Mitsubishi v. Soler Chrysler-Plymouth
473 U.S. 614 (1985)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Mitsubishi v. Soler Chrysler-Plymouth, 473 U.S. 614 (1985)

Mitsubishi Motors Corp. v. Soler Chrysler-Plymouth, Inc.

No. 83-1569

Argued March 18, 1985

Decided July 2, 1985*

473 U.S. 614

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE

FIRST CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Petitioner-cross-respondent (hereafter petitioner), a Japanese corporation that manufactures automobiles, is the product of a joint venture between Chrysler International, S.A. (CISA), a Swiss corporation, and another Japanese corporation, aimed at distributing through Chrysler dealers outside the continental United States automobiles manufactured by petitioner. Respondent-cross-petitioner (hereafter respondent), a Puerto Rico corporation, entered into distribution and sales agreements with CISA. The sales agreement (to which petitioner was also a party) contained a clause providing for arbitration by the Japan Commercial Arbitration Association of all disputes arising out of certain articles of the agreement or for the breach thereof. Thereafter, when attempts to work out disputes arising from a slackening of the sale of new automobiles failed, petitioner withheld shipment of automobiles to respondent, which disclaimed responsibility for them. Petitioner then brought an action in Federal District Court under the Federal Arbitration Act and the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, seeking an order to compel arbitration of the disputes in accordance with the arbitration clause. Respondent filed an answer and counterclaims, asserting, inter alia, causes of action under the Sherman Act and other statutes. The District Court ordered arbitration of most of the issues raised in the complaint and counterclaims, including the federal antitrust issues. Despite the doctrine of American Safety Equipment Corp. v. J. P. & Co., 391 F.2d 821 (CA2), uniformly followed by the Courts of Appeals, that rights conferred by the antitrust laws are inappropriate for enforcement by arbitration, the District Court, relying on Scherk v. Alberto-Culver Co.,417 U. S. 506, held that the international character of the undertaking in question required enforcement of the arbitration clause even as to the antitrust claims. The Court of Appeals reversed insofar as the District Court ordered submission of the antitrust claims to arbitration.

Held:

1. There is no merit to respondent's contention that, because it falls within the class for whose benefit the statutes specified in the counter-claims

Page 473 U. S. 615

were passed, but the arbitration clause at issue does not mention these statutes or statutes in general, the clause cannot be properly read to contemplate arbitration of these statutory claims. There is no warrant in the Arbitration Act for implying in every contract within its ken a presumption against arbitration of statutory claims. Nor is there any reason to depart from the federal policy favoring arbitration where a party bound by an arbitration agreement raises claims founded on statutory rights. Pp. 473 U. S. 624-628.

2. Respondent's antitrust claims are arbitrable pursuant to the Arbitration Act. Concerns of international comity, respect for the capacities of foreign and transnational tribunals, and sensitivity to the need of the international commercial system for predictability in the resolution of disputes, all require enforcement of the arbitration clause in question even assuming that a contrary result would be forthcoming in a domestic context. See Scherk v. Alberto-Culver Co., supra. The strong presumption in favor of freely negotiated contractual choice-of-forum provisions is reinforced here by the federal policy in favor of arbitral dispute resolution, a policy that applies with special force in the field of international commerce. The mere appearance of an antitrust dispute does not alone warrant invalidation of the selected forum on the undemonstrated assumption that the arbitration clause is tainted. So too, the potential complexity of antitrust matters does not suffice to ward off arbitration; nor does an arbitration panel pose too great a danger of innate hostility to the constraints on business conduct that antitrust law imposes. And the importance of the private damages remedy in enforcing the regime of antitrust laws does not compel the conclusion that such remedy may not be sought outside an American court. Pp. 473 U. S. 628-640.

723 F.2d 155, affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

BLACKMUN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and WHITE, REHNQUIST, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, J., joined, and in which MARSHALL, J., joined except as to Part II, post, p. 473 U. S. 640. POWELL, J., took no part in the decision of the cases.

Page 473 U. S. 616

JUSTICE BLACKMUN delivered the opinion of the Court.

The principal question presented by these cases is the arbitrability, pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. § 1 et seq., and the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (Convention), [1970] 21 U.S.T. 2517, T.I.A.S. No. 6997, of claims arising under the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1 et seq., and encompassed within a valid arbitration clause in an agreement embodying an international commercial transaction.

I

Petitioner-cross-respondent Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (Mitsubishi) is a Japanese corporation which manufactures automobiles and has its principal place of business in Tokyo, Japan. Mitsubishi is the product of a joint venture between, on the one hand, Chrysler International, S.A. (CISA), a Swiss corporation registered in Geneva and wholly owned by Chrysler Corporation, and, on the other, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Inc., a Japanese corporation. The

Page 473 U. S. 617

aim of the joint venture was the distribution through Chrysler dealers outside the continental United States of vehicles manufactured by Mitsubishi and bearing Chrysler and Mitsubishi trademarks. Respondent-cross-petitioner Soler Chrysler-Plymouth, Inc. (Soler), is a Puerto Rico corporation with its principal place of business in Pueblo Viejo, Guaynabo, Puerto Rico.

On October 31, 1979, Soler entered into a Distributor Agreement with CISA which provided for the sale by Soler of Mitsubishi-manufactured vehicles within a designated area, including metropolitan San Juan. App. 18. On the same date, CISA, Soler, and Mitsubishi entered into a Sales Procedure Agreement (Sales Agreement) which, referring to the Distributor Agreement, provided for the direct sale of Mitsubishi products to Soler and governed the terms and conditions of such sales. Id. at 42. Paragraph VI of the Sales Agreement, labeled "Arbitration of Certain Matters," provides:

"All disputes, controversies or differences which may arise between [Mitsubishi] and [Soler] out of or in relation to Articles I-B through V of this Agreement or for the breach thereof, shall be finally settled by arbitration in Japan in accordance with the rules and regulations of the Japan Commercial Arbitration Association."

Id. at 52-53.

Initially, Soler did a brisk business in Mitsubishi-manufactured vehicles. As a result of its strong performance, its minimum sales volume, specified by Mitsubishi and CISA, and agreed to by Soler, for the 1981 model year was substantially increased. Id. at 179. In early 1981, however, the new-car market slackened. Soler ran into serious difficulties in meeting the expected sales volume, and by the spring of 1981, it felt itself compelled to request that Mitsubishi delay or cancel shipment of several orders. 1 Record 181, 183. About the same time, Soler attempted to arrange for the

Page 473 U. S. 618

transshipment of a quantity of its vehicles for sale in the continental United States and Latin America. Mitsubishi and CISA, however, refused permission for any such diversion, citing a variety of reasons, [Footnote 1] and no vehicles were transshipped. Attempts to work out these difficulties failed. Mitsubishi eventually withheld shipment of 966 vehicles, apparently representing orders placed for May, June, and July, 1981, production, responsibility for which Soler disclaimed in February, 1982. App. 131.

The following month, Mitsubishi brought an action against Soler in the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico under the Federal Arbitration Act and the Convention. [Footnote 2] Mitsubishi sought an order, pursuant to 9 U.S.C. §§ 4 and 201, [Footnote 3] to compel arbitration in accord with

Page 473 U. S. 619

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