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Law School Case Brief

United States v. Am. Can Co. - 230 F. 859 (D. Md. 1916)

Rule:

A court of equity, in deciding that it will so decree, will not consider whether public good might not be furthered by punishing those who do or try to do illegal things. To administer punishment is not within its province. To make clear the futility of such attempts, by striking down all that has been done to that end, is as far as it can go.

Facts:

The United States brought a proceeding under the fourth section of the Anti-Trust Act of July 2, 1890, contending that defendant American Can Company, a New Jersey corporation, was formed and has since been maintained in violation of the first and second sections of that statute. The United States argued that the company, by its size, its wealth, and its power, exerted a great influence upon the entire trade in cans, and that this influence, in some very important respects, notably as to the fixing of the price of packers' cans, was so great that it dominated the market. The company argued that its size was not a crime.

Issue:

Should the court decree a resolution notwithstanding the absence of evidence that the size and power of the company were being used to the injury of the public, or whenever such size and power was so great as to make dissolution or other restraining decree expedient?

Answer:

No

Conclusion:

The court held that it would not at present decree a resolution. Rather, the court held that it would reserve the right to do so whenever, if ever, it appeared that the size and power of the company were being used to the injury of the public, or whenever such size and power was so great as to make dissolution or other restraining decree expedient.

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