The opinion of the court was delivered by: HIGGINBOTHAM
In this civil action the plaintiff, the United States of America, seeks to restrain and enjoin alleged violations of Section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act by the defendant, FMC Corporation (hereinafter FMC). Briefly summarized the complaint charges that, beginning in at least 1955, FMC and several other members of the so-called "chlor-alkali" industry engaged in a combination and conspiracy, which had as its object the elimination of price competition in the sale of chlorine, caustic soda and soda ash. The conspiracy is alleged to have taken the form of meetings, informal discussions, telephone calls and written correspondence. The complaint further alleges that the effect of the combination and conspiracy has been to unreasonably restrain interstate commerce by restricting and controlling competition among the co-conspirators; and the plaintiff therefore prays the Court to issue an injunction prohibiting further activities in pursuance of the conspiracy.
The principal manifestations of the conspiracy were alleged to be:
(1) Discussions and communications among the alleged conspirators leading to agreements to raise the prices of chlorine, caustic soda and soda ash in 1955 and 1956; of dry caustic soda in 1958; and of chlorine in 1960.
(2) Collusive efforts in 1958 and 1960 to maintain at an artificially high level the previously (1956) fixed list price of liquid caustic soda, by means of tacit agreements to restrict discounts to selected industries and users.
(3) Collusive attempts to maintain and perfect the freight equalization system used by the industry from a period of at least 1954 through 1958;
(b) by exchanging truck and barge rates which were not public information;
(c) by agreeing on minimum quantities which would entitle customers to lower barge rates; and
(d) endeavoring to eliminate any disparities in practice which might detract from the quotation of identical freight rates.
The complaint as originally filed on December 24, 1964, named as defendants FMC and eight other chlor-alkali producers. But, prior to trial the eight defendants other than FMC entered into consent decrees with the plaintiff, thereby settling the proceedings against them, without however admitting the substantive allegations of the complaint. FMC, as it had the right, elected to go to trial, denying in all material respects the allegations of the complaint.
The case was tried by the Court without a jury in a trial which lasted nineteen days. Diligent effort by counsel for both sides resulted in several stipulations which greatly facilitated the presentation of ...