United States v. Hamburg-Amerikanische Co.
239 U.S. 466 (1916)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Hamburg-Amerikanische Co., 239 U.S. 466 (1916)

United States v. Hamburg-Amerikanische

Packetfahrt-Actien Gesellschaft

Nos. 289, 332

Argued November 3, 4, 1915

Decided January 10, 1916

239 U.S. 466

APPEALS FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES

FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK

Syllabus

This Court cannot pass upon questions which have, as an inevitable legal consequence of the European War now flagrant, become moot. This Court takes judicial notice of the European War, and that its inevitable consequence has been to interrupt the steamship business between this country and Europe.

It is a rule of this Court based on fundamental principle of public policy not to establish a rule for controlling predicted future conduct, and it will not decide a case involving a combination alleged to be in violation of the Anti-Trust Act which has become moot as a legal consequence of war because of probability of its being recreated on the cessation of war. California v. San Pablo R. Co.,149 U. S. 308.

The power of this Court cannot be enlarged or its duty affected in regard to the decision of a moot case by stipulation of parties or counsel.

Where a case to dissolve a combination alleged to be illegal under the Anti-Trust Act has become moot and this Court has thus been prevented from deciding it upon the merits, and the court below decided against the government, the course most consonant with justice is to reverse, with directions to dismiss the bill without prejudice to the government in the future to assail any actual contract or combination deemed to offend the Anti-Trust Act.

216 F. 971 reversed.

The facts, which involve the construction and application of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act of July 2, 1890 and the practice of this Court in regard to cases which have become moot, and the effect of the legal consequence of war, are stated in the opinion.

Page 239 U. S. 468

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

The United States, on January 4th, 1911, commenced this suit to prevent the further execution of an agreement to which the defendants were parties and which it was charged constituted the foundation of an illegal combination in violation of the Anti-Trust Act of July 2, 1890 (26 Stat. 209, c. 647). The relief asked, moreover, in the nature of things embraced certain subsidiary agreements made during the course of the execution of the main contract, in furtherance of its alleged prohibited result. The principal agreement was made in 1908, to last until February 28, 1911, but was to continue in force thereafter from year to year unless, not later than December 1st of each year a notice of the intention not to continue was given. On December 3, 1910, however, just a month before this suit was filed, the agreement in question was renewed for a period of five years.

We give from the argument on behalf of the United States a statement of the corporate defendants to the bill, some of whom had become parties to the alleged illegal combination by subsidiary agreement or agreements made at a later date than the original contract.

"1. The Allan Line Steamship Company, Limited, hereafter called the 'Allan Line,' a British corporation, operating from Portland, Boston, and Philadelphia to London, Liverpool, and Glasgow and return. "

Page 239 U. S. 469

"2. International Mercantile Marine Company, a New Jersey corporation, operating from New York and Philadelphia to Liverpool and Southampton and return."

"3. Its ships, together with those of its subsidiary company, defendant International Navigation Company, Limited, also operating from New York and Philadelphia to Liverpool and Southampton, . . . are referred to as the 'American Line.' Besides International Navigation Company, Limited, it also controls through stock ownership the defendants British & North Atlantic Steam Navigation Company, Limited, Societe Anonyme de Navigation Belge Americaine, and Oceanic Steam Navigation Company, Limited."

"4. British & North Atlantic Steam Navigation Company, Limited, a British corporation, hereafter called the 'Dominion Line,' operating from Portland to Liverpool and return."

"5. Societe Anonyme de Navigation Belge Americaine, a Belgian corporation, hereafter called the 'Red Star Line,' operating from New York and Philadelphia to Antwerp and return."

"6. Oceanic Steam Navigation Company, Limited, a British corporation, hereafter called the 'White Star Line,' operating from New York and Boston to Liverpool and Southampton and return."

"7. The Anchor Line (Henderson Brothers), Limited, a British corporation, hereafter called the 'Anchor Line,' operating from New York to Glasgow and return."

"8. Canadian Pacific Railway Company, a Canadian corporation, operating a regular line of steamships, hereafter called the 'Canadian Pacific Line,' from Montreal, Quebec, and St. John in the Dominion of Canada to Liverpool, England, and return. It also owns and operates a transcontinental railroad which, partly through branches running into the United States and partly though connections with the Wabash and other American railroads,

Page 239 U. S. 470

transports a substantial proportion (12%) of its steamship passengers to and from points in this country."

"9. The Cunard Steamship Company, Limited, a British corporation, hereafter called the 'Cunard Line,' operating from New York and Boston to Liverpool in England, Fiume in Hungary, and Trieste in Austria, and return."

"10. Hamburg-Amerikanische Packetfahrt-Actien Gesellschaft, a German corporation, hereafter called the 'Hamburg-American Line,' operating from New York to Hamburg and return."

"11. Nord Deutscher Lloyd, a German corporation, hereafter called the 'North German Lloyd Line,' operating from New York, Baltimore, and Galveston to Bremen and return."

"12. Nederlandsh-Amerikaansche Stoomvaart Maatschapij (Holland-Amerika Lijn), a Netherlands corporation, hereafter called the 'Holland-American Line,' operating between New York and Rotterdam and return."

"13. Russian East Asiatic Steamship Company, a Russian corporation, hereafter called the 'Russian-American Line,' operating between New York and Libau, Russia, and return."

The individuals named as defendants were the principal officers and agents in this country of the corporate defendants. We extract from the argument on behalf of the government the following statement of the main provisions of the principal agreement.

"(1) The parties guarantee to each other certain definite percentages of the entire steerage traffic carried by them both eastbound and westbound between European ports and the United States and Canada, except Mediterranean passengers."

"(2) Any line exceeding its allotment must pay into the pool a compensation price of

Official Supreme Court case law is only found in the print version of the United States Reports. Justia case law is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect current legal developments, verdicts or settlements. We make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained on this site or information linked to from this site. Please check official sources.