The opinion of the court was delivered by: WADDY
This action arises under Sections 2 and 4 of the Sherman Antitrust Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 2 and 4. Plaintiff is the United States of America, acting through the Department of Justice. Defendants are American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T), Western Electric Company, Inc. (Western Electric), a wholly owned subsidiary of AT&T, and Bell Telephone Laboratories, Inc. (Bell Labs), jointly owned by AT&T and Western Electric.
The complaint broadly alleges that defendants, together with numerous co-conspirators, including 23 named telephone companies owned in whole or in part by AT&T, and their subsidiaries (Bell Operating Companies), have engaged in an unlawful combination and conspiracy to monopolize, have attempted to monopolize and have monopolized certain interstate trade and commerce in telecommunications equipment and submarkets thereof. Plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, including complete divestiture of Western Electric by AT&T, divestiture by Western Electric of some of its manufacturing and other assets, and divestiture by AT&T of some or all of its "Long Lines Department" from some or all of the Bell Operating Companies.
The defendants did not move to dismiss the complaint but in their answer to the complaint, they alleged the following affirmative defenses: (1) plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted; (2) the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction; and (3) the matters sought to be litigated herein were previously litigated in a suit between the parties brought in 1949 in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, Civil Action No. 17-49, making the issues herein res judicata ; and (4) that in the 1956 consent decree terminating Civil Action No. 17-49, the District Court of New Jersey retained exclusive jurisdiction to modify or terminate that decree.
At a hearing on discovery motions held February 20, 1975, the Court indicated its concern over whether the jurisdictional defenses raised in the answer to the complaint were threshold matters which should be resolved before the expensive and protracted discovery inherent in the nature of this case was undertaken by the parties. The Court then sua sponte stayed discovery pending its determination of the jurisdictional questions.
Following extensive briefing and a hearing on July 23, 1975, the Court, on August 5, 1975, invited the Federal Communications Commission (Commission) to participate as amicus curiae. The Commission accepted the Court's invitation, submitting an amicus curiae brief addressing the jurisdictional issues. Subsequent to the Commission's submission, supplemental memoranda were filed by the Department of Justice and the defendants.
In light of the amicus submissions, and the recent proceedings and determinations by the Commission, the Court, by Order dated October 1, 1976, ordered a further hearing on whether the Federal Communications Act of 1934, 47 U.S.C. § 151 et seq. (the Communications Act), and the regulations promulgated pursuant thereto, compelled the conclusion that there was an implied repeal of the antitrust laws. Also included, of necessity, was further consideration of the extent to which exclusive jurisdiction rested with the Commission, and whether and to what extent the doctrine of primary jurisdiction should be invoked. Supplemental memoranda were filed by the parties and the Commission, and a hearing held November 16, 1976.
Briefly stated, defendants contend they enjoy implied immunity from antitrust liability because they are subject to a pervasive scheme of regulation imposed by the Federal Communications Act and state regulatory statutes. They contend that this pervasive regulatory scheme, based as it is upon the public interest standard, is flatly inconsistent with the competition standards underlying antitrust law. With respect to the question of primary jurisdiction, defendants contend that because the Court has no antitrust jurisdiction herein, the question of primary jurisdiction cannot arise, and would not be an appropriate exercise of discretion in this case. Recent Commission decisions, they assert, represent primarily, attempts by the Commission to control anti-competitive behavior initiated by defendants through tariff filings.
Plaintiff contends that Congressional intent is the standard to be applied, and that in this case, neither an express, nor an implied immunity from antitrust liability was intended nor exists. Plaintiff sees absolutely no irreconcilable conflict arising under the Communications Act and the Sherman Act, and contends that the Commission's regulations and recent decisions in proceedings do not in any way affect the statutory scheme, or the antitrust jurisdiction of this Court.
The Commission, as amicus, finds no blanket immunity from antitrust liability. It does, however, assert that the following three areas are impliedly delegated to the Commission's exclusive jurisdiction which antitrust courts should not disturb by ad hoc rulings: (1) in view of Section 214 of the Act, only the Commission may require, through its certification process, entry into or exit from a communications common carrier market; (2) in view of Section 201 of the Act, antitrust courts should not countermand Commission orders requiring carriers to interconnect their telephone systems; and (3) in view of Section 205 of the Act, courts should not base antitrust relief or remedies upon tariff provisions or conduct pursuant to tariff provisions which the Commission has either "approved or prescribed" after the required investigation.
The Commission urges the Court to refer unsettled issues which may substantially affect the Commission's regulatory policies to the Commission under the doctrine of primary jurisdiction and to take judicial notice where the Commission has settled such questions, so as to ...