Matsushita Electrical Industrial Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp.

Petitioners are 21 Japanese corporations or Japanese-controlled American corporations that manufacture and/or sell “consumer electronic products” (CEPs) (primarily television sets). Respondents are American corporations that manufacture and sell television sets. In 1974, respondents brought an action in Federal District Court, alleging that petitioners, over a 20-year period, had illegally conspired to drive American firms from the American CEP market by engaging in a scheme to fix and maintain artificially high prices for television sets sold by petitioners in Japan and, at the same time, to fix and maintain low prices for the sets exported to and sold in the United States. Respondents claim that various portions of this scheme violated, inter alia, §§ 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act, § 2(a) of the Robinson-Patman Act, and § 73 of the Wilson Tariff Act. After several years of discovery, petitioners moved for summary judgment on all claims. The District Court then directed the parties to file statements listing all the documentary evidence that would be offered if the case went to trial. After the statements were filed, the court found the bulk of the evidence on which respondents relied was inadmissible, that the admissible evidence did not raise a genuine issue of material fact as to the existence of the alleged conspiracy, and that any inference of conspiracy was unreasonable. Summary judgment therefore was granted in petitioners’ favor. The Court of Appeals reversed. After determining that much of the evidence excluded by the District Court was admissible, the Court of Appeals held that the District Court erred in granting a summary judgment, and that there was both direct and circumstantial evidence of a conspiracy. Based on inferences drawn from the evidence, the Court of Appeals concluded that a reasonable factfinder could find a conspiracy to depress prices in the American market in order to drive out American competitors, which conspiracy was funded by excess profits obtained in the Japanese market.