Reconstruction Finance Corporation v. Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad Company/Opinion of the Court

Court Documents
Case Syllabus
Opinion of the Court
Dissenting Opinion
Frankfurter

United States Supreme Court

328 U.S. 495

RECONSTRUCTION FINANCE CORPORATION et al.  v.  DENVER & R.G.W.R. CO. et al. (two cases). SAME

No. 278 to 282.  Argued: and Submitted: March 5, 6, 1946. --- Decided: June 10, 1946. Dissenting Opinion: October 28, 1946.


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 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 justified [5] 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 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]

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,

'Nothing in this opinion shall prejudice or foreclose the rights of the parties to propose a new plan of reorganization or the power of the Commission to formulate, approve, and certify a new plan of reorganization in the light of any relevant facts presented to the Commission in any proceeding under 11 U.S.C. Sec. 205(d)( 11 U.S.C.A. § 205, sub. d).'

DISTRIBUTION OF NEW SECURITIES PER $1,000 OF PRESENT BONDS

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.

Junction firsts ($2,000,000) 1,061.96 317.21 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 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 of creditors' claims, Congress intended to avoid the delays, costs and sacrifices of liquidation. [9] The agencies employed by Congress to accomplish reorganizations under Section 77 were the Interstate Commerce Commission and the 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 members 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, 87 L.Ed. 892, 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, 87 L.Ed. 892.

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 approach the problem in accordance with our reviewing authority under Section 77. That section embodies the method that Congress selected in 1933 [12] and improved in 1935 [13] 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 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 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 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 >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 capitalization 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:

'Neither was the Commission compelled to, nor would it be justified in adding the amount of these expenditures to the capitalized value if in the exercise of sound discretion it felt that the reasonable prospective earnings of the road, after the improvements did not justify it. However, in the face of all this, after satisfying in full the claims of the senior bondholders, the plan of reorganization should have made sure that all excess current assets, as well as all excess war profits yet to accrue, would go to the General Bondholders.'

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.

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 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, 87 L.Ed. 959. 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, 87 L.Ed. 892; 318 U.S. at page 569, 63 S.Ct. at page 751, 87 L.Ed. 859. 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 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 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:

'The new company shall be deemed to have come into possession of the properties as of the effective date of the plan.

'* * * The capitalization of the new company, as of January 1, 1943, after consummation of the plan * * * shall consist substantially of the following securities, excluding those to be pledged, the amounts stated being subject to reduction to the extent, if any, that matured interest proposed to be funded in the plan is paid, and as equipment obligations or other liabilities are paid or reduced * * *.'

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 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:

'The Senior Bondholders were paid in full. They received all the new securities and most of the common stock. Ninety per cent of the General Bondholders' claims were wiped out. They received only a small amount of common stock, ten per cent of their total claim. Adequate operating funds are essential to the operation of a railroad. The Senior Bondholders were entitled to receive in addition to the full amount of their claims, working capital sufficient for proper and efficient operation of the railroad. But anything in excess of what was reasonably necessary for this purpose constituted assets of the insolvent corporation which belonged to the remaining creditors.

'We think it is apparent from the record that there were current assets on hand consisting of cash and securities in excess of what was needed for the efficient operation of the road. As pointed out, the working capital of the the debtor had increased from a deficit of $9,727,230 as of December 31, 1935, to a surplus of $12,125,863.50 as of December 31, 1944. While these increased net earnings are due in large part to the war and will not continue after the end of the war, and may therefore be disregarded in setting up the capitalized structure based upon prospective earnings, we cannot disregard the fact that these huge surpluses actually exist. Their existence is an accomplished fact. It is also obvious that surpluses will continue to pile up for a reasonable time yet to come. We think any plan which fails to take this into account and which gives the Senior Bondholders their claims in full by substantially delivering the road to them, and gives them the surplus cash actually on hand and further enables them to receive in addition the excess war profits which are reasonably sure to come, is inherently inequitable and unfair, so long as there are classes of creditors whose claims are not fully satisfied.'

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 matter, 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 Court [27] 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]

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 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 capitalization. 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 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 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 trustee under the Rio Grande Western Railway Company consolidated mortgage shall be permitted to obtain the release of the equities in the stock of the Utah Fuel Company and distribute the stock among the holders of the aforesaid bonds in any manner agreeable to them, or to enforce its rights as pledgee of the stock of the Utah Fuel Company, the proceeds recovered to be distributed to the holders of the bonds.'

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 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 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, 79 L.Ed. 1419. 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 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 respondents 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, 87 L.Ed. 892.

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 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] 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 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 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 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.


NotesEdit

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.


[1]

[2]

[3]

[4]

[5]

[6]

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

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 2,158,45845,722

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 percent29,750,184 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 funds87,474,322 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 ------------

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

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. notes13,900,605 ..........

Unsecured claims, approximate 440,000 no equity


Total, Denver & Rio Grande Western 183,161,366 7,916,458

[7]

[8]

[9]

'(b) A plan of reorganization within the meaning of this section (1) shall include provisions modifying or altering the rights of creditors generally, or of any class of them, secured or unsecured, either through the issuance of new securities of any character or otherwise; (2) may include provisions modifying or altering the rights of stockholders generally, or of any class of them, either through the issuance of new securities of any character, or otherwise; (3) may include, for the purpose of preserving such interests of creditors and stockholders as are not otherwise provided for, provisions for the issuance to any such creditor or stockholder of options or warrants to receive, or to subscribe for, securities of the reorganized company in such amounts and upon such terms and conditions as may be set forth in the plan; (4) shall provide for fixed charges (including fixed interest on funded debt, interest on unfunded debt, amortization of discount on funded debt, and rent for leased railroads) in such an amount that, after due consideration of the probable prospective earnings of the property in light of its earnings experience and all other relevant facts, there shall be adequate coverage of such fixed charges by the probable earnings available for the payment thereof.

'(d) The debtor, after a petition is filed as provided in subsection (a) of this section, shall file a plan of reorganization within six months of the entry of the order by the judge approving the petition as properly filed, * * *. After the filing of such a plan, the Commission, unless such plan shall be considered by it to be prima facie impracticable, shall, after due notice to all stockholders and creditors given in such manner as it shall determine, hold public hearings, at which opportunity shall be given to any interested party to be heard, and following which the Commission shall render a report and order in which it shall approve a plan, which may be different from any which has been proposed, that will in its opinion meet with the requirements of subsections (b) and (e) of this section, and will be compatible with the public interest; or it shall render a report and order in which it shall refuse to approve any plan. In such report the Commission shall state fully the reasons for its conclusions.

'(e) Upon the certification of a plan by the Commission to the court, the court shall give due notice to all parties in interest of the time within which such parties may file with the court their objections to such plan, and such parties shall file, within such time as may be fixed in said notice, detailed and specific objectin § in writing to the plan and their claims for equitable treatment. The judge shall, after notice in such manner as he may determine to the debtor, its trustee or trustees, stockholders, creditors, and the Commission, hear all parties in interest in support of, and in opposition to, such objections to the plan and such claims for equitable treatment. After such hearing, and without any hearing if no objections are filed, the judge shall approve the plan if satisfied that: (1) It complies with the provisions of subsection (b) of this section, is fair and equitable, affords due recognition to the rights of each class of creditors and stockholders, does not discriminate unfairly in favor of any class of creditors or stockholders, and will conform to the requirements of the law of the land regarding the participation of the various classes of creditors and stockholders. * * *

'If the judge shall approve the plan, he shall file an opinion, stating his conclusions and the reasons therefor, and enter an order to that effect, and shall send a certified copy of such opinion and order to the Commission. The plan shall then be submitted by the Commission to the creditors of each class whose claims have been filed and allowed in accordance with the requirements of subsection (c) of this section, and to the stockholders of each class, and/or to the committees or other representatives thereof, for acceptance or rejection, within such time as the Commission shall specify, together with the report or reports of the Commission thereon or such a summarization thereof as the Commission may approve, and the opinion and order of the judge: Provided, That submission to any class of stockholders shall not be necessary if the Commission shall have found, and the judge shall have affirmed the finding, (a) that at the time of the finding the corporation is insolvent, or that at the time of the finding the equity of such class of stockholders has no value, or that the plan provides for the payment in cash to such class of stockholders of an amount not less than the value of their equity, if any, * * * Provided further, That submission to any class of creditors shall not be necessary if the Commission shall have found, and the judge shall have affirmed the finding, that the interests of such class of creditors will not be adversely and materially affected by the plan, or that at the time of the finding the interests of such class of creditors have no value, or that the plan provides for the payment in cash to such class of creditors of an amount not less than the value of their interests. * * * The Commission shall certify to the judge the results of such submission.

'Upon receipt of such certification, the judge shall confirm the plan if satisfied that it has been accepted by or on behalf of creditors of each class to which submission is required under this subsection holding more than two- thirds in amount of the total of the allowed claims of such class which have been reported in said submission as voting on said plan, and by or on behalf of stockholders of each class to which submission is required under this subsection holding more than two-thirds of the stock of such class which has been reported in said submission as voting on said plan; and that such acceptance have not been made or procured by any means forbidden by law: Provided, That if the plan has not been so accepted by the creditors and stockholders, the judge may nevertheless confirm the plan if he is satisfied and finds, after hearing, that it makes adequate provision 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). * * *

'If it shall be necessary to determine the value of any property for any purpose under this section, the Commission shall determine such value n d certify the same to the court in its report on the plan. The value of any property used in railroad operation shall be determined on a basis which will give due consideration to the earning power of the property, past, present, and prospective, and all other relevant facts. In determining such value only such effect shall be given to the present cost of reproduction new and less depreciation and original cost of the property, and the actual investment therein, as may be required under the law of the land, in light of its earning power and all other relevant facts.'

[10]

[11]

Compare Wright v. Union Central Ins. Co., 311 U.S. 273, 279, 61 S.Ct. 196, 200, 85 L.Ed. 184; John Hancock Ins. Co. v. Bartels, 308 U.S. 180, 186, 60 S.Ct. 221, 224, 84 L.Ed. 176; Gelfert v. National City Bank, 313 U.S. 221, 61 S.Ct. 898, 85 L.Ed. 1299, 133 A.L.R. 1467.

[12]

[13]

[14]

'Although all these laws were intended by Congress for the preservation of our railroads and their ownership, the theory has appeared to prevail that the capitalization of companies in section 77 proceedings should in all cases be drastically reduced. That is what has been done consistently and persistently. Under the past administration of section 77, as that statute was interpreted and applied by the Interstate Commerce Commission and affirmed by the Supreme Court, countless thousands of small stockholders already have been wiped out, and their investments, which would now be of great value, were uselessly destroyed. There are many more thousands upon thousands of such stockholders whose investments are imminently threatened with a like fate, unless Congress promptly enacts legislation to prevent such needless loss. And that loss-aggregating over $2,000,000,000-would be suffered largely by a widely scattered class of citizens (many thousands of whom are employees of these very railroads) who invested their legacies or their savings in one of America's greatest private enterprises, for education of their children, the purchase of homes, or security in old age. It literally may be said that these stocks were the favorite investments of widows and orphans and of trustees.'

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:

'The bill (S.1253) enables railroad companies to adjust their financial affairs quickly, economically, and on a business basis. The procedure it provides will reduce any disturbance of their affairs to a minimum, and will provide the maximum of protection for both the railroads and their investors.

'The existing law, section 77, was enacted in 1933, without hearings and without consideration of any subcommittee or committee of the Senate. It was enacted in the belief that it would help railroads to correct their financial affairs. It was found to do the opposite. It has placed in the hands of Government officials extraordinary power, which they had not requested, over 25 percent of the country's railroad mileage-a power which they have exercised:

'(1) to demolish every part of the financial and corporate structures of those railroads;

'(2) to plan in every respect the financial and corporate future of those railroads;

'(3) to pick men to control those railroads; and

'(4) to decree the forfeiture of $2 1/2 billion of investments.

'The present bill puts an end to every one of those powers and restores the operation of railroads to their managements and the adjustment of their finances to the companies themselves, with the assistance of their securityholders, where necessary.'

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.

[15]

[16]

'The Denver's principal eastern terminal are Denver and Pueblo, Colo., at each of which points connection is made with the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway and the Colorado & Southern Railway. At Denver connection is also made with the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad, the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railway, and the Union Pacific Railroad; at Pueblo, also with the Missouri Pacific Railroad, which is the Denver's main outlet to the east.

'On the west the main line of the Denver passes through Salt Lake City and terminates at Ogden, Utah. Connection is made with the Union Pacific at each point; at Salt Lake City the Denver also connects with the Western Pacific Railroad and at Ogden with the Southern Pacific. The interchange with the Western Pacific is more important than that with any other western connection.

'The road owned by the Denver consists of 1,256.6 miles of main line and 1,094.9 miles of branch lines. Operated under lease are the Rio Grande Junction Railway * * * extending from Rifle to Grand Junction, Colo., 62.1 miles, the Goshen Valley Railroad, a branch line 8.8 miles in length, and the Salt Lake Western, extending from Dotsero, on the Denver, to Orestod on the Denver & Salt Lake Railway * * * 38.1 miles. Including these leased lines, the Denver operates approximately 1,357 miles of main lines and 1,104 miles of branch lines. Approximately 771 miles of narrow-gage lines are included in the operated mileage.

'In addition to the above-mentioned mileages, the Denver operates over the Salt Lake, between Denver and Orestod, 128.6 miles. This line, together with the Salt Lake Western, constitutes the Dotsero cut-off route. The Salt Lake's ownership embraces the line extending from Utah Junction, near Denver, to the western terminus at Craig, Colo., 220.2 miles. For its Denver terminal, the Salt Lake uses, under a lease, the facilities of the Northwestern Terminal Railroad Company. The Salt Lake derives no revenues from the through traffic moving over the cut-off, since all such traffic is handled by the Denver.'

[17]

[18]

[19]

[20]

[21]

[22]

[23]

[24]

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.'

[25]

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, 87 L.Ed. 959. Compare Ticonic Bank v. Sprague, 303 U.S. 406, 58 S.Ct. 612, 82 L.Ed. 926.

[26]

[27]

'The $25,000,000 or more the Trustees have expended in the Improvement Program inures to the benefit of the common stock. If the latter is worth anything it is as much due to these expenditures as to any other factor. This, with the increase in current assets and wartime earnings which counsel seem to believe are permanent, constitute the only equity behind the preferred and common stock.'

[28]

[29]

'The situation of the railroads has now become critical and their need for a substantially higher level of freight rates has become imperative. This is the result of an extraordinary combination of war and postwar conditions with which the railroads are confronted, and more particularly the result of three factors of recent development: (1) the increase in wages of railroad employes of 16 cents per hour determined under the procedures of the Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C.A. § 151 et seq., in April, 1946, retroactive to January 1, 1946; (2) large increases, both present and prospective, in the prices of railway materials and supplies; and (3) a sharp decline in volume of railway traffic and an even greater decline in railway revenue.

'The volume of freight and passenger traffic is falling continuously, and it is anticipated that the downward rate will accelerate in the months to come. The revenues will be reduced by reason both of the decline in volume and a return to a more nearly normal composition of traffic. It is estimated that the operating revenues of Class I railroads for 1946, on the basis of the present rates, fares and charges, would be approximately $6,800,000,000, or 23.5 per cent less than they were in 1945.

'Freight and passenger traffic reached their peaks in 1944. But net railway operating income and net income began to diminish in 1943 on account of rising costs of operation. In the face of increasing traffic through 1944, both net railway operating income and net income moved steadily downward after reaching their peak in 1942. With the cessation of hostilities in 1945 there began to be a decline also in gross revenues which is expected to become more pronounced as the abnormal war conditions disappear, disabilities of highway carriers and other agencies of transportation are removed, and the prewar pattern of railway traffic is resumed.'

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.

[30]

[31]

[32]

[33]

[34]

[35]

'In order to remedy these defects, S. 1634, as amended, provides that two-thirds of those of each class who vote upon a plan will bind the dissenters or those failing to vote. But it also provides that the court may make effective a fair plan where the parties do not agree. . . . If two-thirds of each class consent, the plan will bind the remainder of each class. But the judge may make the plan effective, even if not so accepted, if he finds that it conforms to the requirements just stated, provides fair and equitable treatment for the interests of those rejecting it, and that their rejection is not reasonably justified in the light of the respective rights and interests. These provisions given complete due process of law from a procedural standpoint, there being provision for full hearings both before the commission and the court. Within the broad powers of Congress under the bankruptcy clause as recently declared by the Supreme Court in Continental Illinois Nat. Bank & Trust Co. of Chicago v. Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific R. Co., 294 U.S. 648, 55 S.Ct. 595, 79 L.Ed. 1110, the provisions also afford due process of law in fully protecting the property rights which are involved.'

See also Hearings, House Judiciary Committee, 74th Cong., 1st Sess., on H.R. 6249, Serial 3, pp. 15 and 22.

[36]

[37]

[38]

[39]

[40]

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).

  1. 1.0 1.1 11 U.S.C. § 205, 11 U.S.C.A. § 205.
  2. 2.0 2.1 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.
  3. 3.0 3.1 C.C.H.Bankruptcy Law Service 54,562.
  4. 4.0 4.1 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.
  5. 5.0 5.1 In Re Denver & R.G.W.R. Co., D.C., 62 F.Supp. 384.
  6. 6.0 6.1 254 I.C.C. at pages 354 to 357.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Ecker v. Western Pacific R. Corporation, 318 U.S. 448, 447 483, 63 S.Ct. 692, 709-712, 87 L.Ed. 892; Group of Institutional Investors v. Chicago, Milwaukee R. Co., 318 U.S. 523, 539-541, 63 S.Ct. 727, 737-739, 87 L.Ed. 959.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Cf. 318 U.S. at page 543, 63 S.Ct. at page 739, 87 L.Ed. 959.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Applicable provisions of § 77, 11 U.S.C. § 205, 11 U.S.C.A. § 205, are as follows:
  10. 10.0 10.1 318 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, 87 L.Ed. 892; 318 U.S. at page 545, 63 S.Ct. at page 740, 87 L.Ed. 892.
  11. 11.0 11.1 318 U.S. at pages 475, 476, 63 S.Ct. at pages 708, 709, 87 L.Ed. 892; 318 U.S. at pages 536-539, 63 S.Ct. at pages 736-738, 87 L.Ed. 892.
  12. 12.0 12.1 47 Stat. 1474.
  13. 13.0 13.1 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, 87 L.Ed. 892.
  14. 14.0 14.1 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:
  15. 15.0 15.1 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.
  16. 16.0 16.1 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:
  17. 17.0 17.1 See Denver & Salt Lake Western R. Co. Construction, 154 I.C.C. 51; 175 I.C.C. 535; 233 I.C.C. at 520.
  18. 18.0 18.1 The reports show the income available for interest as follows:
  19. 19.0 19.1 318 U.S. at pages 482 and 483, 63 S.Ct. at pages 711 and 712, 87 L.Ed. 892; 318 U.S. at pages 539-541, 63 S.Ct. at pages 737-739, 87 L.Ed. 959.
  20. 20.0 20.1 Ecker v. Western Pacific R. Corporation, 318 U.S. at pages 475-476, 63 S.Ct. at pages 708, 709, 87 L.Ed. 892.
  21. 21.0 21.1 233 I.C.C. 578-81.
  22. 22.0 22.1 254 I.C.C. at 359.
  23. 23.0 23.1 See for discussion of the formulae 233 I.C.C. at 581 et seq.; 254 I.C.C. at 16 and 359-76.
  24. 24.0 24.1 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.'
  25. 25.0 25.1 Ecker v. Western Pacific R. Corporation, 318 U.S. at page 509, 63 S.Ct. at page 724, 87 L.Ed. 892.
  26. 26.0 26.1 318 U.S. at pages 506-509, 63 S.Ct. at pages 722-724, 87 L.Ed. 892.
  27. 27.0 27.1 62 F.Supp. at page 390:
  28. 28.0 28.1 254 I.C.C. at page 356.
  29. 29.0 29.1 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:
  30. 30.0 30.1 See note 24.
  31. 31.0 31.1 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.
  32. 32.0 32.1 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.
  33. 33.0 33.1 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.
  34. 34.0 34.1 Clauses (2) to (3) are not involved. They relate to expenses, fees and costs.
  35. 35.0 35.1 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. . . .
  36. 36.0 36.1 Wright v. Union Central Ins. Co., 311 U.S. at page 278, 61 S.Ct. at page 199, 85 L.Ed. 184, and discussion at pp. 8 and 9, supra.
  37. 37.0 37.1 Cf. I.C.C. v. Jersey City, 322 U.S. 503, 515, 64 S.Ct. 1129, 1135, 88 L.Ed. 1420.
  38. 38.0 38.1 62 F.Supp. 384.
  39. 39.0 39.1 § 77, sub. d, note 9 supra. 318 U.S. at page 473, 63 S.Ct. at page 707, 87 L.Ed. 892; 318 U.S. at page 544, 63 S.Ct. at page 740, 87 L.Ed. 959.
  40. 40.0 40.1 See concurrence of Commissioner Eastman, Western Pac. R. Co. Reorganization, 233 I.C.C. at page 437.