An agency's issuance of a complaint averring reason to believe that an entity was violating a statute is not a definitive ruling or regulation. It has no legal force or practical effect upon the entity's daily business other than the disruptions that accompany any major litigation. And immediate judicial review would serve neither efficiency nor enforcement of the statute. These pragmatic considerations counsel against the conclusion that the issuance of the complaint is final agency action.
Petitioner Federal Trade Commission (FTC) appealed from an order from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which held that the FTC's complaint issued to respondent oil company for violating the Federal Trade Commission Act § 5, 15 U.S.C.S. § 45, was a final agency action under the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C.S. § 704. The FTC challenged the judicial review of the complaint before the conclusion of the adjudication.
Was the company entitled to seek judicial review before the administrative adjudication was concluded?
The case was remanded for a dismissal of the FTC's complaint because, under the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C.S. § 704, the company was not entitled to judicial review of a complaint issued by the FTC before the administrative adjudication was concluded. The court reversed the order of the appellate court that held the issuance of the complaint by the FTC was a final agency action subject to judicial review. The FTC had issued a complaint against the company for violations of § 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, 15 U.S.C.S. § 45. The company then sought judicial review, because the complaint was issued without reason to believe that the company was violating the Act. The court held that the issuance of the complaint by the FTC was not a definitive ruling or regulation. The complaint had no legal force or practical effect upon the company's daily business. The company was not entitled to seek judicial review before the administrative adjudication was concluded.