Hammond E. Chaffetz, one of the nation's pioneers in the field of antitrust law, and a patron of performing arts organizations in Chicago, died there on January 12, following a heart attack. He was 93.
He first gained prominence at an early age. In 1938, when he was only 31years old, Mr. Chaffetz led a small team of Justice Department lawyers in a landmark prosecution of a price-fixing conspiracy under the Sherman Act. The defendants, 16 oil companies and 30 individuals, were represented by the leading corporate trial lawyers of the day, including Colonel "Wild Bill" Donovan, who went on to head the OSS during World War II, and Weymouth Kirkland, senior partner of the firm where Mr. Chaffetz was later a partner for more than 60 years. The jury's verdict against the defendants was affirmed by the United States Supreme Court in United States v. Socony Vacuum, et. al., in which the court announced its "per se rule" against price fixing. The case remains at the foundation of antitrust law today.
Mr. Chaffetz' career in antitrust almost didn't happen. Born in Worchester Massachusetts in 1907, he graduated from the Harvard Law School in 1930 where he was an editor of the Law Review. In that Depression year, there were few jobs available. Mr. Chaffetz was therefore delighted to learn that Professor - later Supreme Court justice -- Felix Frankfurter had recommended him for a position at the Justice Department's Antitrust Division. But Professor Frankfurter confided to Mr. Chaffetz that he had also recommended one of Mr. Chaffetz's outstanding classmates, Alger Hiss, for the same position. It was Mr. Hiss's decision to withdraw that opened the way for Mr. Chaffetz. Mr. Chaffetz often recounted this early incident as showing how good luck had frequently played a part in his success.
In almost eight years at the Justice Department, Mr. Chaffetz participated in a number of early antitrust initiatives, including the first Justice Department legal action against International Business Machines. That case was one of the first to examine the legality of the practice of "tying" one product to another. In that early case the Department challenged IBM's requirement that purchasers of its business machines also purchase their supply of "punch cards" from IBM. The theories underlying that early case can be seen today in the Government's action against Microsoft.
Mr. Chaffetz might have made a career at the Justice Department, but as a Republican he saw limited potential for advancement in the Roosevelt Administration. He agreed to defer his resignation to take one last case-Socony Vacuum. Fortunately, Mr. Chaffetz's handling of that case made such an impression on one of his adversaries, Mr. Kirkland, that he offered Mr. Chaffetz a partnership in the Washington office of his firm.
During World War II, Mr. Chaffetz took a leave of absence from his law practice to join the Navy. He rose to the rank of Lieutenant Commander, serving as assistant air officer aboard the aircraft carrier Essex. He saw several battles in the Pacific, including one in which a Japanese Kamikaze plane penetrated the main flight deck of the ship. While serving on the Essex, his direct superior in aircraft operations was future Texas Governor John Connally, with whom he became lifelong friends.
Following the war, Mr. Chaffetz returned to the Kirkland firm, but found himself spending increasingly more time in Chicago, where the firm's top clients were headquartered. On one of those Chicago stays he met the former Sara Smeerin. Mr. Chaffetz moved to Chicago and the two married within four months of meeting. They were planning to celebrate their 50th anniversary when Mr. Chaffetz died.
Mr. Chaffetz, a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers , a member of the Attorney General's Committee to Study Antitrust Laws, and a former Chairman of the Antitrust Section of the American Bar Association, handled major cases for such clients as Standard Oil of Indiana (now BP Amoco), General Motors, International Harvester, Motorola and Nissan Motors.
He argued several times in the United States Supreme Court. In one of those cases, the court upheld the right of the Standard Oil Company to pursue competitive pricing of its gasoline against charges by the Federal Trade Commission that the company's pricing constituted discriminatory pricing. Many experts regard that case as one of the first to a bring pro-consumer economic analysis to this area of antitrust law.
In the case of Dean Foods v. Federal Trade Commission, Mr. Chaffetz was bitterly disappointed when the Supreme Court ruled, by a five to four vote, that the Federal Trade Commission had implicit authority to enjoin mergers and therefore to prevent Dean Foods from acquiring a large local Chicago Dairy. But he ultimately considered this case to be a special victory. After losing the legal issue in the Supreme Court, he was able to persuade the Commissioners themselves not to exercise the authority that had been granted by the Supreme Court. The Commission ultimately permitted the merger as being beneficial for the dairy business in Chicago.
Mr. Chaffetz also contributed to the development of the judicial procedures that are used today to manage large, complex cases. This came about through his involvement in the resolution of the so-called "Electrical Equipment Price-Fixing Cases." In the early 1960's, discovery of a complex bid-rigging scheme involving the allocation of bidding rights among equipment manufacturers in accordance with "phases of the moon," led utility companies to file numerous lawsuits around the country against the 20-some defendants. This was the first time that the federal courts faced the problem on this scale of coordinating the administration of multiple lawsuits involving related parties and issues but pending before different courts.
Mr. Chaffetz led in the effort to develop the procedures and forms that are still reflected in the Manual for Complex Litigation, which federal judges have used ever since in handling the kind of national litigation associated in recent years with asbestos, breast implants and tobacco.
Despite Mr. Chaffetz's considerable achievements at the bar, he always felt that his greatest professional accomplishment was institutional - his contribution to the development of Kirkland & Ellis from a small Chicago firm with a few noteworthy clients and an outpost office in Washington, to a nationally prominent firm with offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and London.
According to Elmer Johnson, a former Executive Vice-President and General Counsel of General Motors who is now of counsel to Kirkland & Ellis and president of the Aspen Institute, once Mr. Chaffetz moved to Chicago, he fundamentally reshaped this firm, becoming a one man recruiting and hiring committee. By the 1970's and early 80's, Mr. Johnson said, "most of the top lawyers in the firm were people who had been attracted to the firm by Chaffetz's extraordinary personal touch and persuasive power." The hallmark of his management strategy was to connect younger lawyers with the clients and delegate broad responsibility whenever possible. In this way, he sought, with great success, to convert his personal drawing power as one of the great "rainmaker" lawyers of his day into an institutional franchise for his firm.
Outside of his work, Mr. Chaffetz's special interests were civic and cultural. A Life Trustee and past Vice Chairman of the Chicago Symphony, Mr. Chaffetz became a close friend of Sir Georg Solti during the latter's tenure as the orchestra's musical director. Mr. Chaffetz's fundraising efforts and support were instrumental in Solti's development of a national and international audience for the orchestra, which was accomplished in large part through its triumphal visits to Carnegie Hall, European capitals, Japan and Australia. Mr. Chaffetz led the efforts to fund those tours, and he and his wife accompanied the orchestra on several of its trips.
Mr. Chaffetz also chaired Chicago's International Theatre Festival of Chicago. Working with Second City founders, Bernie and Jane Sahlins, the three brought to Chicago the Royal Shakespeare and other acclaimed theatre companies from around the world.
He was also a trustee of the Goodman Theatre.
Mr. Chaffetz gradually withdrew from the active practice of law, but he never truly retired. He continued to attend and advise at firm committee meetings and he went to the office regularly, even including the day before his death.
Jack Levin, a senior partner of Kirkland & Ellis said that the partners and clients of the firm will best remember Mr. Chaffetz "for his uncanny judgment, his unbridled optimism, and his unflagging perseverance."
Mr. Chaffetz is survived by his wife Sara, his two sons, Peter, a lawyer in New York City, and David, an executive with IBM in Paris, and five grandsons.