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decided: January 9, 1973.



White, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Burger, C. J., and Brennan, Blackmun, and Rehnquist, JJ., joined. Burger, C. J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 308. Douglas, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 308. Marshall, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Douglas, Stewart, and Powell, JJ., joined, post, p. 309.

Author: White

[ 409 U.S. Page 290]

 MR. JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question before us is whether in this antitrust case the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit properly stayed further judicial action pending administrative proceedings which the court deemed available under the Commodity Exchange Act, 42 Stat. 998, as amended, 7 U. S. C. § 1 et seq.

The case began when petitioner Ricci filed a complaint against the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, its president, vice president, and chairman of the board, and against the Siegel Trading Company, a member of the Exchange, and its president, charging a conspiracy in violation of the Sherman Act, 26 Stat. 209, as amended, 15 U. S. C. § 1. The complaint alleged that Ricci had purchased a membership in the Exchange in 1967, using funds borrowed from the Trading Company, and that in February 1969 the Exchange, at the instance of the Trading Company, transferred the membership to another, without notice and hearing, utilizing a blank transfer authorization that had previously been revoked.*fn1 Allegedly,

[ 409 U.S. Page 291]

     this course of conduct violated both the rules of the Exchange and the Commodity Exchange Act and was pursuant to an unlawful conspiracy aimed at restraining the conduct of Ricci's business. The result was, the complaint asserted, that Ricci was excluded from trading on the Exchange from February 11, 1969, until March 4, 1969, when he purchased another membership at a considerably higher price than the transferred membership had previously cost.

On motion of respondents, the District Court dismissed the complaint. The Court of Appeals reversed that judgment; but because the challenged conduct was deemed subject to the jurisdiction of the Secretary of Agriculture (Secretary) or the Commodity Exchange Commission (Commission) by virtue of the provisions of the Commodity Exchange Act, the District Court was directed to stay further proceedings to permit administrative action to take place. 447 F.2d 713 (CA7 1971). We granted certiorari, 405 U.S. 953 (1972), and now affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals.


The Commodity Exchange Act,*fn2 first passed in 1922 and from time to time amended -- the most recent substantial

[ 409 U.S. Page 292]

     amendments being in 1968 -- makes dealing in commodity futures a crime except when undertaken by or through members of a board of trade that meets certain statutory criteria and that is designated as a "contract market" by the Secretary. 7 U. S. C. §§ 6 and 6h.*fn3 Contract markets must file with the Secretary

[ 409 U.S. Page 293]

     their bylaws, rules, and regulations, and have the express statutory duty to enforce all such prescriptions (1) "which relate to terms and conditions in

[ 409 U.S. Page 294]

     contracts of sale . . . or relate to other trading requirements, and which have not been disapproved by the Secretary of Agriculture pursuant to" his statutory authority, id., § 7a (8),*fn4 or (2) "which provide minimum financial

[ 409 U.S. Page 295]

     standards and related reporting requirements for futures commission merchants who are members of such contract market, and which have been approved by the Secretary of Agriculture," id., § 7a (9).*fn5 If any contract market is not enforcing its rules of government made a condition of its designation, or if it is violating any provision of the Act, the Commission, an official agency established by the Act,*fn6 is authorized, upon notice and hearing and subject to judicial review, to suspend or revoke the designation of the board of trade as a contract market, id., § 8 (a),*fn7 or may

[ 409 U.S. Page 296]

     order such contract market and any director, officer, agent, or employee to cease and desist from such conduct, id., § 13a.*fn8 Under the relevant regulations, any interested

[ 409 U.S. Page 297]

     person having information concerning such violation may request the Commission to institute proceedings, or the Commission may initiate proceedings on its own motion,*fn9 and there is provision for persons seeking intervention in such proceedings.*fn10

[ 409 U.S. Page 298]


It was against this statutory background that petitioner alleged he had been deprived of his membership contrary to the rules of the Exchange, the Commodity

[ 409 U.S. Page 299]

     Exchange Act, and the Sherman Act. And it was in this context that the Court of Appeals, having concluded that the specific Exchange rules allegedly violated*fn11 were within the bounds of adjudicative and remedial jurisdiction of the Commodity Exchange Commission, directed the District Court to hold its hand and afford the opportunity for administrative consideration of the dispute between petitioner and the alleged coconspirator-defendants.

The problem to which the Court of Appeals addressed itself is recurring.*fn12 It arises when conduct seemingly

[ 409 U.S. Page 300]

     within the reach of the antitrust laws is also at least arguably protected or prohibited by another regulatory statute enacted by Congress. Often, but not always, the other regime includes an administrative agency with authority to enforce the major provisions of the statute in accordance with that statute's distinctive standards, which may or may not include concern for competitive considerations.

Silver v. New York Stock Exchange, 373 U.S. 341 (1963), was a case where the conduct challenged in an antitrust complaint was not within the jurisdiction of an administrative agency but was nevertheless claimed to be immune from antitrust challenge by virtue of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Silver sought to recover damages allegedly suffered when his wire connections with Exchange members were terminated without notice or hearing under Exchange rules adopted pursuant to the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, 48 Stat. 881, as amended, 15 U. S. C. § 78a et seq. Under this Act, the Securities and Exchange Commission had general power to approve or disapprove Exchange rules, but it had no authority to deal with challenges, such as Silver's, to specific applications of Exchange rules. Moreover, the statute conferred on the Exchange no express exemption from the antitrust laws. We declined to hold that Congress intended to oust completely the antitrust laws and supplant them with the self-regulatory scheme authorized

[ 409 U.S. Page 301]

     by the Exchange Act. Repeal of the antitrust laws was to be implied "only if necessary to make the Securities Exchange Act work, and even then only to the minimum extent necessary." 373 U.S., at 357. The question thus became the extent to which, if any, the "character and objectives of the duty of exchange self-regulation contemplated by the Securities Exchange Act are incompatible with the maintenance of an antitrust action." Id., at 358. Conceding that the "entire public policy of self-regulation, beginning with the idea that the Exchange may set up barriers to membership, contemplates that the Exchange will engage in restraints of trade which might well be unreasonable absent sanction by the Securities Exchange Act," id., at 360, and hence that "particular instances of exchange self-regulation which fall within the scope and purpose of the Securities Exchange Act may be regarded as justified in answer to the assertion of an antitrust claim," id., at 361, the Court finally concluded that nothing in the terms ...

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