New York Antitrust Ruling Upheld by Supreme Court

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON (AP) - Companies may violate antitrust law when they lobby private organizations that play a prominent role in influencing business legislation, the Supreme Court ruled Monday.

The 7-2 decision upheld a $11.4 million jury award against a company accused of ``packing'' a meeting of the National Fire Protection Association when the organization adopted a safety code for electrical wiring.

Justice William J. Brennan, in his opinion for the court, said such activity to influence a private organization does not warrant the same antitrust immunity granted to businesses and trade groups that lobby governmental bodies.

``The activity at issue here did not take place in the open political arena, where partisanship is the hallmark of decision-making, but within the confines of a private standard-setting process,'' Brennan said.

Also, he said, the activity involved more than ``an exercise of the power of persuasion.'' The adoption of an industry code ``in part involves the exercise of market power'' because members of the National Fire Protection Association, including consumers, distributors and manufacturers, implicitly agreed to abide by the association's rules, Brennan said. …