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Pillsbury Co. v. Fed. Trade Com. - 354 F.2d 952 (5th Cir. 1966)

Rule:

When a Congressional investigation focuses directly and substantially upon the mental, decisional processes of a Commission in a case that is pending before it, Congress is no longer intervening in the agency's legislative function, but rather, in its judicial function.

Facts:

Petitioner, Pillsbury Company, was in the business of manufacturing and selling flour. Pillsbury purchased the assets of Ballard & Ballard Company and of Duff’s Baking Mix Division of American Home Products Corporation, two companies involved in the flour milling products industry. Respondent, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), determined that Pillsbury's acquisition of the assets of the two companies violated § 7 of the Clayton Act. The FTC ordered Pillsbury to divest itself of the acquired assets. Pillsbury then filed a petition to the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which requested the Court to review and set aside an order of the Federal Trade Commission requiring Pillsbury to divest itself of the assets and that Pillsbury be allowed to offer additional evidence pursuant to § 11(c) of the Clayton Act. Pillsbury further argued that its procedural due process rights were violated because while the case was pending, the FTC’s chairman was questioned by a Senate subcommittee.

Issue:

Was a company's due process rights violated?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

On review, the Court vacated FTC's order and remanded the case back to the agency. The Court noted that, while Pillsbury's case was pending before the FTC, a Senate subcommittee questioned the FTC's chairman as to how and why he had reached his decision regarding the Pillsbury case and criticizedthe chairman's decision. The apppellate court held that the questioning deprived Pillsbury of a fair administrative hearing and vacated order from the FTC. The Court held that the FTC was not permanently disqualified to decide the case on remand.

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