A presidential study commission on the antitrust laws wound up its work with a unanimous vote yesterday on a final report containing more than 50 recommendations on ways to expedite complex antitrust cases and increase competition in the economy.
The recommendations include:
Amending the Sherman Act to make it easier to prove that companies are attempting to monopolize markets.
Urging Congress to determine whether the government should be able to sue to break up large corporations having "persistent monopoly power" without having to provide deliberate anticompetitive conduct.
Exhorting judges to manage major cases effectively so that they may go to trial before two years are up, for examle by setting time limits for various stages of a case and focusing early on the issues in contention.
Amending the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to make it clear that judges have that discretion. For instance, the commission recommended that judges be allowed to imose sanctions for delays caused by excessive and uncooperative conduct by attorneys.
Eliminating, after a brief transition period, Interstate Commerce Commission regulation of entry, rates and mergers in the trucking industry. Wherever feasible, competition should be substituted for regulation of railroads as well.
Repealing or substantially reducing in scope antitrust immunities also enjoyed by the insurance, agriculture, and ocean shipping industries.
Enacting legislation requiring regulatory agencies to give greater weight to competitive considerations in their decision-making.
Fully half of the commission's recommendations involved ways of expediting complex antitrust cases. The longest running of them all -- the government's massive antitrust suit against International Business Machines Corp. -- is 10 years old today.
"Many of the recommendations can be implemented immediately if the courts are willing, if lawyers are flexible and willing, and interested persons and groups help us spread the word," John H. Shenefield, the assistant attorney general for antitrust, who served as the commission's chairman, said during yesterday's half-hour final meeting.
The report of the 22-member National Commission for the Review of Antitrust Laws and Procedures is scheduled for delivery to President Carter and Attorney General Griffin Bell next Monday. It will have been completed within its six-month time limit and slightly under its budget, Shenefield said.
Although the report was adopted without dissent, eight members filed separate statements to be attached to the report indicating in some cases that they would have preferred stronger or weaker language on some points. In addition, an amalgam of qualifying footnotes scattered throughout the report indicated some members' dissents or qualifications on some issues.
In summing up the commission's work, Shenefiedl said he thought the report reaffirms that competition is the central theme of the U.S. economy and that "the antitrust laws are the conservator and elaborator" of that theme.
Although Shenefield took heed of warnings that most presidential commission reports gather dust on the shelves, he said there is a "brighter hope" for this report because the president and attorney general have supported the commission's work, and key congressional leaders were among the commission's members.
The commission's members included Shenefield; Michael Pertchuk, chairman of the Federal Trade Commission; Alfred E. Kahn, former chairman of the Civil Aeronautics Board and now chairman of the Council on Wage and Price Stability; Sens. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), Howard M. Metzenbaum (D-Ohio), Robert Morgan (D-N.C.), Jacob K. Javits (R-N.Y.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah); Reps. Peter W. Rodino Jr. (D-N.J.), John F. Seiberling (D-Ohio), Robert McClory R-Ill) and Charles E. Wiggins (R-Calif.); and former representative Barbara Jordan (D-Tex.).
Also, Chauncey H. Browning Jr., West Virginia attorney general; U.S. District Court Judge C. Clyde Atkins of Florida; Maxwell M. Belcher, a California attorney; Eleanor M. Fox, a professor at New York University Law School; John Izard, an Atlanta attorney; James M. Nicholson, a former member of the FTC now in Washington; Gordon B. Spivack, a New York City attorney; Craig Spangenberg, a Cleveland attorney; and Lawrence A. Sullivan, a professor at the University of California.