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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Real Estate Boards, 339 U.S. 485 (1950)

United States v. National Association of Real Estate Boards

No. 428

Argued March 31, 1950

Decided May 8, 1950

339 U.S. 485


1. That no interstate commerce is involved is not a barrier to a suit to enjoin violations of § 3 of the Sherman Act involving purely local conduct in the District of Columbia, since Congress specifically made § 3 applicable to such conduct, and had power to do so under Art. I, § 8, Clause 17 of the Constitution. Atlantic Cleaners & Dyers v. United States, 286 U. S. 427. P. 339 U. S. 488.

2. If the business of a real estate broker is "trade" within the meaning of § 3 of the Sherman Act, evidence that the Washington Real Estate Board had adopted standard rates of commissions for its members, that its code of ethics required members to maintain such standard rates, that members agreed to abide by the code, and that the prescribed rates were used in the great majority of transactions, although the Board had invoked no sanctions for departure therefrom, is sufficient to show a price-fixing scheme violative of § 3. Pp. 339 U. S. 488-489.

(a) That such price-fixing may serve a worthy or honorable end is immaterial. P. 339 U. S. 489.

(b) That no penalties were imposed for deviations from the price schedules is immaterial. P. 339 U. S. 489.

3. The business of a real estate broker is "trade" within the meaning of § 3 of the Sherman Act. Pp. 339 U. S. 489-492.

(a) The services of real estate brokers cannot be assimilated to those of employees, nor can the present case be compared to those involving the application of the antitrust laws to labor unions -- notwithstanding § 6 of the Clayton Act declaring that "the labor of a human being is not a commodity or article of commerce" and exempting labor unions and their members from the antitrust laws. Pp. 339 U. S. 489-490.

(b) The fact that the business of a real estate broker involves the sale of personal services, rather than commodities, does not take it out of the category of "trade" within the meaning of § 3 of the Sherman Act, which is aimed at the fixing of prices and

Page 339 U. S. 486

other unreasonable restraints in the case of services, as well as goods. Pp. 339 U. S. 490-491.

(c) The activity of a real estate broker is commercial and carried on for profit, and the competitive standards which the Sherman Act sought to preserve in the field of trade and commerce are as relevant to the brokerage business as to other branches of commercial activity. P. 339 U. S. 492.

4. That appellees were acquitted in a criminal prosecution for conspiracy to violate § 3 of the Sherman Act is no bar to this civil suit to enjoin the same conspiracy, since the doctrine of res judicata is not applicable. Helvering v. Mitchell, 303 U. S. 391. Pp. 339 U. S. 492-494.

5. The finding of the District Court that the National Association of Real Estate Boards and its executive vice-president did not in fact conspire with the Washington Board to fix and prescribe the rates of commission to be charged by members of the latter is sustained, since it was not "clearly erroneous" within the meaning of Rule 52 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Pp. 339 U. S. 494-496.

84 F.Supp. 802 affirmed in part and reversed in part.

In a civil suit in a federal district court to enjoin a conspiracy to fix rates of commissions of real estate brokers in the District of Columbia in violation of § 3 of the Sherman Act, judgment was entered for defendants. 84 F.Supp. 802. On appeal to this Court, affirmed in part and reversed in part, p. 339 U. S. 496.

Page 339 U. S. 487

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