Postal Service v. Flamingo Industries (USA) Ltd., 540 U.S. 736 (2004)

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certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the ninth circuit

No. 02-1290. Argued December 1, 2003—Decided February 25, 2004

After their contract to make mail sacks for the United States Postal Service was terminated, respondents brought this suit alleging, inter alia, that the Postal Service had sought to suppress competition and create a monopoly in mail sack production. The District Court dismissed the antitrust claims, concluding that the Postal Service is not subject to liability under federal antitrust law. The Ninth Circuit reversed, holding that the Postal Service can be liable but that it has a limited immunity from antitrust liability for conduct undertaken at Congress' command.

Held: The Postal Service is not subject to antitrust liability. In both form and function, it is not a separate antitrust person from the United States but is part of the Government, and so is not controlled by the antitrust laws. Pp. 739-748. (a) The waiver of immunity from suit provided by the Postal Reorganization Act (PRA)—which gives the Postal Service the power "to sue and be sued in its official name," 39 U. S. C. 401—does not suffice by its own terms to subject the Postal Service to liability under the Sherman Act. The two-step analysis of FDIC v. Meyer, 510 U. S. 471, 484, applies here. Meyer's first step is met because the PRA's sue-and-be-sued clause effects a waiver of sovereign immunity for actions against the Postal Service. However, Meyer's second step for finding liability—whether the Sherman Act's substantive prohibitions apply to the Postal Service—is not satisfied. The Sherman Act imposes liability on any "person," defined "to include corporations and associations existing under or authorized by the laws of . . . the United States." 15 U. S. C. 7. In holding that the United States is not a person authorized to bring a treble-damages claim for its own alleged antitrust injury under the Sherman Act, United States v. Cooper Corp., 312 U. S. 600, 606-607, this Court observed that, if the definition of "person" included the United States, the Government would be exposed to liability as an antitrust defendant, a result Congress could not have intended, id., at 607, 609. Although the antitrust statutes were later amended to allow the United States to bring antitrust suits, see 15 U. S. C. 15a, Congress did not thereby change the statutory definition of "person." So, Cooper's

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