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U.S. Supreme Court

Pfizer Inc. v. Government of India, 434 U.S. 308 (1978)

Pfizer Inc. v. Government of India

No. 76-749

Argued November 1, 1977

Decided January 11, 1978

434 U.S. 308


A foreign nation otherwise entitled to sue in the courts of this country held to be a "person" within the meaning of § 4 of the Clayton Act, and thus to be entitled to sue for treble damages under the federal antitrust laws to the same extent as any other plaintiff. Pp. 434 U. S. 311-320.

(a) Though no statutory provision or legislative history clearly covers the question whether a foreign nation is a "person" as the word is used in § 4 (which gives "any person" injured by antitrust violations the right to sue in district courts), Congress intended the word to have a broad and inclusive meaning, and in light of the antitrust laws' expansive remedial purpose, the Court has not narrowly construed the term. Pp 434 U. S. 311-313.

(b) Congress did not intend to make the treble damages remedy available only to consumers in this country, as is manifest from the inclusion of foreign corporations within the statutory definition of "person" and the fact that the antitrust laws extend to trade "with foreign countries." Pp. 434 U. S. 313-314.

(c) To deny a foreign plaintiff injured by an antitrust violation the right to sue would defeat the two purposes of § 4: to deter violators and deprive them of the "fruits of their illegality,'" and "to compensate victims of antitrust violations for their injuries." Illinois Brick Co. v. Illinois, 431 U. S. 720, 431 U. S. 746. Pp. 434 U. S. 314-315.

(d) When a foreign nation enters our commercial markets as a purchaser of goods or services, it can be victimized by anticompetitive practices just as surely as a private person or a domestic State, which, in Georgia v. Evans, 316 U. S. 159, was held to be a "person" within the meaning of the antitrust laws; and there is no reason why Congress would have wanted to deprive a foreign nation of the treble damages remedy available to others who suffer through violations of the antitrust laws. Pp. 434 U. S. 315-318.

(e) Foreign nations are generally entitled to prosecute civil claims in the courts of the United States upon the same basis as domestic corporations or individuals. To afford foreign nations the protection of the antitrust laws does not involve a judicial encroachment upon foreign policy, since only governments recognized by and at peace with the United States are entitled to access to this country's courts, and it is

Page 434 U. S. 309

within the exclusive power of the Executive Branch to determine which nations are entitled to sue. Pp. 434 U. S. 318-320.

550 F.2d 396, affirmed.

STEWART, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, WHITE, MARSHALL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. BURGER, C.J.,filed a dissenting opinion, in which POWELL and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined, post, p. 434 U. S. 320. POWELL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post p 434 U. S. 329. BLACKMUN, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

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