Business Reigns Supreme

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Much of corporate America was crowing last week after the Supreme Court ended a term notable for a string of rulings that generally favored businesses over consumers, employees, plaintiffs and investors.

The court ruled Thursday that manufacturers may set and enforce minimum prices for their products, overturning a nearly century-old ban on such practices. Consumer groups criticized the decision, saying it would make it harder for discounters to offer low prices.

Even retailers complained. Mallory Duncan, general counsel for the National Retail Federation, said the justices "put a thumb on the scale in favor of" the manufacturers.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said in a statement Thursday that its legal arm had helped win victories in 13 cases critical to the business community -- a record for its lawyers.

These included the court's decision to throw out an $80 million punitive-damages verdict for a widow who had sued a cigarette manufacturer, to reject attempts by women and minorities to sue over alleged pay discrimination in the past and to raise the bar for investors trying to allege antitrust violations.

"In case after case, the court this term understood the business community's need for clarity and predictability in the law," said Robin Conrad, executive vice president of the business group's National Chamber Litigation Center.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company