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The Foreign Trade Antitrust Improvements Act of 1982 excludes from the Sherman Act's reach much anticompetitive conduct that causes only foreign injury. It does so by setting forth a general rule stating that the Sherman Act shall not apply to conduct involving trade or commerce with foreign nations. 15 U.S.C.S. § 6a. It then creates exceptions to the general rule, applicable where (roughly speaking) that conduct significantly harms imports, domestic commerce, or American exporters.
In the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, a purported class action was filed on behalf of foreign and domestic purchasers of vitamins under provisions including § 1 of the Sherman Act (15 USCS § 1). The complaint alleged that the defendants, foreign and domestic vitamin manufacturers and distributors, had engaged in a price-fixing conspiracy, raising the price of vitamin products to customers in the United States and to customers in foreign countries. The manufacturers and distributors moved to dismiss the suit as to some foreign-purchaser plaintiffs--vitamin distributors located in Ukraine, Australia, Ecuador, and Panama—each of which allegedly bought vitamins for delivery outside the United States. The District Court applied the FTAIA and dismissed the foreign purchasers' claims. On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit—in reversing, vacated the judgment against the foreign purchasers, and ordered a remand—expressed the view that (1) the FTAIA’s general exclusionary rule applied to the case at hand, but (2) the FTAIA’s domestic-injury exception also applied.
The Court held that the transaction at issue fell within the Foreign Trade Antitrust Improvements Act (FTAIA) because the legislative history clearly indicated that Congress deliberately amended the language of the statute to include commerce that did not involve American exports, but which was wholly foreign. Thus, the FTAIA's general rule applied where the anticompetitive conduct at issue was foreign. However, the language in 15 U.S.C.S. § 6a did not apply in the circumstances at issue given Congress's adherence to principles of prescriptive comity in the international arena. Moreover, the FTAIA's language and history suggested that Congress designed the statute to clarify, but not expand in any significant way, the Sherman Act's scope as applied to foreign commerce.