Standard Oil Company Must Dissolve in 6 Months...
Special to The New York Times
Washington, May 15, 1911 -- Final decision was returned late this afternoon by the Supreme Court of the United States in one of the two great trust cases which have been before it for so long -- that of the Standard Oil Company. The decree of the Circuit Court for the Eighth Circuit directing the dissolution of the Oil Trust was affirmed, with minor modifications in two particulars.
The Leviathan of its day:
Established in 1870 as a corporation in Ohio, it was the largest oil refiner in the world and operated as a major company trust and was one of the world's first and largest multinational corporations until it was broken up by the United States Supreme Court in 1911.
.... By 1890, Standard Oil controlled 88% of the refined oil flows in the United States. The state of Ohio successfully sued Standard, compelling the dissolution of the trust in 1892. But Standard only separated off Standard Oil of Ohio and kept control of it. Eventually, the state of New Jersey changed its incorporation laws to allow a company to hold shares in other companies in any state. So, in 1899, the Standard Oil Trust, based at 26 Broadway in New York, was legally reborn as a holding company, the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey (SOCNJ), which held stock in 41 other companies, which controlled other companies, which in turn controlled yet other companies. This conglomerate was seen by the public as all-pervasive, controlled by a select group of directors, and completely unaccountable.
In 1904, Standard controlled 91% of production and 85% of final sales. Most of its output was kerosene, of which 55% was exported around the world. After 1900 it did not try to force competitors out of business by underpricing them. The federal Commissioner of Corporations concluded that beyond question, Standard's dominant position in the refining industry was due "to unfair practices, to abuse of the control of pipe-lines, to railroad discriminations, and to unfair methods of competition."
Holy Mackerals! Shades of Comcast.
And Exxon Mobile.
And BP/ARCO/AMOCO et al.
And Bank of America and Chase/Manhattan/UP Morgan/Bear Stearns/Washington Mutual....
And the insurance conglomerates.
And the pharmaceutical conglomerates. And the industrial strength health care provider conglomerates.
Whew! It's getting kind of hot and crowded in here. I need me a bottle of Sherman Anti-Trust and a couple of Theodore Roosevelts.
And an Ida Minerva Tarbell or two wouldn't hurt, even though we've got Matt Taibbi gnawing on Goldman Sachs and a few other modern muckrakers.