Resistance of Prices to Pressure for Cuts
Price Agreements Under the Antitrust Laws
Results to date of government efforts to promote voluntary price reductions have been largely negative. Prices of manufactured goods, in particular, have shown strong resistance to official and unofficial pressure for downward revision. President Truman looked to extensive price cuts to moderate demands for “second round” wage increases and thus remove the dangers of still higher prices and a possible collapse, brought on by a buyers' strike.
The President's public appeal for general price reductions, Apr. 10, immediately raised the possibility that joint action by businessmen to lower prices to the consumer would lead to prosecutions for violation of the antitrust laws. The Supreme Court has held that combinations to lower prices have no different standing under the Sherman Act from combinations to raise them. The President said he hoped a way could be found to save group action on prices for beneficent purposes from any taint of illegality and that the question was under study by Attorney General Clark.
No statement has since been issued by the Attorney General which gives any assurance that agreements among competing concerns to lower prices will not bring court action by the Department of Justice. Clark told Housing Expediter Creedon, in a letter made public May 13, that there would be no prosecutions of building materials suppliers who attended meetings to consider the need for “individual action for the reduction of prices.” At the same time he directed attention to the Housing Expediter's assurance that the meetings were not being held for the purpose of reaching “any agreements, understandings or joint action” on prices.