RECONSTRUCTION FINANCE CORPORATION v. DENVER & R.G.W.R. CO.(1946)
Dissenting Opinion Oct. 28, 1946
Mr. Justice FRANKFURTER, dissenting.
On 911, Aug. 27, 1935, 11 U.S.C. 205, 11 U.S.C.A. 205. The plan of reor-
Mr. Frank C. Nicodemus, Jr., of New York City, for respondent Denver & R.G.W.R. Co.
Mr. H. H. Larimore, of St. Louis, Mo., for respondent Guy A. Thompson, trustee, of Missouri Pac. Ry. Co.
Mr. Justice REED delivered the opinion of the Court.
The petitioners in these five cases are the owners of claims against the debtor, Denver & Rio Grad e Western Railroad Company, or against secondary debtor, the Denver & Salt Lake Western Railroad Company. The respondents are the two debtors just named; City Bank Farmers Trust Company, Trustee under the General Mortgage of the principal debtor; and the Trustee of the Missouri Pacific Railroad Company, a large owner of common stock of the principal debtor.
The debtors sought reorganization in the District Court of the United States for the District of Colorado under Section 77 of the Bankruptcy Act, 1 on November 1, 1935. The Interstate Commerce Commission approved the plan of reorganization under consideration in this review on June 14, 1943. 2 The District Court approved the plan October [328 U.S. 495, 501] 25, 1943.3 It was then submitted by the Commission to the creditors of the classes deemed entitled to vote for acceptance or rejection of the plan and a certificate of the result filed in the District Court on July 15, 1944. All classes of voting creditors approved the plan as required by Section 77 except the holders of the Denver's General Mortgage bonds. 4 On November 1, the District Court held the rejection of the plan by the holders of the General Mortgage was not reasonably justified5 and thereafter confirmed the plan on November 29, 1944. Section 77, sub. e.
The plan provided for a reorganization as of January 1, 1943, by the Denver by adjustment of its liabilities to its assets with or without a consolidation with the Salt Lake and the Salt Lake Western to form a system. The stock of the latter road is held by the Denver. There are no bonds. As no ruling that we are asked or required to make turns upon whether the reorganization is with or without the suggested consolidation, we need not give further consideration to possible differences. In either case, creditors with secured claims against the reorganized roads or against their property were left undisturbed or allocated new securities of the new company, consisting of first mortgage and income bonds, preferred and common stock, in lots, in face amount of the secured claims except for the General Mortgage issue, that the Commission and District Court determined, through adoption of the plan, were fair and equitable in the light of the respective priorities, liens and collateral of the various secured [328 U.S. 495, 502] claims. All of the securities were given a par value. Interest partly fixed and interest partly contingent on earnings was used to gain play in annual charges. The plan eliminated unsecured claims and allocated common stock in face amount of ten per cent of their claim to General Mortgage bonds of the debtor. Its stockholders received nothing. It was determined that the aggregate of the securities in the plan represented the value of the properties for reorganization purposes and that through prospective earnings there was adequate coverage for the charges. 6
On basis of consolidation Denver & Rio Grande with Denver & Salt Lake Western without Denver and Salt Lake  Principal Annual Principal Annual 
Equipment-trust obligations $5,758,000 $ 139,989 $5,758,000 $ 139,989 Chase National Bank note 2,158,458 45,722 2,158,458 45,722 R. F. C. claim ___ ___ 13,900,605 556,024 Denver & Salt Lake first-mortgage bonds,4 percent interest 1,500,000 60,000 ___ ___ Denver & Salt Lake income bonds, 3-1 percent interest 9,734,000 292,020 ___ ___ 
19,150,458 537,731 21,817,063 741,735 New first-mortgage bonds, 3-1 percent interest 38,573,680 1,157,210 33,373,680 1,001,210 
Total fixed interest 57, 724,138 1,694,941 55,190,743 1,742, 945 Capital fund, maximum payment ___ 750,000 ___ 750,000 Prior contingent interest, 1 percent ___ 498,318 ___ 348,978 Sinking fund for first-mortgage bonds, one-half of 1 percent ___ 200,489 ___ 182,323 
New income bonds, 4 1/2 percent 29,750,184 1,364,133 21,049,579 972,606 Sinking fund for income bonds, one-fourth of 1 percent ___ 76,808 ___ 58,527  Total debt, interest payments to funds 87,474,322 4,584,689 76,240,322 4,055,379 New 5-percent preferred stock, par value $100 32,531,220 1,626,561 32,120,120 1,606,006 New common stock, par value $100 35,167,585 ___ 35,167, 585 ___ 
Total capitalization 155,173,127 ___ 43,528,027 ___  [328 U.S. 495, 503] Respondents sought review in separate appeals from the order of approval or the order of confirmation or both to the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. That court reversed the District Court on all appeals and remanded the reorganization proceedings to the Interstate Commerce Commission for further consideration with the statement, 150 F.2d 28, 40,
DISTRIBUTION OF NEW SECURITIES PER $1,000 OF PRESENT BONDS WITH ACCRUED INTEREST 
First- mortage Income Preferred Common bonds bonds stock stock 
Rio Grande Western first trusts ($15,190,000) $ 970.20 $349.80 ___ ___ Rio Grande Western consolidated's ($15,080,000) ___ 266.00 $970.90 $ 93.10 Junction firsts ($2,000,000) 1,061.96 317.21 ___ ___ Denver & Rio Grande consolidated 4's ($34,125,000) 318.92 217.08 321.60 482.60 Denver & Rio Grande consolidated 4 1/2's ($6,382,000) 329.03 223.97 331.80 497.70 Refunding and improvement 5's ($12,000,000) 250.01 159.61 310.75 692.13 Refunding and improvement 6's ($2,000,000) 264.61 168.94 328.90 732.55 General 5's ($29,808,000) ___ ___ ___ 146.10 
Claims as of Undisturbed Jan. 1, 1943 as extended 
Equipment obligations $ 5,758,000 $5,758,000 Rio Grande Western first-trust 4's 20,050,800 .......... Rio Grande Western consolidated 4's 20,056,400 .......... Rio Grande Junction first 5's 2,758,333 .......... Denver & Rio Grande consolidated 4's 45,727,500 .......... Denver & Rio Grande consolidated 4 1/2's 8,823,115 .......... Refunding and improvement 5's 16,950,000 .......... Refunding and improvement 6's 2,990,000 .......... General-mortgage 5's 43,548,155 .......... Chase National Bank note 2,158,458 2,158,458 R. R. Credit Corporation note; paid May 17, 1943 .......... .......... R. F. C. notes 13,900,605 .......... Unsecured claims, approximate 440,000 no equity ___ ___ Total, Denver & Rio Grande Western 183,161,366 7,916,458 [328 U.S. 495, 504] By this remand, the Commission was empowered to proceed anew to consideration of the reorganization in all its phases, 77, sub. e, including those steps previously taken and approved by the opinion of the Circuit Court of Appeals.
That court approved the valuation of the debtor reached mainly by the use of present and prospective earnings. It held that the valuation adopted need not reflect necessarily the money spent for improvements during the trusteeship for reorganization. 150 F.2d at page 35. The soundness of these conclusions is fully supported by the Western Pacific and Milwaukee cases. 7 The Circuit Court further held that the Commission was justified in refusing to reopen the hearings just before the entry of its order of June 14, 1943, approving the plan, to hear evidence of the then existing economic conditions and the 1943 earnings of the debtor. 8
The reversal came from the Circuit Court's holding, contrary to the Commission and the District Court, that free cash in excess of operating capital needs and large earnings from war business after the date of the plan should be for the benefit of the General bondholders. 150 F.2d at pages 35-38. That court further held that decreases in debt by cash payments, with the consequent reduction of securities that were required to be issued under the plan to cover such debt claims, should inure to the benefit of the same General bondholders. 150 F.2d at pages 38, 39. The Circuit Court disagreed also with the treatment of certain collateral deposited behind the First Consolidated Mortgage of the Rio Grande Western Railway Company and secondarily behind other issues of the debtor. This is the Utah Fuel stock issue hereinafter discussed. These differences from the conclusions of the District Court led the [328 U.S. 495, 505] Circuit Court to hold that the General bondholders were 'reasonably justified' in rejecting the plan and that the District Court was without authority to confirm the plan over their veto. 77, sub. e.
Petitioners on July 30, 1945, sought a writ of certiorari to reverse these rulings of the Circuit Court and, on account of the importance of the issues in the administration of railroad reorganization under Section 77, we granted their petition on October 8, 1945. 326 U.S. 699 , 66 S.Ct. 50, 51.
The briefs of all the parties here restate the questions presented in the petition for certiorari according to the emphasis the particular party places upon points of controversy. After a general consideration of the background of the plan and respondents' contentions to support the judgment besides the defenses applicable to petitioners' certiorari, we shall give attention to each of the just stated disagreements between the district and appellate court. This will cover the points under review.
The basic problems of railroad reorganization under Section 77 of the Bankruptcy Act have been so recently considered by this Court in the Western Pacific and Milwaukee cases that only a summary reference to their conclusions attacked by respondents need be made now. No new enactments have changed the law since those decisions on March 15, 1943. The complexities of the reorganization of a railroad with responsibility to the public and obligations to its security holders were recognized. The impossibility without destruction of efficiency and values of reversing the process of integration to restore the parts that now make up the whole of a system of their original operational function was understood. The various bond issues with different and often overlapping liens, with competing claims for allocation of earnings pending reorganization, presented hard problems for legislativ solution. A fair, administratively practical and lasting method was sought. By provisions for adjustment [328 U.S. 495, 506] of creditors' claims, Congress intended to avoid the delays, costs and sacrifices of liquidation. 9 The agencies em- [328 U.S. 495, 507] ployed by Congress to accomplish reorganizations under Section 77 were the Interstate Commerce Commission and the [328 U.S. 495, 508] courts. The answer reached by Congress was that the experience and judgment of the Commission must be relied upon for final determinations of value and of matters affecting the public interest, subject to judicial review to assure compliance with Constitutional and statutory requirements. This was the interpretation of all mem- [328 U.S. 495, 509] bers of this Court from the language of the act and the evidence of Congressional purpose in the hearings, reports and discussion. 10 To the courts, Congress confided the power to review the plan to determine whether the Commission has followed the statutory mandates of subsection ( e), 318 U.S. at page 477, 63 S.Ct. at page 709, and whether the Commission had material evidence to support its conclusions. 318 U.S. at page 477, concurring opinion at page 512, 63 S.Ct. at page 709, concurring opinion at page 725.
At this point, we restate our conclusion reached in the former cases that the Congressional authority to the Commission to eliminate valueless claims from participation in reorganization is a valid exercise of the federal bankruptcy power. Section 77 was directed at the relief of debtor railroads. Sec. 73, 47 Stat. 1467, 11 U.S.C.A. 201. Liquidation in depression periods meant that large portions of debts, as well as stock interests in the properties, would be irretrievably lost to their holders, while reorganization on a capitalization that estimated what normal income would support meant the salvage of sound values. We see no more constitutional impediment to the elimination of claims against railroad debtors by the Interstate Commerce Commission's determination of values with judicial review as to the sufficiency of the evidence and compliance with statutory standards than we do to their elimination by an accepted bid in a depression market. 11 There is no occasion here to reexamine further these recent holdings of this Court in the Western Pacific and Milwaukee reorganizations.
In examining the contentions of petitioners as to the alleged errors of the Circuit Court of Appeals, we must [328 U.S. 495, 510] approach the problem in accordance with our reviewing authority under Section 77. That section embodies the method that Congress selected in 193312 and improved in 193513 to put the railroad transportation system of the county in order to meet its debts and perform its duties to the public after the hard years of the recent depression. Our constructions of the chief provisions of the section were handed down in March, 1943. Although the results of reorganizations under the section, as thus construed, have been criticized as unfortunate and changes have been suggested, no different legislation has been enacted. 14 Indeed [328 U.S. 495, 511] a different method for reorganization, enacted in 1939 and designed to meet the requirements of railroads not in need of financial reorganization of the character provided by Section 77 but only of an opportunity for voluntary adjustments with their creditors, terminated on July 31, 1940, and a comparable provision made in 1942 was allowed to lapse on November 1, 1945.15 This situation leaves clear the duty of the agencies of the Government entrusted with the handling of reorganizations under Section 77, including this [328 U.S. 495, 512] Court, to administer its provisions according to their best understanding of the purposes of Congress as expressed in the words of Section 77 read in the light of the contemporaneous discussion in Congress. Changes in economic conditions cannot effect the powers of the reorganization agencies even though such changes may require a reexamination into the present fairness of the former exercise of those powr s.
Valuation. The Denver and Rio Grande Western, the principal debtor, is an important link in transcontinental transportation. 16 The recent availability to the debtor of [328 U.S. 495, 513] the Moffett Tunnel and the Dt sero Cut-off (1934) improve its strategic position in the competition for 'overhead' or 'bridge traffic,' that is, traffic that is consigned from and destined to points beyond its lines. The traffic originating or terminating on its lines is mixed in character and varies with the general prosperity of the region.
The present Denver, the principal debtor, was organized in 1920. It succeeded the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad Company of 1908 which had in its turn acquired the property of the Rio Grande Western Railway Company, owning the western portion of the present debtor's lines, and of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad Company of 1886, owning the eastern portion of the present debtor's lines. A connection between the two portions, Rio Grande Junction Railway, is under lease to the debtor which, as lessee and a stockholder, guarantees the Junction bonds. Substantially all of the capital stocks of the Salt Lake and Salt Lake Western, and various other branch lines are owned by the debtor. 17 These corporate arrangements for the operations of the debtor have resulted in the assumption or creation by the debtor of the claims of the various issues, listed in note 6, supra.
Just after these reorganization proceedings began, December 31, 1935, the debtor's report showed that its long-term debt was $120,541,000, and its current liabilities $24,990,901.63. It had current assets, including cash $1,257,943.43, of $5,966,666.93. At the time the plan [328 U.S. 495, 514] >became effective, December 31, 1942, the report showed long-term debt of $ 130,264,826.65 and current liabilities of $14,172,575.50, and in addition deferred liabilities, chiefly matured interest in default of $45,582,132. 66. There were current assets, including cash $10,850,149.96, of $20,983, 652.54. As of December 31, 1944, these items were: Long-term debt $129,358, 337.79, current liabilities $20,539,637.83, and deferred liabilities $55, 310,151.80. The current assets were $32,665,501.33, including $19,142,626. 96 in cash.
During the period examined the income of the system available for interest was found by the Commission at its lowest in 1936-1938. After adjustment this was $2,893,255. 233 I.C.C. at 552. In 1941 there was $5, 019,436. 254 I.C.C. at 10. When the present plan was approved by the Commission in June, 1943, the 1942 income available for interest was recognized but the continuance of such earning power was thought to be negatived by any sound forecast. 18 254 I.C.C. at 356.
Earnings during the trusteeship were used to improve the debtor railroad. When the vote was taken in 1944, the real estate and equipment account showed charges of $43,291,513 during the trusteeship. An estimated ten million of it was between the Commission's approval of the plan, June, 1943, and the Commission's certification on July 15, 1944, to the court of the vote by claimants. See 254 I.C.C. at 354 and 382 for explanation of new equipment program to meet the war situation. The retirements are said by the respondent trustee to have been about $13,000,000, leaving a net addition to capital account of $30,000,000. Respondents urge that since capi- [328 U.S. 495, 515] talization was not substantially increased by the Commission between 1938, when the first draft of a plan came from the Commission's staff, and 1943, the junior creditors got little or nothing for this investment. The improvements may have been wise or unwise. That question is not before us. Railroads even in reorganizations must make additions to take care of public needs or to lower operating costs. See 62 F.Supp. at page 389. The senior bond interest continued to accumulate during this period. As the capitalization was not increased pari passu with the purchases, the holders of junior securities received less participation. The Commission did not consider that the earning prospect justified a greater capitalization than the one given and we think its judgment controls the valuation. As was said by the Circuit Court of Appeals in In re Denver & R. G.W.R. Co., 10 Cir., 150 F.2d at page 38:
The last sentence, we think, has the vice of overlooking the reason the Commission gave common stock to the Seniors. See discussion under Allocation of Securities.
We note also the contention that the possibility of a national income much higher and interest rates much lower than before World War II should affect valuation based on prospective earnings. Those factors, we think, were before the Commission when it made its earnings estimate. [328 U.S. 495, 516] The Commission reached its determination of a sound capital structure for the combined properties with these figures on earnings and investments before it. In addition, of course, the Commission had complete statistical information to guide it from its Bureau of Valuation and its other sections dealing with traffic, rates, earnings, interest, et cetera. The discussion by the Comi ssion will be found in its printed volumes listed in note 2. Proceeding upon the principle accepted in the Western Pacific and Milwaukee cases,19 that capitalization based upon earnings is a permissible method of valuation in reorganization, the Commission fixed $ 155,173,127 as the sound capitalization. This capitalization under the terms of the issues, with provisions for a capital fund and the sinking funds, carries annual charges at rates varying with the security of $6,211, 250 before dividends on common. This present annual charge, plus, let us assume, five per cent annually upon the common, $1,758,379, or a total of $ 7,969,629, is the basic figure to be applied, with adjustments for the variable factors, to earnings, past or prospective, available for interest and dividends as an aid to determine the fairness of the present valuation. See note 6. The decision was unanimous except for one Commissioner who considered the valuation too high by ten per cent. 254 I.C.C. at page 379. There can be no doubt that as of June, 1943, there was ample evidence to justify the valuation made by the Commission.
Allocation of Securities. Within the framework of that valuation, the Commission allotted the available securities to the claimants. Securities, including the common stock, were given a face value. The aggregate was too small to allow anything to former stockholders. 20 Thus they were eliminated from the reorganization. 21 For the [328 U.S. 495, 517] holders of the General bonds, common stock was available to the amount of ten per cent only of their claim. 22 A glance at the proposed distribution in note 6 will show that the claimants did not receive all the new senior securities in the strict order of their old priorities.
The value of a lien on a part of a railroad when the valuation is made from earnings cannot be fixed solely on a mileage basis. Nor is it practicable to issue new securities with a lien limited to the property that was covered by the old lien. There must be segregation of the system earnings to each existing lien and allocation of securities representing the system value to each class of claimants. This was done here as shown in the second table in note 6.23 Such a method is in full accord with the principle that senior creditors are to retain their relative priority of position in a reorganization. Group of Investors v. Milwaukee R. Co., 318 U.S. at pages 561, 564, 63 S.Ct. at pages 747-749. Furthermore, junior claims can receive nothing until the senior claims receive securities of a worth or value equal to their indebtedness. 318 U. S. at page 483, 63 S.Ct. at page 712; 318 U.S. at page 569, 63 S.Ct. at page 751. The Generals are definitely junior. 233 I.C.C. at page 524.
The Commission did not make a finding that the cash value of the securities awarded the senior claimants as of the effective date of the plan equalled the face of the claims. It did, however, carefully state its reasons for concluding that the compensation 'flowing under the plan to the various classes of bondholders for the rights surrendered by them' was adequate in the light of the full priority rule. 254 I.C.C. at 360. For those classes, other than the Junior Generals, that received common stock, the Commission said that the possibility of 'unlimited dividends on common stock' was a factor in offsetting [328 U.S. 495, 518] loss of position. 24 Thus it is clear that when the Commission made its allocations it had definitely in mind that one thing that gave the senior creditors compensation for the admission of junior claimants to participation in securities before the seniors obtained full cash payment was their chance to share in the unlimited dividends that might be earned and paid on the common stock to have a part in the 'lush years.' It should be noted that income applicable to dividends was at its highest in 1942 prior to the approval of the plan by the Commission in June, 1943. Therefore the abnormal earnings of 1942 were in the Commission's contemplation when it spoke of the opportunities for 'unlimited dividends.' Its discussion of the plan assumed that 1943 available earnings might be as large. 254 I.C.C. at 355.
The improved physical condition of the road through expenditures of the trustees for previously deferred maintenance, improvements and new equipment was before the Commission and necessarily entered into their valuation of the property. 233 I.C.C. 531.
There is another important factor, corollary to stock ownership, to be noted in the Commission's allocation of these securities. This factor is that the creditors who received common stock to make them whole obtained with [328 U.S. 495, 519] that common stock an interest in all cash on hand or all cash that might be accumulated. Of course, the Commission thoroughly understood this. In fact, it referred to the ten million plus of cash on hand as of January 1, 1943. 254 I.C.C. 353. Immediately following this reference is a full discussion of the cash needs of the road for the year 1943, including additions, betterments and new equipment, and the amount which it was estimated would be in the treasury at the end of the year. That was $15, 600,000. This cash would be reflected in the value of the common stock. The petitioner states that the highest when-issued Stock Exchange price in 1945 for the common stock was $31 1/2, par $100. See Commercial and Financial Chronicle, May 13, 1946, p. 2618, where the common is quoted at 29 Bid, 31 Asked. Cash, material and supplies, as well as all other assets and all liabilities of the debtor were represented by the securities. If there is more cash on hand than needed, for taxes, expenses and proper improvements, it is at the disposal of the common stockholders. If money was used to pay indebtedness, there would be a corresponding reduction in the capital structure. Therefore, the plan provided, 254 I.C.C. at page 286:
It is accepted by the senior claimants that the plan is fair and equitable as between themselves. If our conclusion that the method and result of valuation [328 U.S. 495, 520] is sound, the allocation of ten per cent of their claim in common stock to the Generals follows as a matter of computation.
It would also follow that the objection of a so ckholder, the Missouri Pacific Railroad Company, through its Trustee in reorganization, to a voting trust for future control of the debtor would be ineffective because this stockholder is eliminated from the reorganization by the valuation of the property and allocation of securities. For the Commission's reasons for creating a voting trust see 233 I.C.C. at page 581, 254 I.C.C. at pages 33, 35, 367.
Cash and War Earnings. The Circuit Court of Appeals was of the view that war earnings were of 'very little value in estimating the probable future earnings of this property in the peace economy which is to come' and that the Commission was well within its right in appraising them lightly. 150 F.2d at page 34. This was after the seventeen million earnings of the top year 1942. The appellate court agreed, too, that excess current assets should not be capitalized and that improvements made during the trusteeship for reorganization had been considered by the Commission and District Court in fixing their valuation by past and prospective earnings. 150 F.2d at page 35. The appellate court then made the following ruling:
In our judgment this holding is erroneous.
The effective date of the plan was fixed by the Commission as January 1, 1943. This was in its power. 25 The allocation of the securities took into consideration the interest of the secured claims to that date. Any gain or any loss after that time was a benefit or an injury to the new common stockholders and then sometimes to security holders in positions senior to them. Assuming that the courts, as courts with equity powers in a bankruptcy mat- [328 U.S. 495, 522] ter, might set aside a plan, fair and equitable when adopted by the Commission, merely on account of subsequent changes in economic conditions of the region or the nation,26 it should not be done when the changes are of the kind that were envisaged and considered by the Commission in its deliberations upon or explanations of the plan.
We have pointed out in the section of this opinion dealing with the allocations of the securities that a part of the compensation to senior claimants for their loss of position was the opportunity to participate in war earnings. This was understood by the District Court27 and the Commission. 28 Accumulations of cash beyond operating fund needs are in the same category. In dealing with the problem the Commission noted that a five percent dividend on the authorized common would require an income available for interest and dividends of $7,969,629. The Trustee for General bonds claims no such earnings between 1929 and 1942. Even before the transportation difficulties of 1946, it was obvious that the Commission's judgment was being confirmed by events. See note 18, supra. 29 [328 U.S. 495, 523] The error of the Circuit Court in its holding set out above lies in its assumption that the senior bondholders were paid in full by the securities allotted to them without also accepting the determination of the Commission that the assets represented as of January 1, 1943, and all [328 U.S. 495, 524] subsequent earnings were a part also of the common stock that was awarded the senior bondholders.
Decreases in Senior Debt. The plan provides for securities to take the place of the Rio Grande Junction's first 5's in the face amount of $2, 758,333 and for the assumption by the reorganized road of $5,758,000 equipment obligations. All of these securities are senior to the Generals. The Denver purchased the Junctions and paid $1,218,000 on the Equipments. This reduced the necessary capitalization by that aggregate sum. The Circuit Court of Appeals was of the opinion that 'The value behind these securities in no wise belonged to the Senior Bondholders, because they had been paid in full.' 150 F.2d at page 39. This ruling, we conclude, was erroneous for the same basic reason that we held the cash and war earnings belong to the owners of the common stock.
We called attention, supra page 16, to the authority granted the District Court to reduce the capitalization of the new company as interest due on January 1, 1943, or equipment obligations or other liabilities were paid. The District Court acted on this authority and in its approval of the plan said of the Junctions, 'They may be canceled or they may be utilized under the plan in acquisition of new securities which will become an asset of the reorganized company.' C.C.H., Bankruptcy Law Service Decisions 1942-1945, 54,562 at p. 55,635. The Junction bondholders did not vote on the plan. Under our determination that the creditors who received common stock were compensated partly by the assets and future earnings, it is obvious that the use of such assets to retire senior claims is a part of the normal and expected increment from holdings of common stock. The increase of common stock by the Commission to the Generals from five to ten per cent of the bondholders' claims, preliminary to the adoption of the plan, 254 I.C.C. at pages 352, 359, is partly attributable to a reduction of necessary capitaliza- [328 U.S. 495, 525] tion. This increase in junior participation differs from that now proposed. The former reduction of senior capitalization could be carried out because earnings prior to the adoption of the plan made it unnecessary to borrow money for reorganization. When proposed capitalization is being planned on earnings, a reduction of senior capital without reduction of estimated earnings increases possible junior capital within the scheme. When the reduction of senior capital takes place after the adoption of the plan by use of anticipated earnings or existing cash, there can be no such readjustment of junior participation because assets in the balance sheet at the adoption of the plan and subsequent earnings are, as we have pointed out, for the benefit of the stockholders in the new company so that through these common stock advantages these new stockholders may be compensated for their loss of payment in full in cash. Of course, this section of the opinion is written and must be read on the assumption that the allocations of common stock are fair and equitable, a matter discussed supra.
Utah Fuel Company Stock. The Rio Grande Western Railroad Co. in 1899 executed its First Consolidated Mortgage, an indenture to secure its issue of First Consolidated Bonds, maturing April 1, 1949. Rio Grande Western reserved the right to issue additional bonds under the indenture.
The Utah Fuel Company was organized in 1900, with a capitalization of 100,000 shares. In 1901 an agreement was entered into by Rio Grande Western, the trustee under the First Consolidated Mortgage, and the on er of the Utah Fuel stock. The contract provided that the stock would be held by the trustee to secure bonds issued under the First Consolidated Mortgage and that Rio Grande Western would have the right at any time on paying the trustee $6,000,000 in cash or delivering an equal face amount in First Consolidated bonds to receive the Utah [328 U.S. 495, 526] Fuel stock, free of the mortgage lien. Subject to the lien, the stock was transferred to Rio Grande Western. $6,000,000 in additional First Consolidateds were issued to the owner of the stock.
In 1908, the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad Company was organized and acquired the property of Rio Grande Western, assuming the obligation of its First Consolidated Mortgage bonds of 1899. The equity of redemption of Denver & Rio Grande Railroad Company in the Utah Fuel stock was sold in 1918 under execution and transferred to the Western Pacific Railroad Corporation.
In 1924 under an agreement among the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad Company, the Western Pacific Railroad Corporation, Missouri Pacific Railroad Company, and T. S. Alexander, who by the agreement became trustee of the equity of redemption in the Utah Fuel stock, Western Pacific transferred to T. S. Alexander, Trustee, subject to the pledge under the Consolidated Mortgage its Utah Fuel stock and the debtor transferred to said trustee whatever interest it had in the stock, through certain releases, not here important.
The agreement first provided that the ultimate beneficial interest in the Utah Fuel stock so held was vested one-half in Missouri Pacific and one-half in Western Pacific. Except for certain contingencies not here important, it was provided that the trustee under the 1924 agreement would pay all dividends received by him from the trustee under the Consolidated Mortgage on Utah Fuel stock to the debtor so long as any of the General or Refunding bonds were outstanding.
The agreement further provided that if the General Mortgage or the Refunding or other mortgage of the debtor were foreclosed, the trustee would sell the interest of these mortgages in the Utah Fuel stock subject to the Consolidated Mortgage, if outstanding, and apply the proceeds to the payment of the bonds secured by the [328 U.S. 495, 527] equity of redemption in the stock dividing any surplus between Western Pacific and Missouri Pacific.
The General Mortgage and Refunding bonds created in the 1924 reorganization were thus given a lien on the Utah Fuel stock, junior to the lien of the Denver & Rio Grande First Consolidated Mortgage.
Under the plan approved by the Commission and the District Court, the First Consolidated bonds were allotted 20% of their claim in new income bonds, 73% in preferred stock, and 7% in common stock. The plan further provided, 254 I.C.C. at pages 398, 399, that:
The Commission took the position that this and the other features of the treatment of the First Consolidated bonds were justified as compensation for 'loss of earnings position and surrender of other rights' 30 under the plan.
The Commission made no definite finding with respect to the value of the Fuel Company stock. The Commission had before it evidence through 1936 with respect to the value of the stock as well as an appraisal of the value of the Fuel Company made for the trustee of the First Consolidated Mortgage, which indicated a value of $4,653,720. The only dividend paid to the debtor by Utah Fuel under the 1924 agreement was in 1934 and amounted to $250,000; the debtor in applying its formula for allocation of earnings by mortgage districts credited th Consolidated Mortgage with an income of $ 83,333 per [328 U.S. 495, 528] annum based on that dividend payment allocated over the three-year period, 1932 to 1934. The status of the stock was considered by the Commission in its original report and its several supplemental reports, and its proposals with respect to the stock remained unchanged.
In proceedings before the District Court in 1943 on objections to the plan, it was revealed that the Fuel Company's net income for 1942 was $415, 000 and for the first seven months of 1943, $535,869.31 The company has no funded debt.
In the Circuit Court the respondents contended that the holders of the First Consolidated bonds should be compelled either to foreclose this collateral, applying the proceeds to their claim, or credit their claim with the value of the collateral and be allowed new securities only for the balance. The Circuit Court disapproved the treatment by the plan of the General bondholders with respect to the Fuel Company stock pointing to the fact that the Commission had permitted 'doubts and uncertainties' to remain with respect to the value of the collateral, and that there was a danger that if the collateral had substantial value, the First Consolidated bondholders might receive more than full payment.
The facts set out above fully support the conclusion of the Commission that the 'title to the stock is vested in the Missouri Pacific and Western Pacific.' Whatever rights the debtor may have retained after the sale of the stock on execution in 1918 were released to the trustee and the two railroads in 1924. We have then a situation in which the holders of the ultimate beneficial interest in stock which had been pledged previously under a mortgage have permitted that interest to be encumbered by a third person, namely the debtor, as security for its [328 U.S. 495, 529] General and Refunding bonds. The rule is settled in bankruptcy proceedings that a creditor secured by the property of others need not deduct the value of that collateral or its proceeds in proving his debt. Ivanhoe Bldg. Loan Ass'n v. Orr, 295 U.S. 243 , 55 S.Ct. 685. We see no reason why the same should not be true under 77. See New York Trust Co. v. Palmer, 2 Cir., 101 F.2d 1, 3. Therefore the First Consolidated Mortgage bonds were properly permitted to prove the full amount of their debt.
Respondents, speaking only for the General bondholders, object that the plan gives the First Consolidated bondholders all the Utah Fuel stock or its proceeds in addition to securities the face value of which amounts to one hundred per cent of their claims. The Refunding bondholders make no objection. It is thus contended that the plan deprives the General bondholders of their junior interest in the stock without a determination of the value of that stock, or a finding of the extent to which the Consolidated bondholders have been paid by the new securities to be given them. We do not so read the plan. The plan provides merely that the trustee of the Consolidated Mortgage 'shall be permitted to obtain the release of the equities in the stock of the Utah Fuel Company' and distribute the stock or its proceeds to the holders of the bonds. This statement contains at least two requirements to be met before the Consolidated bonds obtain anything from the collateral. The first is that the trustee of the First Consolidated Mortgage be in existence. Even after the plan goes into operation and the old securities are surrendered for cancellation there is no requirement that the trusts terminate since they will continue to hold property other than that of the debtor. Section 77, sub. f, which deals with the effect of a confirmation and the discharge of the debtor from liability, does not so require. Hence whatever action the trustee of the Consolidated takes may be commenced prior to or after th consummation of the [328 U.S. 495, 530] plan. This will permit the respondent, trustee under the General Mortgage, which would continue in existence for the purpose, to take the necessary steps to safeguard its rights in the collateral on behalf of the Generals. 32
The second requirement, which is explicit in the plan, is that the trustee obtain the release of the equities in the stock. The junior lienors have an absolute right under the terms of the 1901 pledge and the 1924 agreement to all the proceeds of the stock over $6,000,000 and a right also to any part of the proceeds not needed to make the First Consolidated bonds whole. The trustee of the Consolidated concedes in its brief here that enforcement of the pledge 'can be brought about only through judicial proceedings.' It correctly points out that in such proceedings full protection can be given to all those who have any junior interest in the stock. Respondents' fear that the General bondholders and the mortgage trustees for the junior interests will not be in existence and so unable to protect themselves has been above demonstrated to be without foundation in fact.
The result is that this feature of the plan did not in any way change or affect existing rights in the collateral. The respondents may show in the judicial proceedings which must be brought by the trustee of the First Consolidated Mortgage that the First Consolidated bonds have been fully paid by the securities awarded them under the plan, if such be the fact, or the respondent, trustee of the General, may itself bring a proceeding against the trustee of the First Consolidated mortgage for a determination of the rights of the Generals. Petitioners concede, as they must, that they are not entitled to more than full payment and that they are under a duty to account to the respond- [328 U.S. 495, 531] ents for any surplus remaining after they have been made whole. 33
The treatment of the Utah Fuel stock in the plan is consistent with the Commission's disposition of certain collateral pledged with the Reconstruction Finance Corporation and the Railroad Credit Corporation by parties other than the debtor to secure notes of the debtor in the Western Pacific case. Western Pac. R. Co. Reorganization, 233 I.C.C. 409, 432. The Commission permitted the pledgees to retain the collateral and this Court approved that action, saying, 'This collateral, other than the refunding bonds, was therefore left with the pledgees with its position unaffected by any direct action of the Commission.' Ecker v. Western Pacific R. Corporation, supra, 318 U.S. at page 506, 63 S.Ct. at page 722.
Reasonableness of Rejection. As the conclusions of the Circuit Court of Appeals upon the allocation of securities, the treatment by the Commission of cash, war earnings, and decrease in debt with priority over the Generals differed from those made by this Court, that court's conclusion that the General bondholders were reasonably justified in rejecting the plan followed naturally. 150 F.2d at page 40. Subsection e gives power to a class, here the General bondholders, to reject the plan subject to the power of the District Court, after certification of the result of the submission, to 'confirm the plan if he is satisfied and finds, after hearing, that it makes adequate provision [328 U.S. 495, 532] for fair and equitable treatment for the interests or claims of those rejecting it; that such rejection is not reasonably justified in the light of the respective rights and interests of those rejecting it and all the relevant facts; and that the plan conforms to the requirements of clauses ( 1) to (3), inclusive, of the first paragraph of this subsection (e).' 11 U. S.C. 205, 11 U.S.C.A. 205; see note 9, supra. 34 The plan was confirmed after appropriate findings. 62 F.Supp. at page 390.
This provision for confirmation of a plan despite rejection by a class appeared in the draft for the 1935 amendments. Apparently it caused no particular comment. 35 [328 U.S. 495, 533] We think that the provisions for confirmation by the courts over the creditors' objection are within the bankruptcy powers of Congress. Those powers are adequate to eliminate claims by administrative valuations with judicial review and they are adequate to require creditors to acquiesce in a fair adjustment of their claims, so long as the creditor gets all the value of his lien and his share of any free assets. 36
The grounds accepted by us in former sections of this opinion as sustaining, as of January 1, 1943, the valuation of the road, the allocation of the securities, and the treatment of cash, war earnings and capital reductions establish that for the act of confirmation on November 29, 1944, over the objection of the General bondholders, the finding of the judge that the plan then made 'adequate provision for fair and equitable treatment' of the dissenters was justified. 62 F.Supp. at page 390. In view of the District judge's familiarity with the reorganization, this finding has especial weight with us. See Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, rule 52, 28 U.S.C.A. following section 723c. There is no doubt that the plan then conformed to subsection b and the other requirements of the first paragraph of subsection e. Note 9 supra.
This leaves for consideration the question of whether, the plan being fair and equitable as of June, 1943, effective January 1, 1943, the Generals were reasonably justified in rejecting the plan by ballots cast between April 26 and July 15, 1944.
As we have pointed out under Allocation of Securities, supra, the Commission's plan was adopted after 1942, the year of greatest profit and with anticipation on the part of the Commission that there might be other 'big' years but with realization that the war profits were not a sound basis for higher valuation. Current reports of earnings [328 U.S. 495, 534] were a part of the record. Nothing that respondents have called to our attention indicates any improvement in economic conditions or prospects in July, 1944, or any date since, over June, 1943, the date of the Commission's approval of the plan, which would justify a treatment different from that accorded the claimants in 1943.37 The challenge to the reasonableness or the unreasonableness of the rejection of the plan is not based on any change of conditions since its approval by the District Court October 25, 1943. Under subsection e, note 9 supra, the judge automatically confirms a plan after a vote of classes of creditors if satisfied that two-thirds of each class have accepted. If there is a rejection, there is a reexamination of the plan to assure that those who dissent have had fair and equitable treatment. Apparently the reexamination for this treatment does not differ from that for the original court approval under the first paragraph of subsection e. It does, however, center upon the rights of those who rejected the plan.
A rejection would not be reasonably justified unless the dissenters had a valid reason for their vote. As is shown by Judge Symes' discussion of their objection to confirmation,38 their reasons were the payment of the senior obligations with consequent claimed release of capitalization for junior securities and the inadequate valuation, particularly in view of the large additions to plants from earnings. We think that we have demonstrated that there was an adequate basis for the valuation, see page 10 et seq., and that the decreases in senior debt were not for the account of the junior creditors. See pp. 19-20, supra. Respondents offer no other ground for their votes in rejection.
Congress with its purpose to stop the blockade of sound reorganization by classes of creditors with the veto power [328 U.S. 495, 535] of the 1933 statute, note 35, supra, certainly did not intend to leave a class with the same power of interference because in its reasonable judgment that class thought the valuation was erroneous or the senior creditors were paid in full by the face value of securities. If a plan gives fair and equitable treatment to dissenters, the elements which make the plan fair and equitable cannot be the basis for a reasonably justified rejection. If only those elements are relied upon, as here, the rejection is not reasonable justified.
Of course, this does not mean that if a plan is approved as fair and equitable by the Commission and court, there cannot be a reasonable justification for its rejection by a class of claimants on submission. Reasons to make their rejection reasonable may arise thereafter. For example, unanticipated, large earnings might develop. We see no reasonable justification here for the action of the General bondholders.
In conclusion, we shall add that the foregoing opinion has been written without heavy reliance upon the duty of the Commission to plan reorganizations with an eye to the public interest as well as the private welfare of creditors and stockholders. 39 The Commission had this duty in mind. Our failure to comment more upon that feature of the plan should not be interpreted as an intimation upon our part that it is not important. These respondents cannot be called upon to sacrifice their property so that a depression-proof railroad system mightb e created. But they invested their capital in a public utility that does owe an obligation to the public. The Insurance Group Committee, with fiduciary responsibility to the myriad holders of policies, and the other investors or [328 U.S. 495, 536] speculators in senior bonds as well as the holders of General bonds or other investors or speculators in junior security issues, by their entry into a railroad enterprise assumed the risk that in any depression or any reorganization the interests of the public would be considered as well as theirs. That public interest in an efficient transportation system justifies the Commission's requirements for reasonable maintenance and improvement of the properties and for a capitalization with fair prospects for dividends on all classes of securities. 40
The judgment of the Circuit Court of Appeals is reversed and the orders of the District Court of October 25, 1943, approving the plan, and of November 29, 1944, confirming the plan, are affirmed.
The cause is remanded to the District Court for further proceedings.
It is so ordered.
Reversed and remanded.
Mr. Justice FRANKFURTER dissents, and will set forth the detailed grounds for his dissent in an opinion to be filed hereafter. See 328 U.S. 495 , 66 S.Ct. 1384.
Mr. Justice JACKSON took no part in the consideration or decision of these cases. [328 U.S. 495, 537] ganization here in controversy was approved by the Interstate Commerce Commission on June 14, 1943. 254 I.C.C. 349, 385. The District Court approved the plan for necessary submission to the various classes of creditors. C.C.H. Bankruptcy Law Service 54, 562. All classes except the holders of the general mortgage bonds accepted the plan. On the effective date of the plan, the claims of these General Bondholders constituted about one-fourth of the debtor's entire debt. Just short of eighty percent of this class of creditors (79.33%) voted to reject the plan. Congress has made the right of any class to reject a plan subject to the power of a district court to override such rejection, if the judge 'is satisfied and finds ... that such rejection is not reasonably justified in the light of the respective rights and interests of those rejecting it and all the relevant facts.' 49 Stat. 911, 919, Aug. 27, 1935, 11 U.S.C. 205(e), 11 U.S.C.A. 205, sub. e. The District Court on November 1, 1944, found that all the requirements of the statute had been met, and confirmed the plan. 62 F.Supp. 384.B ut the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, a strong bench, on May 10, 1945, found that 'the General Bondholders were reasonably justified, within the meaning of the statute, in rejecting the plan, and that the District Court was without authority to confirm the plan in the face of their adverse vote.' 150 F.2d 28, 40. On a fair construction of the requirements of Congress for the adjudication of railroad reorganizations, as applied to the situation before us, I cannot escape agreement with the Circuit Court of Appeals.
The CHIEF JUSTICE announced that Mr. Justice FRANKFURTER has filed an opinion setting forth the detailed grounds for his dissent from the opinion and judgment of the Court entered June 10, 1946, in these cases.
Railroad reorganizations are so enshrouded in the confusing intricacies of high finance that the true nature of decisive issues is too often lost to view. It may be useful to an appreciation of what appears to me to be the crux of the case to put a situation that is sufficiently analogous but much more familiar. In the early depression years the [328 U.S. 495, 538] big life insurance companies foreclosed a large number of farms. The foreclosure process, we assume, involved the control of the farm and all its income by a judge. The hypothetical farm began to make a fair income, enough to pay the insurance company a considerable part, if not the whole, of the annual interest. But instead of paying the interest, the judge applied the money to rebuild the homestead, to add a new barn, to purchase an adjacent field, the most modern machinery and additional head of cattle. Thereby the farm became far more valuable than at any time since the insurance company placed the mortgage on it. Moreover, the judge retained as cash in the bank a portion of the income sufficient to pay off at least twenty percent of the mortgage. The farmer thinks he ought to be allowed to use the cash to reduce the mortgage, should be given credit for the income which the judge used to make the considerable improvements and which could have been used to reduce the mortgage. This would appear to be a natural attitude on the part of the farmer, and it would hardly seem that he was not reasonably justified to resist the claim of the insurance company to the farm, with all its improvements as well as the cash in bank.
This simple analogy may look almost trifling alongside the complicated details involved in a plan for the reorganization of a railroad system. But is it an oversimplification of the controlling issue, namely, was the Circuit Court of Appeals wrong in holding that the General Bondholders were 'reasonably justified' in rejecting the plan? Let the facts, clearly and fairly stated in the opinions below, speak for themselves. Judge Huxman thus summarizes the Court's conclusion that the General Bondholders had 'a real grievance':
Inasmuch as the decision in this case seems to me to turn on an adequate appreciation of the facts, I deem it important to quote the analysis of the situation on the basis of which Judge Phillips reached his conclusion:
From the confusing financial details one stark fact emerges. In 1939 the Commission found that the debtor would be able to earn enough in the future to provide an income on one-third of the General Mortgage bonds. 233 I.C.C. 515, 592. In the reorganization plan in 1943 the Commission concluded that the debtor would not earn enough to provide income on more than one-tenth of the General Mortgage claims. 254 I.C.C. 349, 359, 380. The capitalization proposed by the Commission in 1943 eliminated as valueless more of the total claim of the General Mortgage bonds and more of the face amount of these bonds than did the capitalization proposed by the Commission in 1939. Since 1939 the debtor achieved a position permitting it to make large debt reductions and [328 U.S. 495, 545] to reduce considerably its interest charges. It accumulated a very large net income in excess of its interest service, it expended large sums to decrease operating costs and improve its business prospects, so that the future earning power of the railroad was greatly increased. In the face of all these factors the senior security holders were given not only securities for the full amount of their claim but also all cash accumulations available for the reduction of the road's indebtedness. Improvements in the financial and physical structure of the road patently calculated to increase the profits of the future owners of this road have been made the basis of substantially wiping out one class of the present owners. Inequitable consequences such as these led the Circuit Court of Appeals to conclude that the plan failed to satisfy the command of Congress that as a matter of judicial judgment a reorganization plan must be found 'fair and equitable.'
To defeat the plan it is not necessary, however, to find it intrinsically wanting in fairness and equity. Congress did not authorize the enforcement of a plan for reorganization once it is found, as a matter of judicial judgment, to be 'fair and equitable.' Congress wrote into law another and a vital condition to the validity of a railroad reorganization plan. A plan must also commend itself as 'fair and equitable' to the various classes of creditors. And if any class rejects it, the plan can prevail only if the District Court is warranted in finding that such rejection 'is not reasonably justified in the light of the respective rights and interests of those rejecting it and all the relevant facts.' 49 Stat. 911, 919, Aug. 27, 1935, 11 U.S.C. 205(e), 11 U.S.C.A. 205, sub. e.
Claimants who are thus entitled to vote on their interests as a class are surely not expected to vote as altruists any more than they are to be allowed to behave as unreasonable obstructionists. If that which Congress has written is not to be stricken out, we must recognize the [328 U.S. 495, 546] referendum which Congress has lodged in each clas of creditors as a means of self-protection by each class of creditors and not as an occasion for empty dialectic. On a fair and practical construction of the power which Congress has seen fit to place in the hands of the various creditor classes, a class can be deemed not 'reasonably justified' in exercising the right which Congress gave them to vote their interests, only if a court can say that no intelligent class of creditors, regardful of their class interests, but not obviously hostile to the common interest with which their class interest is involved, could have objected to the plan. Any other construction reads 'reasonably justified' out of the statute. In effect that is what the district court has done. And this Court, with almost the candor of silence, appears to sanction such judicial deletion of what Congress has written. For it does not find that the General Bondholders were not reasonably justified from their intrinsic point of view to exercise their right to reject the plan. It does little more than assert this conclusion, apparently on the finding that the plan was in fact 'fair and equitable.' It imposes its judgment that the plan was 'fair and equitable' upon the General Bondholders and thus in effect deprives them of the very right which Congress gave them to be judges of their own interests so long as the court cannot say they were capricious or greedy in their judgment. This Court seems to be of the view that if in its judgment a plan is 'fair and equitable', it must appear equally fair and equitable to every class of creditors. Here three circuit judges found the plan not 'fair and equitable,' yet this Court holds that the General Bondholders were not 'reasonably justified' in not finding it 'fair and equitable.' This can only mean that the Court deems redundant, and therefore eliminates, the Congressional requirement that before a plan can be approved, it must commend itself to the judgment of a class of creditors exercising the kind of judgment [328 U.S. 495, 547] that men are entitled to exercise in the pursuit of their legitimate self- interest, as well as commend itself to the judicial sense of fairness.
In assuming that if a plan seems fair and equitable to a court, rejection of it by any class must be unreasonable, the Court not only disregards the contrary assumption on the basis of which Congress legislated. Such an attitude is also oblivious of the practicalities of the situation. To assume that if a court finds a plan is 'fair and equitable' no class of creditors can be reasonably justified in rejecting it, is to assume that the ascertainment of fairness concerning so complicated a situation as a plan for a railroad's reorganization lies in the realm of even approximate certitude. Quite the opposite is true. A court in ascertaining whether a plan is fair and equitable is not engaged in ascertaining indisputable facts. It is forming a judgment, and largely a prophetic judgment, regarding a maze of factors, and as to each factor there is usually room for considerable difference of opinion. It is for this reason that Congress made it a condition for judicial approval of the plan that it appear fair and equitable in the voting system by the classes of creditors.
For an addition it was, made by Congress to the recommendation of the legislation by Commissioner Joseph B. Eastman. As Federal Coordinator, he proposed to Congress that a court be authorized to confirm the reorganization plan despite the failure to obtain a majority vote of one or more of the affected classes of creditors, provided that the district court was satisfied in two respects: (1) that the plan 'makes adequate provision for fair and equitable treatment for the interests or claims of those rejecting it'; and (2) that the judge was satisfied that the plan is 'fair and equitable' 'even if not so approved' by a class of creditors. See Coordinator's Annual Report for 1934, pp. 101-102, 237, 238. [328 U.S. 495, 548] But Congress deemed it in the public interest to give greater protection to h e various classes of creditors than the Coordinator suggested. In several respects Congress limited the power of courts to disregard a class vote against a plan beyond the safeguards proposed by the Coordinator. For present purposes it is decisive to note that Congress added to the protection formulated by the Coordinator by requiring that a judge, after finding that a plan is 'fair and equitable,' must also be satisfied and find that 'such rejection is not reasonably justified in the light of the respective rights and interests of those rejecting it and all the relevant facts.' I cannot escape the conclusion that to hold, in the circumstances of this case, that the General Bondholders were not reasonably justified in rejecting the plan is to decide that this requirement, purposefully written into the law by Congress as an addition to the requirement that the judge must find the plan to be 'fair and equitable', is but a meaningless repetition of that requirement.
The undesirability of further delay in taking this road out of the district court, where it has been for more than a decade, is bound to press upon any court. But it ought not lead to confirmation of a plan which fails to satisfy the explicit prerequisites for approval laid down by Congress, particularly so where the result is as drastic as the Circuit Court of Appeals and the expert Senate Committee on Interstate Commerce have made manifest. See S.Rep. 1170, 79th Cong.2d Sess. pp. 17, 18, 40, 42, 67, 68, 72, 73, 91-95, 105-109, 121-123.
Congress has not curtailed, nor shown any desire to restrict, the right of self-protection which it gave to railroad creditors by the Act of 1935 and to which the result of this case appears indifferent. On the contrary, Congress has since given decisive proof that it disapproved the construction which courts have heretofore given to 77, resulting in undue harshness to junior interests and [328 U.S. 495, 549] promoting concentration of railroad control. It has emphatically indicated that the rights of junior interests, reflecting public interests, should be more carefully safeguarded. Whether Congress has been wise or unwise in manifesting this view is not our business to decide. But it is the business of this Court to respect what I find to be a clear enunciation by Congress of the conditions which alone authorize courts to sanction a railroad reorganization.
[ Footnote 1 ] 11 U.S.C. 205, 11 U.S.C.A. 205.
[ Footnote 2 ] The plan is printed in Denver & R.G.W.R. Co. Reorganization, 254 I. C.C. 349, 385. See for former decisions of the Commission in this reorganization, 233 I.C.C. 515; 239 I.C.C. 583; 254 I.C.C. 5.
[ Footnote 3 ] C.C.H.Bankruptcy Law Service 54,562.
[ Footnote 4 ] The Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad Company is referred to herein as the debtor or the Denver; The Denver & Salt Lake Western Railroad Company as Salt Lake Western; The Denver & Salt Lake Railway Company as the Salt Lake; The Rio Grande Junction Railroad Company as the Junction.
[ Footnote 5 ] In Re Denver & R.G.W.R. Co., D.C., 62 F.Supp. 384.
[ Footnote 6 ] 254 I.C.C. at pages 354 to 357.
Full details appear in the plan, note 2, supra, as well as explanation of certain items in the following tables. The tables are printed to give the reader a convenient summary of the plan. 254 I.C.C. 382, 383.
CAPITALIZATION AND ANNUAL CHARGES
[ Footnote 7 ] Ecker v. Western Pacific R. Corporation, 318 U.S. 448 , 447-483, 63 S.Ct. 692, 709-712; Group of Institutional Investors v. Chicago, Milwaukee R. Co., 318 U.S. 523 , 539-541, 63 S.Ct. 727, 737-739.
[ Footnote 8 ] Cf. 318 U.S. at page 543, 63 S.Ct. at page 739.
[ Footnote 9 ] Applicable provisions of 77, 11 U.S.C. 205, 11 U.S.C.A. 205, are as follows:
[ Footnote 10 ] 318 U.S. at pages 472, 473, 477, concurring opinion at page 512, 63 S.Ct. at pages 706, 707, 709, concurring opinion at page 725; 318 U.S. at page 545, 63 S.Ct. at page 740.
[ Footnote 11 ] 318 U.S. at pages 475, 476, 63 S.Ct. at pages 708, 709; 318 U.S. at pages 536-539, 63 S.Ct. at pages 736-738.
Compare Wright v. Union Central Ins. Co., 311 U.S. 273, 279 , 61 S.Ct. 196, 200; John Hancock Ins. Co. v. Bartels, 308 U.S. 180, 186 , 60 S.Ct. 221, 224; Gelfert v. National City Bank, 313 U.S. 221 , 61 S.Ct. 898, 133 A.L.R. 1467.
[ Footnote 12 ] 47 Stat. 1474.
[ Footnote 13 ] 49 Stat. 911. H.Rep.No.1283, 74th Cong., 1st Sess., p. 1; S.Rep.No. 1336, 74th Cong., 1st Sess., p. 1; Craven & Fuller, Amendments of Railroad Bankruptcy Law, 49 Harv.L.Rev. 1254. See Ecker v. Western Pacific R. Co., 318 U.S. at page 470, et seq., 63 S.Ct. at page 706.
[ Footnote 14 ] H.R.5924, 79th Cong., 2d Sess.; Hearings on H.R.4779, 79th Cong., 1st Sess., Serial No. 13; H.Rep.No.1838, 79th Cong., 2d Sess., p. 3:
S.Res.192, 79th Cong., 1st Sess.; S.Rep.No.925, 79th Cong., 2d Sess.; S.1253, 79th Cong., 2d Sess.; Hearings on S.1253, 79th Cong., 1st Sess., Voluntary Modification of Railroad Financial Structures; Hearings on S. 1253, 79th Cong., 2d Sess., Modification of Railroad Financial Structures, Part 2; S.Rep.No.1170, 79th Cong., 2d Sess., pp. 1-2:
See A Critical Analysis of Recent Reorganization Decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States, F. C. Nicodemus, Jr., Hearings on H.R. 4779, subsequently H.R.5924, 79th Cong., 1st Sess., p. 181.
[ Footnote 15 ] 53 Stat. 1134, 56 Stat. 787, 11 U.S.C.A. 1200 et seq. A bill to extend this act to 1950, H.R.3429, was passed by the House of Representatives on November 1, 1945, 91 Cong.Rec. 10434; H.Rep.No.1128, 79th Cong., 1st Sess.
[ Footnote 16 ] Full details of the properties, the elements of rate making value, the corporate history, the capital structure at the beginning of the reorganization proceedings, the traffic and earnings appear throughout the various reports of the Commission, particularly the original report in 233 I.C.C. 515. The location and extent of its properties are succinctly described by the Commission at page 518, as follows:
[ Footnote 17 ] See Denver & Salt Lake Western R. Co. Construction, 154 I.C.C. 51; 175 I.C.C. 535; 233 I.C.C. at 520.
[ Footnote 18 ] The reports show the income available for interest as follows:
[ Footnote 19 ] 318 U.S. at pages 482 and 483, 63 S.Ct. at pages 711 and 712; 318 U.S. at pages 539-541, 63 S.Ct. at pages 737-739.
[ Footnote 20 ] Ecker v. Western Pacific R. Corporation, 318 U.S. at pages 475-476, 63 S.Ct. at pages 708, 709.
[ Footnote 21 ] 233 I.C.C. 578-81.
[ Footnote 22 ] 254 I.C.C. at 359.
[ Footnote 23 ] See for discussion of the formulae 233 I.C.C. at 581 et seq.; 254 I.C.C. at 16 and 359-76.
[ Footnote 24 ] Rio Grande Western consolidated, 254 I.C.C. at 365: 'Loss in earnings position and surrender of other rights, in our opinion, are offset by the possibility of increased return permitted by the 4 1/2- percent income bonds, 5-percent convertible preferred stock, unlimited dividends on common stock, and the other features of the plan.'
Denver & Rio Grande consolidated, id. at 364: 'This apparent change in earnings position is offset by the new sinking fund and capital fund and by the increased rate of return obtainable from the new securities, i. e., slightly in excess of 4.5 percent for 64 percent of the claim and unlimited stock dividends for the remainder.'
Denver & Rio Grande Western refunding and improvement, id. at 366: 'They also will receive whatever dividends may be paid on 97,706 shares of common stock.'
[ Footnote 25 ] Ecker v. Western Pacific R. Corporation, 318 U.S. at page 509, 63 S.Ct. at page 724.
Interest accrues on the secured clais until the effective date of the plan. Group of Investors v. Milwaukee R. Co., 318 U.S. at page 546, 63 S.Ct. at page 741. Compare Ticonic Bank v. Sprague, 303 U.S. 406 , 58 S.Ct. 612.
[ Footnote 26 ] 318 U.S. at pages 506-509, 63 S.Ct. at pages 722-724.
[ Footnote 27 ] 62 F.Supp. at page 390:
[ Footnote 28 ] 254 I.C.C. at page 356.
[ Footnote 29 ] Mankind's foresight is limited. The uncertainties of future estimates are recognized. It is not without interest to note, however, that on April 15, 1946, the railroads of the United States petitioned the Interstate Commerce Commission for increased freight rates and charges. This was said:
The Denver apparently did not vary greatly from this overall picture. Its net revenue for 1945 from railway operations dropped from $20,569,809 to $14,246,504. Its gross operating revenue, however, increased four and a half million. The loss in net was due largely to increased amortization of defense projects.
The monthly report o revenues and expenses by the Denver for January and February of 1946 shows a decrease of operating revenues from $10,856, 764 to $8,932,983.
[ Footnote 30 ] See note 24.
[ Footnote 31 ] According to Moody's Manual the net income of the Fuel Company for 1943 was $865,140, 1944 $653,901, and earned surplus at the end of the latter year $4,862,980.
[ Footnote 32 ] Obviously, the Fuel stock or its proceeds could be distributed to record holders of the old securities as of the date or dates of distribution of the new securities.
[ Footnote 33 ] There is a certain illogic in the position of First Consolidated bonds in asserting any rights in the collateral at all. If, as they concede and we now hold, they are entitled to be paid in full in new securities without regard to the collateral, it may be that they have been fully paid by the new securities given them since they do not complain of their treatment under the plan. Since they are entitled only to full payment it would then seem to follow that they have no rights against the collateral. We should not be taken as deciding this question, however, since we leave it to an independent suit in which there is jurisdiction over the proper parties.
[ Footnote 34 ] Clauses (2) to (3) are not involved. They relate to expenses, fees and costs.
[ Footnote 35 ] H.Rep.No.1283, 74th Cong., 1st Sess., p. 18. S.Rep.No.1336, 74th Cong., 1st Sess., p. 3, contains the following statement: 'Further, the consent of two-thirds of each class of stockholders must be acquired, unless, by an elaborate valuation proceeding, it is proved that the value of the property is so low that the stock has no interest. This is an effective obstruction. . . .
See also Hearings, House Judiciary Committee, 74th Cong., 1st Sess., on H.R. 6249, Serial 3, pp. 15 and 22.
[ Footnote 36 ] Wright v. Union Central Ins. Co., 311 U.S. at page 278, 61 S.Ct. at page 199, and discussion at pp. 8 and 9, supra.
[ Footnote 37 ] Cf. I.C.C. v. Jersey City, 322 U.S. 503, 515 , 64 S.Ct. 1129, 1135.
[ Footnote 38 ] 62 F.Supp. 384.
[ Footnote 39 ] 77, sub. d, note 9 supra. 318 U.S. at page 473, 63 S.Ct. at page 707; 318 U.S. at page 544, 63 S.Ct. at page 740.
[ Footnote 40 ] See concurrence of Commissioner Eastman, Western Pac. R. Co. Reorganization, 233 I.C.C. at page 437.