8 Pages Posted: 10 Jan 2011
Date Written: January 9, 2011
The Packers and Stockyards Act was enacted in 1921. Congress was plainly influenced by the 1919 publication of a Federal Trade Commission Report on the meatpacking industry. Consistent with the FTC’s jurisdiction and concerns, the Report dealt with deceptive and unfair practices as well as practices that were believed to violate the antitrust laws. The language of the PSA does much the same, mixing the two. Of its seven specific prohibitions, three contain antitrust-like provisions requiring a lessening of competition. Two others reach unfair and tort-like conduct without any requirement of harm to competition. The remaining two reach both anticompetitive and tortuous conspiracies. One of the conspiracy provisions plainly reaches price fixing and market division agreements. The other plainly reaches a full range of tortious and anticompetitive conduct without stating a harm to competition requirement.
This brief essay considers the wisdom of holdings in half a dozen Circuit Courts of Appeal that even those sections of the statute that do not explicitly require harm to competition must be interpreted as if they did.
Keywords: antitrust, packers and stockyards act, competition, harm, federal trade commission, statutory interpretation
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