State-Action Immunity and Section 5 of the FTC Act

Daniel A. Crane* & Adam Hester**

The state-action immunity doctrine of Parker v. Brown immunizes anticompetitive state regulations from preemption by federal antitrust law so long as the state takes conspicuous ownership of its anticompetitive policy. In its 1943 Parker decision, the Supreme Court justified this doctrine, observing that no evidence of a congressional will to preempt state law appears in the Sherman Act’s legislative history or context. In addition, commentators generally assume that the New Deal court was anxious to avoid re-entangling the federal judiciary in Lochner-style substantive due process analysis. The Supreme Court has observed, without deciding, that the Federal Trade Commission might not be bound by the Parker doctrine but instead enjoys “superior preemption” authority under Section 5 of the FTC Act. Drawing on the FTC Act’s legislative history and its institutional distinctiveness from Sherman Act enforcement, this Article makes an affirmative case for FTC super-preemption power over anticompetitive state laws.

* Frederick Paul Furth Sr. Professor of Law, University of Michigan Law School.
** J.D., May 2016, University of Michigan Law School.

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