National Soc’y of Prof. Engineers v. United States

The United States brought this civil antitrust suit against petitioner, the National Society of Professional Engineers, alleging that petitioner’s canon of ethics prohibiting its members from submitting competitive bids for engineering services suppressed competition in violation of § 1 of the Sherman Act. Petitioner defended on the ground, inter alia, that, under the Rule of Reason, the canon was justified because it was adopted by members of a learned profession for the purpose of minimizing the risk that competition would produce inferior engineering work endangering the public safety. The District Court, granting an injunction against the canon, rejected this justification, holding that the canon on its face violated § 1 of the Sherman Act, thus making it unnecessary to make findings on the likelihood that competition would produce the dire consequences envisaged by petitioner. The Court. of Appeals affirmed, although modifying the District Court’s injunction in certain respects so that, as modified, it prohibits petitioner from adopting any official opinion, policy statement, or guideline stating or implying that competitive bidding is unethical.