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U.S. Supreme Court

Agency Holding v. Malley-Duff, 483 U.S. 143 (1987)

Agency Holding Corp. v. Malley-Duff & Associates, Inc.

No. 86-497

Argued April 21, 1987

Decided June 22, 1987*

483 U.S. 143


In February 1978, petitioner Crown Life Insurance Co. terminated its relationship with its agent, respondent Malley-Duff & Associates (Malley-Duff), for failure to satisfy a production quota. Alleging, inter alia, that the real reason for the termination was petitioners' desire to acquire its lucrative territory, Malley-Duff brought suit in March, 1981, under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). The Federal District Court granted petitioners' summary judgment motion, dismissing the RICO claims on the ground that they were barred by Pennsylvania's 2-year fraud statute of limitations. In the absence of a RICO statute of limitations, the court concluded that the 2-year statute was the best state law analogy. However, the Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the State's "catchall" 6-year residual statute of limitations contained the appropriate limitations period for all RICO claims arising in the State.


1. The 4-year statute of limitations applicable to Clayton Act civil enforcement actions, 15 U.S.C. § 15b, applies in RICO civil enforcement actions. Because the predicate acts that may establish a civil RICO violation are far ranging and cannot be reduced to a single generic classification, and because important RICO concepts were unknown to common law, there is a need for a uniform limitations period for civil RICO in order to avoid intolerable uncertainty for parties and time-consuming litigation. The Clayton Act offers the closest analogy to civil RICO, in light of similarities in purpose and structure between the statutes, and the clear legislative intent to pattern RICO's civil enforcement provision on the Clayton Act's. Moreover, the Clayton Act provides a far closer analogy to RICO than any state statute. It is unlikely that Congress intended state "catchall" statutes of limitations to apply, or that such statutes would fairly serve the federal interests vindicated by RICO, and, in those States that do not have catchalls, any selection of a state statute would be at odds with RICO's sui generis nature. RICO cases

Page 483 U. S. 144

commonly involve interstate transactions, and the possibility of a multiplicity of applicable state limitations periods presents the dangers of forum-shopping and of complex, expensive, and unnecessary litigation. Application of a uniform federal period also avoids the possibility that application of unduly short state periods would thwart the legislative purpose of providing an effective remedy. Section 15b is preferable to the "catchall" federal 5-year statute of limitations that applies in RICO criminal prosecutions, since that statute does not reflect any congressional balancing of the competing equities unique to RICO civil enforcement actions. Pp. 483 U. S. 146-156.

2. Because this litigation was filed less than four years after Malley-Duff's termination as Crown Life's agent, which is the earliest time Malley-Duff's RICO action could have accrued, the litigation is timely. Pp. 483 U. S. 156-157.

792 F.2d 341, affirmed.

O'CONNOR, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which REHNQUIST, C.J.,and BRENNAN, WHITE, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. SCALIA, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post p. 483 U. S. 157.

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