Pan Am’s Old Antitrust Judgment Among First to Hit the Trash

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By Victoria Graham

The Justice Department filed a motion July 9 to terminate 19 antitrust judgments in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, including a 1978 agreement between bygone airlines Pan American World Airways and Trans World Airlines.

The filing is the first step toward a department goal to rid court dockets of nearly 1,300 legacy settlements that have no set end date and are viewed as unnecessary. Some of the decrees date back to the early 20th century.

“Today’s filing is the first of many that we will make in courts around the country in our effort to terminate obsolete judgments,” Makan Delrahim, chief of the antitrust division at the DOJ, said in a press release.

“The vast majority of these judgments no longer protect competition because of changes in industry conditions, changes in economics, changes in law, or for other reasons,” the division said in April.

Companies enter into consent decrees to be allowed to complete a merger or to correct anticompetitive behavior such as price fixing. In mergers, they either require the merged entity to divest some of its assets or bar it from engaging in certain behaviors. Most of the decrees targeted by the DOJ are never-ending because it wasn’t until 1979 that the agency began including sunset provisions in the settlements with companies.

The 19 decrees to be terminated were set between 1926 and 1981. Many of the decrees feature now-defunct companies such as Pan Am.

The DOJ formally announced its legacy judgment initiative April 25. The department first picked decrees that were entered in district courts in Washington and Alexandria, Va., but it has expanded its consent decree termination recommendations nationwide. More than 70 judgments are posted on the DOJ’s website.

All decrees are first subject to a 30-day public review period. After the comment period, the DOJ still reserves the right to do away with judgments it continues to view as unnecessary.

To contact the reporter on this story: Victoria Graham in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Fawn Johnson at

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