No. 267
Memorandum of Conversation, by the Secretary of State



  • The British Ambassador
  • Assistant Secretary Byroade
  • Mr. Acheson

In the course of his call upon me this afternoon, the British Ambassador covered a variety of matters which will be reported by Mr. Byroade.

[Page 615]

One matter which the Ambassador raised has to do with the attached draft letter1 proposed to be sent from Her Majesty’s Government to the British oil companies involved in legal proceedings in the United States under the anti-trust laws. The Ambassador asked me whether I had seen this letter and whether I had any comments to make regarding it. I said that I had seen the letter and that I thought the British Government would wish to reconsider the wisdom of sending it for two reasons:

The letter covered documents some of which might well be within the jurisdiction of the United States and subject to the orders of its courts. In regard to these documents which were very broadly and vigorously described so that their identification would have to be left to the discretion of the oil companies themselves, the letter directed they should not be provided in response to orders, subpoenas or requests made or issued in connection with the proceedings in the United States under the anti-trust laws. I felt sure that the British Government could not intend to direct British companies to disregard orders of the United States courts and that it would wish to study this phase of the matter further.

The letter also applied to documents which might be within the jurisdiction of the British Government or other governments than the United States. So far as those within the jurisdiction of Great Britain were concerned, British authority over them was very great indeed.

It might also be considerable over those in other jurisdictions. But even so, I doubted whether the British Government would wish out of hand to direct its subjects not to produce papers so broadly and vaguely described. Although the British interest in these papers was undoubted, the British Government might well consider it wise to discuss this matter with the legal authorities in the United States before coming to so drastic a conclusion.

The Ambassador thanked me for my comments and said that they would be given careful consideration.

D[ean] A[cheson]
  1. Not printed. The letter stated the British Government considered it contrary to its national interest for British oil companies or British nationals to provide information relating to their business outside the United States, which might prejudice the conduct of business or endanger the economic, strategic, or political interests of the Western powers, in response to subpoenas issued in connection with antitrust proceedings in the United States. The letter ended by stating that documents, papers, or other information should not be provided. (811.054/9–3052)