Chronology of Incorporation and Monopoly

compiled by George Draffan
© Public Information Network, PO Box 95316, Seattle WA 98145-2316

 

1400-1770 Era of commercial capitalism and monopolistic mercantilism, with joint stock companies and royal charter corporations holding trade monopolies and colonization privileges. Mercantilism was replaced with industrial capitalism and "free-trade" imperialism in the late 1700s, which gave way to monopoly capitalism and a revived colonial imperialism between 1870 and World War I, and to a defensive monopoly capitalism and neo(liberal)-colonialism since then.

1600-1900 The British "enclosure" period redefined land as property, a transferable commodity, evicted commoners from the ancient commons, turning them into landless laborers who were also a commodity, creating a dispossessed proletariat and bands of beggars, and transferred political power from the people to a wealthy elite. In the 1649-1660 revolution the landowners came to power and passed 4,000 Private Acts of Enclosure on seven million acres. In 1845 a General Enclosure Act was paszsed which privatized another seven million acres.

1600s American colonial settlements were often corporations with patents from the British Crown. In 1606, James I gave a patent to the London (South Virginia) stock company to settle the area between Washington D.C. and New York; the Plymouth (North Virginia) company was to settle New England. The company brought laborers over; they turned over their harvest to the company, and typically received 100 acres after seven years.

Ten thousand poor people are estimated to have been sold into slavery each year in Great Britain. Between 1609 and the early 1800s, as many as two-thirds of the white colonists are estimated to have been forced to come over as slaves (sometimes called "indentured servants").

Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania were commercial enterprises run by chartered trading companies. In the Caribbean and South, sugar, tobacco, rice, indigo, produced by indentured servants, until in the late 1600s more laborers were needed and slavery was instituted. In New England, fishing and fur trading were the basis, with Hudson's Bay Company sending home 75 percent dividends.

The middle and southern colonies of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia used the "headright" system, where land (typically 50 acres per head) was granted to those who paid their own and/or others' transport from the old world. This also provided labor, a key to New World profits, so ship captains got would-be travelers from taverns and fairs, and bribed judges and debtors prison jailers to secure prisoners who could be indentured. Two-thirds of white American immigrants were indentured servants. The labor was temporary, and because headright system granted land to servants when their indenture period was over, slavery became the system of choice.

Another form of privatization in early America was the proprietary colony, in which the Crown granted lands to individuals. This created private estates which could be sold, leased, or mortgaged, so the grantees became land investors and speculators. Private wealth created systems of private government, with the landowners in effect taxing and legislating. Proprietary colonies included Virginia and New Jersey. Grants of up 30,000 acres were given by Virginia to those who would defend the forts on the frontier. There were huge large estates of up to 840 square miles (537,600 acres) along the Hudson River in New York; in Virginia, one estate was 800,000 acres.

1641 Massachusetts legislature declared that "there shall be no monopolies granted or allowed among us but of such new inventions as are profitable to the country, and that for a short time."

The earliest corporate charters were granted only to special public enterprises such as insurance companies, banks, canal, dock and highway companies; they were "quasi-public agencies of the state."

1680s Beginning in the 1680s, William Penn sold 300,000 acres to wealthy English Quakers. Half the land granted to individuals in Massachusetts between 1630 and 1675 went to magistrates and governors; much of the rest went to "schoolmasters, ministers, and military heroes."

1756 Benjamin Franklin petitioned the British Crown for two Ohio River colonies. In 1766, he asserted claims for the Illinois Company, in which he held an interest, to 1.2 million acres along the Mississippi.

1787 Privatization of the public domain and economic crises: In 1787, disposal of the public lands by U.S. Congress began with three one-million-acre sales to the Ohio Company of Associates (for about 10 cents an acre), to the Scioto Company, and to John Sayles. Periodic peaks in land sales occurred during economic peaks in 1818-1819 (6.5 million acres), 1835-1836 (33 million acres), and 1854-1855 (25 million acres) -- peaks of borrowing and spending which were followed by crises and depressions. Eventually 70 percent of the public lands -- about a billion acres -- were transferred to private or corporate hands.

1791-1811 First National Bank incorporated by the U.S. government.

1805 U.S. Supreme Court rules that ownership of property implies the right to develop it for business purposes in Palmer v. Mulligan.

1810 Fletcher v. Peck, 6 Cranch 87 (1810) ruled that once government had granted land, tax exemptions, or charters, the state could not take away those privileges -- and that it wasn't even "within the province of the judiciary to take notice of corruption or examine the mischivious effects of legislative acts in determining their validity."

1811-1813 Luddites rise in rebellion against labor-saving devices, destroying three factories and 1,500 weaving machines; 14,000 soldiers put down the uprising; 3 dozen Luddites and a millowner were killed during the actions; 24 Luddites were hung. "Technology comes with the logic and aims of the economic system that spawns it."

1816-1836 Second National Bank incorporated by the U.S. government.

1819 McCulloch decision.

1819 In Dartmouth College v. Woodward, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Marshall declares the corporation (Dartmouth College) to be "an artificial being, invisible, intangible and existing only in contemplation of the law. Being a mere creature of law, it possesses only those properties which the charter of its creation confers upon it" -- but ruled that states (New Hampshire) could not impair contracts (change a corporate charter) which a previous legislature (King George) had given to Dartmouth. Judge Joseph Story's concurring opinion said the way to alter charters was to reserve that right; many states began to do that, even adding the right to their constitutions.

Dartmouth distiguished between private corporations operated for the benefit of shareholders, and public corporations operated for public purposes. The Constitutional protection offered to corporations by Dartmouth was contradicted by the 1837 Charles River Bridge decision, which declared, reasonably enough, that "the continued existence of a government would be of no great value, if by implications aand presumptions, it was disarmed of the powers necessary to accomplish the ends of its creation; and the functions it was designed to perform, transferred to the hands of privileged corporations." But Justice Marshall (like Alexander Hamilton) saw the privileged value procured by nationalism and property rights.

1837 Charles River Bridge v. Proprietors of the Warren Bridge, 11 Pet. 420 (1837).

1839 Bank of Augusta v. Earle ruled that corporations were "persons" domiciled in the state of their charter, but free to do business in other states, but the decision stopped short of declaring that corporations were citizens protected from state laws which violated the U.S. Constitution.

1844 In an early decision undermining local control, Louisville, Cincinnati & Charleston Railroad v. Letson, 2 How. 497 (U.S. 1844), 11 L.Ed. 353 ruled that corporations are citizens of the chartering state, but the Constitution's diversity clause (Art. III, Sec. 2) allows corporate cases to be heard in federal court.

1848 West River Bridge v. Dix, 6 How. 507 (1848), ruled that corporate property can be taken under eminent domain, which is inalienable; states cannot divest themselves of the powers of eminent domain, taxation, police power, of the ownership and control of navigable waters.

1850-1870 In the climax of the great public lands "barbecue," almost ten percent of the continental U.S. was transferred to 61 railroad corporations to be sold to settlers; a third of the 190 million acres was eventually forfeited for the railroads' failure to comply with the terms of the land grant contracts, but the railroads became the first modern corporation -- and millions of acres and billions of dollars of natural resoure assets still remain in the hands of railroad, mining, timber, and real estate corporations descended from the land grant railroads.

1855 The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Ohio was not allowed to alter its contract with an Ohio-incorporated bank, but declared that the people of the states had not "released their power over the artificial bodies which originate under the legislation of their representatives... Combinations of classes in society... united by the bond of a corporate spirit... unquestionably desire limitations upon the sovereignty of the people... But the framers of the Constitution were imbued with no desire to call into existence such combinations" (Dodge v. Woolsey, 59 U.S. 331 (1855)).

1868 Paul v. Virginia, 8 Wall. 168 (1868) ruled that corporations are not citizens within the meaning of the Constitution's Article IV, Section 2; the term "citizens" as there used applies only to natural persons, members of the body politic, owing allegience to the state, not to artificial persons created by the legislature and possessing only the attributes which the legislature has prescribed.

1873 Farmers' Anti-Monopoly Convention in Des Moines stated that "all corporations are subject to legislative control; [such control] should be at all times so used as to prevent moneyed corporations from becoming engines of oppression."

The Grangers and the Populist Movement:

By 1875, there were 800,000 members in 20,000 local Granges. During the 1877 depression, the first Farmers Alliance was formed in Texas; unlike the more conservative Grangers, the Alliances created cooperatives and other alternatives to escape crop-liens, indebtedness, and corporate domination of their economy. By 1886, there were 100,000 farmers in 2,000 Alliances. By 1887, 200,000 farmers had formed 3,000 Alliances; by 1889, there were 400,000 members in the National Farmers Alliance that sought political as well as economic reforms. But by 1896, the Populists had been "enticed" into the Democratic party, and even though William Jennings Bryan was being funded by Anaconda Copper, Hearst, and other corporations, big business and the press supported McKinley, in the first big-money election; Bryan received 6.5 million votes, while McKinley received 7.1 million.

In 1892, with conservative Grover Cleveland's entry to the White House, Henry Clay Frick wrote to his boss Andrew Carnegie "I cannot see that our interests are going to be affected one way or the other by the change in administration."

1876 In Munn v. Illinois, 94 U.S. 114 (1876), the U.S. Supreme Court approved state regulation of corporations with a public interest, in this case, the rates grain elevators charged to farmers, writing that "[property] clothed with the public interest, when used in a manner to make it of public consequence... must submit to be controlled by the public for the common good..." and ruled that the reasonableness of rates is a legislative, and not a judicial, question

Justice Stephen J. Field dissented, aghast at the thought that "if this be sound law... all property and all business in the state are held at the mercy of the majority of its legislature." Field's minority opinion, which first enunciated the view that the 14th Amendment's due process clause should protect private business from state regulation, soon prevailed in the 1886 Santa Clara case, which actually declared that corporations were persons protected under the Constitution. And in 1886, the state "Granger" laws were struck down, in Wabash v. Illinois.

1879 Henry George, in Progress and Poverty, wrote that only a land tax paid by landlords could eliminate monopoly and poverty.

1879 In the Orton case, the U.S. courts "limit[ed] the federal power of control over the railroad land grants while also severely restricting state remedies against the ultra vires acts of corporations" -- in other words corporate actions that go beyond the powers actually granted to corporations. Orton was one of several cases involving Ninth Circuit Court Judge Lorenzo Sawyer and the Southern Pacific Railroad (see also the 1882 San Mateo and 1886 Santa Clara cases). Orton led to settlers on railroad grant land being evicted by force; in the Mussel Slough battle near Visalia, California, in May 1980, five settlers and two railroad agents were killed.

1882 Rockefeller stated that "the day of combinations is here to stay. Individualism is gone, never to return."

1882 In the San Mateo Railroad Tax Case, U.S. Ninth Circuit Court Judge Lorenzo Sawyer declared corporations to be persons; Judge Field was also involved. See the 1886 Santa Clara decision.

1886 In Wabash v. Illinois, the Supreme Court struck down state Granger laws regulating railroad rates charged to farmers, declaring that interstate commerce could only be regulated by the federal government. In 1886 alone, the Court struck down 230 state laws passed to regulate corporations.

1886 "The court does not wish to hear argument on the question of whether the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which forbids a state to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, applies to these corporations. We are all of the opinion that it does." With that, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down local taxes on railroad property--and declared that corporations were persons; Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, 118 U.S. 394, 396 (1886)).

Sixty years later, Justice William O. Douglas stated that "there was no history, logic or reason given to support that view."

There were, however, the facts that U.S. Ninth Circuit Court Judge Lorenzo Sawyer was a shareholder in the Central Pacific Railroad, and that he and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen J. Field were close friends of Leland Stanford and other parties involved. "Sawyer was uniquely placed to expand the rights and prerogatives of corporations," that "what is extraordinary is the extent to which Sawyer used unorthodox techniques of statutory interpretation and judicial review in granting the corporation additional powers... [Sawyer's decisions] "served as an avenue for the expansion of a corporate construction of economic life, the judicial approval of vast aggregations of wealth and power, and the subordination of the public trust under public utilities."

"... of the Fourteenth Amendment cases brought before the Supreme Court between 1890 and 1910, nineteen dealt with the Negro, 288 dealt with corporations."

1887 The first U.S. regulatory agency, the Interstate Commerce Commission, was created to regulate a "natural" monopoly -- the railroads.

1888 The Republican Party opposed "all combinations of capital organized in trusts."

1890 Bacon Committee of Congress.

1890 The Sherman Antitrust Act, passed 52 to 1 in the Senate, and unanimously in the House, outlawed contracts, combinations, trusts or conspiracies which restrain or monopolize trade, but Sherman took control from the states -- and the corporations ignored it anyway, engaging in the biggest wave of mergers in the two decades after Sherman was passed.

Sherman Section 6 declared that any property transported across state or national boundaries which was owned under such a contract or by such a combination shall be forfeited to the U.S. Sections 7 and 8 defined corporations as persons.

1890 Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway v. Minnesota, 134 U.S. 418 (1890) began the judicial retreat from the Munn case, ruling that a commission's rates were subject to judicial review and due process; the Brass v. North Dakota, 153 U.S. 391 (1894) followed suit. Reagan v. Farmers Loan & Trust, 154 U.S. 362 (1894) and the Smythe v. Ames, 169 U.S. 466 (1898) went even further, ruling that rates are subject to judicial review even if set by a legislature.

1890s New Jersey passes its holding company act, allowing corporations to buy and sell the stock and property of other corporations, and to issue their own stock as payment; in 1892, New Jersey repealed its anti-trust law; in 1896, New Jersey's General Revision Act allowed incorporation for any legal purpose, and mergers were freely allowed.

The broadened holding corporation powers removed the 50-year limit on corporate life; corporations were authorized to operate in any state or foreign country; stock could be valued at whatever the directors chose, regardless of the corporation's assets; corporations were allowed to be classified into preferred and common, and thus given unequal power; directors were allowed to amend the by-laws without shareholder approval; directors could rely solely on proxy voting; and "shareholder" meetings were required to be held in New Jersey.

Between 1880 d 1896, New Jersey had fifteen corporations worth $20 milliion or more; by 1897-1904, there were 104 corporations that big in New Jersey. By 1902, these new powers were so attractive to corporations that their filing fees and franchise taxes provided enough revenue to New Jersey to allow the state to abolished property taxes.

Delaware, not to be outdone, passed a precedent to its General Corporation Law in 1899, allowing corporations to write any provisions they wished "creating, defining, limiting, and regulating the powers of the corporation, the directors and stockholders; provided, such provisions are not contrary to the laws of this state." (Which were rapidly becoming so favorable that nothing mattered). Delaware's 1967 law further broadened corporate management powers: only directors could propose amendments to the charter; directors were no longer required to disclose executive compensation; and officers and directors could be indemnified for criminal and civil cases without court or shareholder approval.

1892 Illinois Central Railroad v. Illinois, 146 U.S. 387 (1892) ruled that the state has an inalienable public trust, and cannot give away lands covered by navigable waters.

1893 U.S. v. Workingmen's Amalgamated Council, 54 Fed. 994 (E.D. LA) (1893) upheld an injunction against a union on the grounds that the Interstate Commerce Act required common carriers to accept freight without discrimination.

1893 Noble v. Union River Logging Railroad, 147 U.S. 165 (1893) was the first time corporations received Bill of Rights guarantees, in a ruling that the 5th Amendment's due process clause was violated by the U.S. Department of Interior's attempt to revoke approval of a right-of-way over federal public lands.

1894 Henry Demarest Lloyd published his classic Wealth Against Commonwealth.

1894-1905 Low v. Rees Printing (1894) struck down the 8-hour shift for mechanics and laborers. In re House Bill 203 in Colorado (1894) struck down the 8-hour day for mining and manufacturing. Ritchie v. People, 155 Ill. 98 (1895) struck down the 8-hour work law for women in garment manufacturing. Lochner v. New York (1905) struck down the 10-hour law for bakers.

Ten thousand poor people are estimated to have been sold into slavery each year in Great Britain. Between 1609 and the early 1800s, as many as two-thirds of the white colonists are estimated to have been forced to come over as slaves (sometimes called "indentured servants"). Between 1860 and 1900, 14 million immigrants entered the U.S., almost half of them between 1877 and 1890. In 1870, a third of the manufacturing workers in the U.S. were foreign born. By 1907, 80 percent of Carnegie's steelworkers were Eastern Europeans. Carnegie's native born whites received $22 per week. His Irish and Scots received $16 per week. Slavs, Russians, and Italians received $12 per week. Between 1880 and 1900, 35,000 workers were killed every year, and 536,000 workers were injured, every year.

In the 1880s, with more than 200,000 railroad construction workers, more than 2,000 railroad workers were being killed, and 30,000 injured, every year. Between 1890 and 1917, 72,000 railroad employees were killed on the tracks; close to two million were injured; another 158,000 were killed in repair shops and roundhouses.

Were these the bad old days of primitive technology and callous industry? In 1990, 46,000 people were killed in auto accidents. Today, 100,000 people die every year from toxins and other workplace hazards, and 5.5 million people are injured, and 3.3 million people are hospitalized, and 390,000 people contract new cases of occupational disease. Workplace carcinogens are estimated to cause between 23 and 38 percent of all cancer deaths each year. Consumers pay the price, too: 28,000 people die and 130,000 people are seriously injured each year by using dangerous products.

1895 The Supreme Court upheld a monopoly of 98 percent of the country's sugar production on the grounds that the Sherman Act applied only to commerce, and not to production, in U.S. v. E.C. Knight Company, 156 U.S. 1 (1895). Justice Harlan's dissent said the ruling put the Constitution in "a condition of helplessness... while capital combines... to destroy competition."

See also the 1918 decision which struck down a child-labor prohibition for the same reason.

1895 The Supreme Court said the Sherman Antitrust Act could be used against interstate labor strikes (in this case, the railway strike of 1894) because they were in restraint of trade.

In the 1910s, criminal syndicalism statutes also used antitrust laws (which were ostensibly for controlling monopolies) to control workers who tried to protect themselves from monopolies.

1897 New York investigation.

1899 Canadian investigation.

1900-1902 U.S. Industrial Commission on Trusts and Industrial Combinations. An act of Congress on June 18, 1898, created the two-year Commission of five Senators, five Representatives, and nine persons representing the different industries and employments, in order to investigate questions pertaining to immigration, labor, agriculture, manufacturing, and business, to furnish information and suggest such laws as may be made a basis for uniform legislation by the various states, in order to harmonize conflicting interests and to be equitable to the laborer, the employer, the producer, and the consumer. Volume 2 contains Statutes and Decisions of Federal, State, and Territorial Law; the Commission concludes that "it is a striking fact that not one of these statutes aims at especially at securing publicity regarding the business of the large industrial combinations through detailed reports, in order that the publicity itself may prove a remedial measure" (page 7). Other volumes deal with Prison Labor; Transportation; Labor Legislation; Distribution of Farm Products; Capital and Labor; Chicago Labor Disputes of 1900; Transportation; Agriculture and Agricultural Labor; Agriculture and Taxation; Capital and Labor I the Mining Industry; Trusts and Industrial Combinations; Capital and Labor in Manufactures; Immigration; Foreign Legislation on Labor; Labor Organizations, Labor Disputes and Arbitration; Industrial Combinations in Europe.

1903 Teddy Rooosevelt tried to distinguish between good and bad trusts with his Antitrust Division, established under the Department of Justice, and his Bureau of Corporations.

1904 In the Northern Securities case, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the giant merger of the robber barons J.P. Morgan and Jim Hill's railroads to be illegal, but failed to control the Northern Securities monopoly. The Supreme Court finally recognized the merger, by then called the Burlington Northern, in 1970.

1905-1915 The U.S. Bureau of Corporations made annual reports to the Secretary of Commerce on the beef industry (1905); transportation of petroleum (1906); petroleum industry (1907-09); cotton exchanges (1908-09, 1912); water transportation (1909-13); corporate taxation (1909-15); tobacco industry (1909-15); steel industry (1911-13); water power development (1912); International Harvester (1913); lumber industry (1913-14); farm machinery trade associations (1915); Oklahoma oil field (1915); state laws concerning foreign corporations (1915); trust laws and unfair competition (1915).

1906 Hale v. Henkel. In a tobacco antitrust case, the Supreme Court rejected the corporation's attempt to use the 5th Amendment, but ruled that overly broad subpoenas for corporate documents could be a violation of a corporation's 4th Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure.

"The corporation is a creature of the state. It is presumed to be incorporated for the benefit of the public. It receives certain privileges and franchises, and holds them subject to the laws of the state and the limitations of its charter..."

1911 American Tobacco Company ordered dissolved.

1911 Supreme Court orders Standard Oil broken into 33 corporations in Standard Oil of New Jersey v. United States, 221 U.S. 83 (1911). "All who recall the condition of the country in 1890 will remember that there was everywhere, among the people generally, a deep feeling of unrest. The nation had been rid of human slavery-fortunately, as all now feel-but the conviction was universal that the country was in real danger from another kind of slavery sought to be fastened on the American people: namely, the slavery that would result from aggregations of capital in the hands of a few individuals and corporations controlling, for their own profit ad advantage exclusively, the entire business of the country, including the production and sale of the necessities of life."

Standard Oil of New Jersey has since become Exxon; Standard of California has become Chevron; and Standard Oil of New York (Socony-Vaccuum) has became Mobil.

1912 Pujo Committee hearings investigate the banking monopoly.

1913 The Underwood Tariff Act established a graduated income tax.

1913 The 1901 acquisition of the Southern Pacific Railroad by the Union Pacific was struck down by the Supreme Court. The UP acquired the SP again in 1996.

1913-1914 Louis Brandeis' "Other People's Money and How the Bankers Use It" first appeared in Harper's Weekly magazine.

1913-1914 U.S. Bureau of Corporations' The Lumber Industry showed the extent of the concentration of corporate ownership of the nation's forestland by Southern Pacific Railroad, Northern Pacific Railroad, and Weyerhaeuser.

"If monopoly persists, monopoly will always sit at the helm of government. I do not expect monopoly to restrain itself. If there are men in this country big enough to own the government of the United States, they are going to own it." (President Woodrow Wilson).

1914 Federal Reserve bank system organized.

1914 The Clayton Act legislated price discrimination, tying contracts and exclusive dealing, mergers, and interlocking directorates within the same industry, and said labor unions are not trusts.

1914 The U.S. Federal Trade Commission was established as an independent, quasi-judicial agency empowered to prohibit unfair methods of competition not specifically prohibited by the Sherman and Clayton acts. FTC authority has led to the legislation directed at the meat industry (1921), banks (1933 and 1934), utilities (1935), Robinson-Patman (1936), and Celler-Kefauver (1950).

1916 The federal Webb-Pomerene Act allowed monopolies for exports.

1916 The Shipping Act exempted common-carrier rate agreements from anti-trust law if they were approved by the Maritime Commission.

1917 Idaho became the first state to enact criminal syndicalism laws; Idaho's was written by an attorney for timber and mining corporations. Twenty-three other states followed. The laws were used to justify suppression of labor organizers, social and political activists, and foreigners.

1918 Supreme Court struck down the Keating-Owen Child Labor Law of 1916, which prohibited interstate commerce of goods produced with child labor, on the grounds that the Sherman Anti-Trust Act applied only to commerce (the transportation of goods), and not to the production of those goods.

1918 After simultaneous raids on 48 Wobbly halls, the government crushed the Industrial Workers of the World in U.S. v. Haywood et al. The five-month trial of 101 Wobblies resulted in prison sentences of up to 20 years and fines totaling $2.5 million, and a 44,000 page transcript.

1919-1920 U.S. Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, using the Deportation Act of 1918, raids activists and foreigners. About 10,000 people were arrested in 70 cities (71 percent of the 1,500 deportation orders were canceled by the Dept. of Labor; even Palmer's assistant, J. Edgar Hoover, agreed to raids were unconstitutional).

1920 U.S. Steel found to be a legal "good trust" as defined by the "rule of reason" in the 1911 tobacco and Standard Oil cases.

1920-1924 Silverthorne Lumber v. U.S., 251 U.S. 385 (1920), and FTC v. American Tobacco, 264 U.S. 298 (1924) ruled that government officers seizing corporate papers violated the corporation's protections against 4th Amendment unreasonable search and seizure.

1921 Packers and Stockyards Act.

1921 Evidence of conspiracy by businessmen disallowed as evidence in the Wobblies' Centralia Massacre case.

1922 Agricultural seller cooperatives were exempted from anti-trust laws. Additional legislation was passed in 1926 and 1937.

1925 Gitlow ruled that Constitutional protections for corporations included the 14th Amendment, freedom of speech and press, and the 5th Amendment.

1929 ? U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis condemned criminal syndicalism laws, saying "the deterrents ordinarily to be applied to prevent crime are education and punishment for violations of the law, not abridgements of the rights of free speech and assembly."

1933 Pecora hearings.

1933 Securities Act.

1933 Brandeis dissent in Louis K. Liggett Co. v. Lee, 53 S. Ct. 481.

1934 Securities Exchange Act.

1935 Public Utility Holding Company Act.

1936 Nye "merchant of death" hearings into World War I.

1936 Robinson-Patman Act forbade price discrimination.

1936 IBM v. U.S., 298 U.S. 131. See also the 1969 suit in which the U.S. charged IBM with monopoly of the computer market.

1937 Miller-Tydings Act legalized price-fixing between manufacturers and dealers to protect inefficient small dealers.

1937 National Labo Relations Board v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp., 301 U.S. 1, 81 L. Ed 893, 57 Sup. Ct. 615 (1937) ruled that Congress could "protect interstate commerce from the paralyzing consequences of industrial war" (labor organizing).

1938 Corporate personhood was challenged in the dissenting opinion of Hugo Black in Connecticut General Life Insurance Co. v. Johnson, 303 U.S. 77 (1938).

1938 FDR appointed Thurman Arnold head of the Department of Justice's Antitrust Division and increased its budget from $413,000 in 1938 to $2.3 million in 1942. His enthusiasm caused the DOJ to reign in the Antitrust Division, and Arnold left in 1943.

1938 Temporary National Economic Committee was established. TNEC reports include Congressional hearings on the concentration of economic power (1939-41); U.S. Steel (1940); patents and industrial progress (1942); petroleum industry (1942); and on investment and business activity (1944).

1938 The Subcommittee of Federal Licensing of Corporations held four volumes' worth of hearings on Senate Bill 3072 sponsored by populist Senator Joseph O'Mahoney of Wyoming and Senator William Borah. O'Mahoney said "a corporation has no rights; it has only privileges." See also O'Mahoney's testimony in the closing the closing session of TNEC, March 11, 1941.

1939-1941 TNEC monopoly hearings.

1941 Final TNEC report Investigation of Concentration of Economic Power. "The principal instrument of the concentration of economic power and wealth has been the corporate charter with unlimited power."

1944 International Monetary Fund (with the U.S. and Europe having veto power) and the World Bank (International Bank for Reconstruction and Development) established at the Bretton Woods conference.

1945 Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa) found to be illegal; court ordered Alcoa to sever ties with Aluminum of Canada (Alcan) and to license other aluminum producers under its patents. After the war, U.S. aluminum plants were given to Kaiser and Reynolds, and in the 1950s, to other companies.

1947 U.S. v. Henry S. Morgan et al.

1948 Reed-Bulwinkle Act amended the Interstate Commerce Act to legalize price-fixing by rail, water, or motor carrier "rate bureaus."

1949 Corporate personhood was challenged by U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas; he stated that "there was no history, logic or reason given to support [the] view" of the Supreme Court in the 1886 Santa Clara decision that corporations were "persons' protected by the U.S. Constitution.

1950 Celler-Kefauver Act amended Section 7 of the Clayton Act to prohibit the lessening of competition through the acquisition of another company's assets (the Clayton Act prohibited only monopoly through acquisition of stock); like the Clayton Act, the Celler-Kefauver attempts to prevent monopoly. In the next 16 years, the FTC and DOJ challenged 800 mergers in 200 complaints. By 1966, 62 percent of the manufacturing corporations with assets exceeding $1 billion had been challenged in their acquisitions of other companies.

1953 Baseball declared by the Supreme Court to be exempt from anti-trust laws.

1956 AT&T consent decree.

1957 U.S. Senate hearings on Concentration in American Industry.

1960 Bank Merger Act directed regulatory agencies to consider the competitive effects of mergers before approving them. Affected by the Supreme Court's 1963 Philadelphia Bank decision, which declared that even approved bank mergers were not immune from anti-trust prosecution.

1965 House Antitrust Subcommittee (chaired by Celler) probe on interlocking directorates.

1966 Bank Merger Act allowed anti-competitive mergers if they are outweighed by the convenience and needs of the community to be served.

1969 Overseas Private Insurance Corporation (OPIC) created under the U.S. State Department to provide political risk insurance to corporations investing in developing countries.

1969 U.S. charged IBM with monopoly of the computer market (see also the 1936 decision IBM v. U.S., 298 U.S. 131).

1969 Newspaper Preservation Act exempts newspapers from anti-trust law.

1960s-1970s. Senate Antitrust and Monopoly Subcommittee (chaired by Philip Hart) hearings resulted in more than 200 volumes totaling more than 100,000 pages.

1971 U.S. House of Representatives report on corporate conglomerates.

1973 National Conference on Land Reform in San Francisco.

1976 Buckley v. Valeo granted freedom of speech to corporations by ruling that corporate political contributions can be limited, but their spending cannot -- in effect equating money with speech. As Ward Morehouse has pointed out, if money is speech, then a corporation can speak louder than any person.

1976 U.S. v. Martin Linen Supply Co., 430 U.S. 504 (1976). Corporations used 5th Amendment protection against double jeopardy to avoid retrial in an antitrust case.

1976 Virginia Board of Pharmacy v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Council, 425 U.S. 748 (1976) used the 1st Amendment to protect advertising as free speech.

1977 Marshall v. Barlow, 436 U.S. 307 (1977) used the 4th Amendment to thwart federal occupational health and safety inspections.

1977 First National Bank v. Bellotti, 435 U.S. 765 (1977) used the 1st Amendment to overturn state restrictions on corporate spending on political referendums.

1977 Deregulation of airlines. 13,000 striking air traffic controllers fired by President Reagan in 1981.

1980s Deregulation and mergers & acquisitions waves get underway as Reagan's ant-trust department allows mergers which destroy competition as long as they increase "efficiency." But mergers cost money (to pay the fees of the executives and brokers who set them up), and trigger poison pills -- both of which increase debt and thus reduce efficiency, and neither of which increases productive capacity -- just profits for management and some shareholders.

In 1961, to top 100 industrial corporations in the U.S. owned 44 percent of the non-financial assets; in 1970 they owned 51 percent; in 1984, they owned 61 percent.

In the mid-1980s:

IBM controlled 65 percent of the computer industry; General Electric and Westinghouse controlled 85 percent of the heavy electrical equipment industry; Boeing and McDonnell Douglas controlled 80 percent of the aircraft industry; American Brands, RJ Reynolds, and Liggett and Meyers controlled 80 percent of the tobacco trade.

"Ninety-eight percent of all companies in the United States account for only about 25 percent of the business in this country; the remaining two percent account for nearly 75 percent. The top 500 industrial corporations, which represent only one-tenth of one percent of this elite two percent, control over two-thirds of the business resources, employ two-thirds of the industrial workers, account for 60 percent of the sales, and collect over 70 percent of the profits."

1980 Deregulation of railroads (Staggers Act); trucking (Motor Carrier Act); and banking (Depository Institutions Deregulation Act). The collapse and bailout of the savings and loan industry follows in 1989.

1980 Central Hudson Gas & Electric v. Public Service Commission of New York, 447 U.S. 557 (1980) protected advertising as property, ruling that commercial speech is purely between the advertiser and its audience.

1982 Thirteen-year anti-trust suit against AT&T ends with spin-off of regional Bell companies, which were merging again by the 1990s.

1986 Pacific Gas & Electric Co. v. Public Utility Commission, 475 U.S. 1 (1986) overturned state regulation involving utility bills enclosures designed to lower utility rates, ruling that the envelope was property belonging to PG&E.

1988 Pentagon military-industrial procurement scandal -- followed by the mergers of the major military contractors.

1989 Chicago Board of Trade and Chicago Mercantile Exchange indicted for fraud and racketeering.

1994 NAFTA

1994 GATT Uruguay Round.

1993 Law passed allowing military contractors to use public funds to pay for corporate mergers.Between 1993 and early 1997, mergers among 21 corporations cost the taxpayers $830 million -- with $3 billion in claims pending. For example, the merger of Lockheed and Martin Marietta merger cost taxpayers $162 million (including $32 million of the $92 million bonuses to executives) -- and may cost $855 million more. The merger of Boeing and McDonnell Douglas could exceed $500 million. "McBoeing" could end up with two thirds of the Pentagon's $100 billion annual business, with the bulk of the rest going to Lockheed Martin, Hughes, Raytheon, and Northrop.

1994 GATT Uruguay Round approved. World Trade Organization created.

1996 Deregulation of telecommunications industries.

1998 On October 30, the G7 nations accepted the principle that conditions attached to IMF assistance packages should be expanded to include trade liberalisation, government budget allocations, labour laws, social legislation, and good governance.


Back To Primer main page

 

Back To PIN Home Page