the termination of this Act."

Practically, this provision will legalize a wide range of agreements heretofore considered combinations in restraint of trade, as for example, the establishment of a sugar marketing quota plan.

The industrial control plan included among its major purposes the organization of industry "for the purpose of cooperative action among trade groups, to induce and maintain united action of labor and management under adequate governmental sanctions and supervision to eliminate unfair competitive practices."


Cooperation among trade groups and the elimination of unfair competitive practices would have been practically impossible under a rigid interpretation of the long existent anti-trust laws, consequently Congress has given the President the power to approve codes of fair competition for trades and industries.

"We are relaxing some of the safe-guards of the anti-trust laws," President Roosevelt stated with his characteristic frankness, in explaining the new law. "The public must be protected against the abuses that led to their enactment, and to this end we are putting in place of old principles of unchecked competition some new government controls. They must above all be impartial and just."

The new laws are in effect a challenge to agriculture and industry to work out their own problems, with the full cooperation of the Federal government. The haunting fear of persecution which has paralyzed the initiative of trade associations probably will in large degree be allayed by the new law, and some striking developments in commerce and industry are anticipated.

Some of the United States anti-trust laws which may be directly or by implication affected by the new government policies are the following:

The Sherman Act, effective July 2, 1890, which provided that "every contract," combination in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce among the several States or with foreign countries, is hereby declared to be illegal. (This law has been subject to many, and at times conflicting, interpretations. Early in the Hoover administration some business groups requested that the Department of Justice should pass upon the legality of proposed combinations in advance of their effectiveness, but President Hoover declined to endorse such a procedure.)


The Clayton Act, passed in 1914 and amended in 1916 and 1920 has as its major principle the prohibition of discrimination in price between different purchasers of commodities which are sold for use, consumption or resale "where the effect of such discrimination may be to substantially lessen competition or tend to create a monopoly in any line of commerce."

The Webb Export Trade Act, approved April 10, 1918, permitted combinations or associations, of persons in the United States for the purpose of selling American goods abroad et prices which would compete with the foreign manufacturers or combinations. For a decade there has been recurring agitation for a similar legalization of associations for import purposes. The new law, although not covering this point, has provisions under which the president may license imports. This in time may lead to new practices in import trade.

Anti-trust or anti-monopoly provisions are also included in the Federal Trade Commission Act, the Shipping Act of 1916, the Anti-Dumping Act, the Packers and Stockyards Act, the Grain-Futures Act, and the Federal Radio Act.

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