United States v. El Paso Natural Gas Co.,
Annotate this Case
376 U.S. 651 (1964)
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U.S. Supreme Court
United States v. El Paso Natural Gas Co., 376 U.S. 651 (1964)
United States v. El Paso Natural Gas Co.
Argued February 25-26, 1964
Decided April 6, 1964
376 U.S. 651
The Federal Government filed suit under § 7 of the Clayton Act charging that the acquisition by a natural gas company, then the sole out of state supplier to California, of the stock and assets of another gas company, one of the two major interstate pipelines serving the trans-Rocky Mountain States, which had made some efforts to enter the California market, "may be substantially to lessen competition." The District Court, without a written opinion, dismissed the complaint after trial, adopting verbatim the findings of fact and conclusions of law submitted by counsel for appellees.
1. A trial judge's findings will stand if supported by evidence even where they are not his own work product, United States v. Crescent Amusement Co., 323 U. S. 173, but such findings are less helpful on judicial review than those prepared by the trial judge himself. Pp. 376 U. S. 656-657.
2. A review of the record, composed mainly of undisputed evidence, clearly shows that the "effect of such acquisition may be substantially to lessen competition" in California under § 7 of the Act. Pp. 376 U. S. 657-662.
(a) The production, transportation and sale of natural gas is a "line of commerce," and California is a "section of the country," as used in § 7. P. 376 U. S. 657.
(b) The words "may be substantially to lessen competition" in § 7 manifest Congress' concern with probabilities, and not with either certainties or ephemeral possibilities. P. 376 U. S. 658.
(c) Although the acquired company had not gained entry into California for its gas, its effect as a potential supplier made it a substantial competitive factor in that continuously expanding market. Pp. 376 U. S. 658-659.
3. Since appellees have been on notice of the antitrust charge almost from the inception of the merger plans, the District Court is directed to order divestiture without delay. P. 376 U. S. 662.