< PrevNext > Clarence Thomas, Supreme Court Associate Justice The Justice Who Speaks Little but Carries a Big Pen By Adam Perrotta / December 12, 2018 / Contact Reporter Share Thomas isn't a big talker—he famously went more than a decade without asking a single question from the bench—but when the Supreme Court upheld American Express' antisteering policies in June, the taciturn Thomas' 5-4 majority written decision reverberated through the corporate travel industry. Thomas proclaimed there was "nothing inherently anticompetitive" about the antisteering provisions included in Amex's merchant contracts, which bar retailers from incentivizing customers to use payment types with lower merchant fees. In fact, Thomas argued, the provisions actually promote competition by prodding other card networks to develop innovative products that offer cardholders better rewards while charging merchants more for accepting them.In affirming Amex's approach of charging merchants higher fees and passing the benefits on to cardholders, the decision ensured the company's corporate cardholders will continue to have access to the perks they've come to expect. And given Amex's leading position in the corporate card market, other networks are more likely to emulate that model, bolstering their own offerings to compete.Meanwhile, the ripple effect of the high court's decision extended beyond the card sector. Global distribution system operator Sabre argued that the ruling should be grounds to dismiss the $15 million it was ordered to pay US Airways in late 2016. A New York federal jury had found that Sabre had restricted trade by forcing the airline to accept a full content provision requiring the airline to list all its seats on Sabre in order to be listed on the GDS. In a July letter to the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is hearing Sabre's appeal of the jury verdict, Sabre argued its distribution platform is comparable to the credit card market, in that it serves two distinct groups of customers—in Sabre's case, travel agents and airlines. Citing Thomas' reasoning in his Amex opinion, that cardholders benefited from Amex merchant fees in the form of rewards and other perks, Sabre argued that any cost its full content provisions impose on airlines is offset by the benefits to its travel agent customers, who enjoy access to a larger selection of seats. The appeals court has yet to rule on Sabre's appeal, but whatever the outcome, Thomas' words in the Amex decision likely will echo through the corporate travel space for a long time to come.