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Opinion of the Court
JUSTICE KENNEDY delivered the opinion of the Court.
The Federal Trade Commission filed an administrative complaint against six of the Nation's largest title insurance
M. Ringo, Assistant Attorney General, William J. Guste, Jr., Attorney General of Louisiana, and Jesse James Marks and Anne F. Benoit, Assistant Attorneys General, Michael E. Carpenter, Attorney General of Maine, and Stephen L. Wessler, Deputy Attorney General, Scott Harshbarger, Attorney General of Massachusetts, and George K. Weber and Thomas M. Alpert, Assistant Attorneys General, Frank J. Kelley, Attorney General of Michigan, Hubert H. Humphrey III, Attorney General of Minnesota, Mike Moore, Attorney General of Mississippi, Marc Racicot, Attorney General of Montana, Frankie Sue Del Papa, Attorney General of Nevada, John P. Arnold, Attorney General of New Hampshire, Charles T. Putnam, Senior Assistant Attorney General, and Walter L. Maroney, Assistant Attorney General, Robert J. Del Tufo, Attorney General of New Jersey, and Laurel A. Price, Deputy Attorney General, Robert Abrams, Attorney General of New York, Jerry Boone, Solicitor General, and George W. Sampson and Richard Schwartz, Assistant Attorneys General, Lacy H. Thornburg, Attorney General of North Carolina, James C. Gulick, Special Deputy Attorney General, and K. D. Sturgis, Assistant Attorney General, Nicholas J. Spaeth, Attorney General of North Dakota, and David W. Huey, Assistant Attorney General, Lee Fisher, Attorney General of Ohio, and Marc B. Bandman, Assistant Attorney General, Susan B. Loving, Attorney General of Oklahoma, and Jane F. Wheeler, Assistant Attorney General, Ernest D. Preate, Jr., Attorney General of Pennsylvania, Thomas L. Welch, Chief Deputy Attorney General, and Carl S. Hisiro, Assistant Chief Deputy Attorney General, James E. O'Neil, Attorney General of Rhode Island, and Edmund F. Murray, Jr., Special Assistant Attorney General, Charles W. Burson, Attorney General of Tennessee, John Knox Walkup, Solicitor General, and Perry A. Craft, Deputy Attorney General, Dan Morales, Attorney General of Texas, Will Pryor, First Assistant Attorney General, Mary F. Keller, Deputy Attorney General, and Mark Tobey, Assistant Attorney General, R. Paul Van Dam, Attorney General of Utah, Jeffrey L. Amestoy, Attorney General of Vermont, and Geoffrey A. Yudien, Assistant Attorney General, Mary Sue Terry, Attorney General of Virginia, Kenneth 0. Eikenberry, Attorney General of Washington, and Carol A. Smith, Assistant Attorney General, Mario J. Palumbo, Attorney General of West Virginia, and Donald L. Darling, Deputy Attorney General, and Joseph B. Meyer, Attorney General of Wyoming.
Briefs of amici curiae urging affirmance were filed for the State of California et al. by Daniel E. Lungren, Attorney General of California,
Opinion of the Court
companies, alleging horizontal price fixing in their fees for title searches and title examinations. One company settled by consent decree, while five other firms continue to contest the matter. The Commission charged the title companies with violating $5(a)(1) of the Federal Trade Commission Act, 38 Stat. 719, 15 U. S. C. $ 45(a)(1), which prohibits “[u]nfair methods of competition in or affecting commerce.” One of the principal defenses the companies assert is state-action immunity from antitrust prosecution, as contemplated in the line of cases beginning with Parker v. Brown, 317 U. S. 341 (1943). The Commission rejected this defense, In re Ticor Title Ins. Co., 112 F. T. C. 344 (1989), and the firms sought review in the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Ruling that state-action immunity was available under the state regulatory schemes in question, the Court of Appeals reversed. 922 F. 2d 1122 (1991). We granted certiorari. 502 U. S. 806 (1991).
Title insurance is the business of insuring the record title of real property for persons with some interest in the estate, including owners, occupiers, and lenders. A title insurance policy insures against certain losses or damages sustained by reason of a defect in title not shown on the policy or title report to which it refers. Before issuing a title insurance
Roderick E. Walston, Chief Assistant Attorney General, and Thomas F. Gede, Special Assistant Attorney General, Gale A. Norton, Attorney General of Colorado, Don Stenberg, Attorney General of Nebraska, and Mark W. Barnett, Attorney General of South Dakota; for the American Insurance Association et al. by John E. Nolan, Craig A. Berrington, James H. Bradner, Jr., Theresa L. Sorota, and Patrick J. McNally; for Hartford Fire Insurance Co. et al. by Stephen M. Shapiro, Mark I. Levy, Andrew J. Pincus, and Roy T. Englert, Jr.; and for the National Council on Compensation Insurance by Jerome A. Hochberg and Mark E. Solomons.
Briefs of amici curiae were filed for the American Land Title Association by Philip H. Rudolph and James R. Maher; and for the Pennsylvania Electric Association by Jeffrey H. Howard.
Opinion of the Court
policy, the insurance company or one of its agents performs a title search and examination. The search produces a chronological list of the public documents in the chain of title to the real property. The examination is a critical analysis or interpretation of the condition of title revealed by the documents disclosed through this search.
The title search and examination are major components of the insurance company's services. There are certain variances from State to State and from policy to policy, but a brief summary of the functions performed by the title companies can be given. The insurance companies exclude from coverage defects uncovered during the search; that is, the insurers conduct searches in order to inform the insured and to reduce their own liability by identifying and excluding known risks. The insured is protected from some losses resulting from title defects not discoverable from a search of the public records, such as forgery, missing heirs, previous marriages, impersonation, or confusion in names. They are protected also against errors or mistakes in the search and examination. Negligence need not be proved in order to re
Title insurance also includes the obligation to defend in the event that an insured is sued by reason of some defect within the scope of the policy's guarantee.
The title insurance industry earned $1.35 billion in gross revenues in 1982, and respondents accounted for 57 percent of that amount. Four of respondents are the nation's largest title insurance companies: Ticor Title Insurance Co., with 16.5 percent of the market; Chicago Title Insurance Co., with 12.8 percent; Lawyers Title Insurance Co., with 12 percent; and SAFECO Title Insurance Co. (now operating under the name Security Union Title Insurance Co.), with 10.3 percent. Stewart Title Guarantee Co., with 5.4 percent of the market, is the country's eighth largest title insurer, with a strong position in the West and Southwest. App. to Pet. for Cert.
Opinion of the Court
The Commission issued an administrative complaint in 1985. Horizontal price fixing was alleged in these terms:
“ 'Respondents have agreed on the prices to be charged for title search and examination services or settlement services through rating bureaus in various states. Examples of states in which one or more of the respondents have fixed prices with other respondents or other competitors for all or part of their search and examination services or settlement services are Arizona, Connecticut, Idaho, Louisiana, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Wiscon
sin and Wyoming.'” 112 F. T. C., at 346. The Commission did not challenge the insurers' practice of setting uniform rates for insurance against the risk of loss from defective titles, but only the practice of setting uniform rates for the title search, examination, and settlement, aspects of the business which, the Commission alleges, do not involve insurance.
Before the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), respondents defended against liability on three related grounds. First, they maintained that the challenged conduct is exempt from antitrust scrutiny under the McCarran-Ferguson Act, 59 Stat. 34, 15 U. S. C. $ 1012(b), which confers antitrust immunity over the “business of insurance” to the extent regulated by state law. Second, they argued that their collective ratemaking activities are exempt under the NoerrPennington doctrine, which places certain “[j]oint efforts to influence public officials” beyond the reach of the antitrust laws. Mine Workers v. Pennington, 381 U. S. 657, 670 (1965); Eastern Railroad Presidents Conference v. Noerr Motor Freight, Inc., 365 U. S. 127, 136 (1961). Third, respondents contended their activities are entitled to stateaction immunity, which permits anticompetitive conduct if authorized and supervised by state officials. See California Retail Liquor Dealers Assn. v. Midcal Aluminum, Inc., 445
Opinion of the Court
U. S. 97 (1980); Parker v. Brown, 317 U. S. 341 (1943). App. to Pet. for Cert. 218a. As to one State, Ohio, respondents contended that the rates for title search, examination, and settlement had not been set by a rating bureau.
Title insurance company rates and practices in 13 States were the subject of the initial complaint. Before the matter was decided by the ALJ, the Commission declined to pursue its complaint with regard to fees in five of these States: Louisiana, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, and Wyoming. Upon the recommendation of the ALJ, the Commission did not pursue its complaint with regard to fees in two additional States, Idaho and Ohio. This left six States in which the Commission found antitrust violations, but in two of these States, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the Commission conceded the issue on which certiorari was sought here, so the regulatory regimes in these two States are not before us. Four States remain in which violations were alleged: Connecticut, Wisconsin, Arizona, and Montana.
The ALJ held that the rates for search and examination services had been fixed in these four States. For reasons we need not pause to examine, the ALJ rejected the McCarranFerguson and Noerr-Pennington defenses. The ALJ then turned his attention to the question of state-action immunity. A summary of the ALJ's extensive findings on this point is necessary for a full understanding of the decisions reached at each level of the proceedings in the case.
Rating bureaus are private entities organized by title insurance companies to establish uniform rates for their members. The ALJ found no evidence that the collective setting of title insurance rates through rating bureaus is a way of pooling risk information. Indeed, he found no evidence that any title insurer sets rates according to actuarial loss experience. Instead, the ALJ found that the usual practice is for rating bureaus to set rates according to profitability studies that focus on the costs of conducting searches and examinations. Uniform rates are set notwithstanding differences in