Little Bits of History

Fine! Just Fine?

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 3, 2015
Kenesaw Mountain Landis  and Rockefeller

Kenesaw Mountain Landis and John D. Rockefeller

August 3, 1907: Federal Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis imposes a fine. President Theodore Roosevelt had appointed Landis as a Federal Judge two years earlier. He was appointed to the Northern District of Illinois. He sentenced Standard Oil Company of Indiana for breaking the Elkins Rebate Law – 1,903 times. The Elkins Act was passed in 1903 as an amendment to the Interstate Commerce Act. Prior to the Act, cattle and petroleum companies were able to secure rebates for moving their products between larger cities, something unavailable to the smaller businesses. The carriers needed the income from the larger businesses and would underbid each other in order to be able to secure the overall larger revenues from moving great amounts of product. This was seen as unfair to smaller businesses and the rebates were prevented which was supposed to make the prices for smaller businesses drop since they no longer needed to supplement the losses from the larger businesses. There was an insubstantial drop in carrier charges overall.

A suit was brought against Standard Oil for moving oil from Whiting, Indiana, to East St. Louis, Illinois, and from Chappell, Illinois, to St. Louis, Missouri. Between September 1, 1903 and March 1, 1905 the oil company had shipped 1,903 cars of oil after receiving concessions on price. There was a reduction of 441 counts as they were considered to not be involved. The company entered a plea of “Not Guilty.” The verdict came through as “Guilty” on all of the remaining 1,462 counts. Landis imposed the maximum fine on each count – $20,000. The total fine was $29,240,000 which was the largest fine ever placed on a company at the time. Standard Oil appealed and the case was reversed.

Landis was born in Ohio in 1866 and dropped out of school at the age of 15. He had several civil service jobs and at the age of 21, applied to become a lawyer. There were no educational requirements for the Indiana bar at the time. He became a lawyer and after little success, then decided to go to law school. He opened a private practice in Chicago which did better and moved from there to become the personal secretary of the US Secretary of State, Walter Gresham in 1893. When Gresham died two years later, he refused the offer of an ambassadorship. He served as a Federal Judge from 1905 to 1922. He was also the first Commissioner of Baseball from 1920 until his death in 1944 at the age of 78. While this case was noted for its huge fine, he is best remembered for his handling of the Black Sox scandal and expelling eight Chicago White Sox players after they threw the 1919 World Series.

John D. Rockefeller founded Standard Oil in 1889 as part of the Standard Oil trust. With the rise of the automobile, Indiana Standard was chosen to proved gasoline to consumers in 1911 and Standard Oil separated from the trust. Through mergers and acquisitions, the company became Amoco Corporation with headquarters in Chicago. In 1998 the company merged with British Petroleum and by 2001 BP announced that all stations were to be converted to the BP name or else be closed. BP is headquartered in London and in 2014 had 84,500 employees. Their 2014 income was about $358.7 billion with a profit of $4 billion. Carl-Henric Svanberg is Chairman of the company.

I know the world isn’t fair, but why isn’t it ever unfair in my favor? – Bill Watterson

In the civilisation a new law of hostility prevails. And to call it the law of the jungle is unfair to the jungle. – Colin Wilson

A fine is a tax for breaking the law; a tax is a fine for obeying the law. – J. H. Goldfuss

Society is well governed when the people obey the magistrates, and the magistrates obey the laws. – Solon

Also on this day: Columbus Sailed the Ocean Blue – In 1492, Christopher Columbus set sail for China.
Where the Rubber Meets the Road – In 1900, Firestone Rubber and Tire Company was incorporated.
Lenny Bruce – In 1966, Lenny Bruce died.
Row, Row, Row your Boat – In 1852, the first Harvard-Yale Regatta was held.
Santa All Year Long – In 1946, Santa Clause Land opened.


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