Selected Papers of Homer Cummings, Attorney General of the United States, 1933-1939

By Carl Brent Swisher; Homer S. Cummings | Go to book overview

2. Monopoly and Restraint of Trade

[With the exception of the activities of the Bureau of Investigation in certain periods, the enforcement of antitrust legislation has usually been of greater public interest than any other phase of the operations of the Department of Justice. The most important cases have involved struggles with great corporations, the Titans of the business and industrial world. Even though the Department, understaffed and under- financed for this form of activity, has often gone down to defeat, these legal battles have had more drama and the appearance of greater public significance than prosecutions under less conspicuous types of legislation.

During the period of the enforcement of the National Industrial Recovery Act, the emphasis of the administration was on cooperation under the regulatory provisions of codes of fair competition, rather than on enforced dealing at arm's length and the separation of business units. The Antitrust Division was engaged largely in the enforcement of emergency legislation and other commerce regulations rather than in the enforcement of the measures from which it takes its name.

After the Supreme Court decision pronouncing the invalidity of the National Industrial Recovery Act, policy remained for a time unsettled. In 1936, Attorney General Cummings directed the institution of the first successful criminal prosecutions against large industrial combinations in the history of the antitrust statutes. After that time the criminal features of the antitrust laws became the basis of a revitalized enforcement policy. In addition, a movement initiated by the Attorney General to have the laws adapted to current needs and conditions resulted in the creation of a commission by act of Congress to reinvestigate the entire subject. Ed.]


From a statement to the press, July 6, 1933:

THERE seems to be an impression in some quarters that the antitrust laws have been repealed or suspended in whole or in part. This is an entirely erroneous impression. It is true that the National Recovery Act provides among other things for codes of fair competition which, when approved by the President,

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