Young v. Higbee Co, No. 342

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtBLACK
Citation89 L.Ed. 890,324 U.S. 204,65 S.Ct. 594
PartiesYOUNG v. HIGBEE CO. et al
Decision Date26 February 1945
Docket NumberNo. 342

324 U.S. 204
65 S.Ct. 594
89 L.Ed. 890
YOUNG

v.

HIGBEE CO. et al.

No. 342.
Argued Feb. 1, 1945.
Decided Feb. 26, 1945.

Page 205

Mr. Robert W. Purcell, of Cleveland, Ohio, for petitioner.

Mr. Marvin C. Harrison, of Cleveland, Ohio, for respondents.

Mr. Justice BLACK delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case presents the question of the accountability of stockholders who objected to the confirmation of a plan of reorganization under the Bankruptcy Act,1 and abandoned their appeal for a consideration to themselves, where the basis of the appeal was that, if successful, it would benefit the entire class.

The Higbee Company, a department store with assets of more than six million dollars, filed a voluntary petition

Page 206

for reorganization. It had three types of stocks, common, and first and second preferred. Two of its directors, Bradley and Murphy, claimed that they had acquired by purchase a junior debt against the company of $1,952,000.00. A plan for reorganization was presented under which the owners of this junior debt were to be awarded $600,000.00 in new notes and a large block of common stock. Potts and Boag, respondents here, and owners of some shares of first preferred, objected to confirmation of the plan. They contended, on several grounds, that unless the junior debt was subordinated to the preferred stock claims, the plan allotted that indebtedness too great a share in the distribution of the bankrupt's assets.2 When the stockholders' committee of which they were members approved the plan, Potts and Boag resigned and announced the formation of a new committee to press their objections to the junior debt allowance. Notwithstanding these objections, the Securities & Exchange Commission recommended the plan's acceptance, 8 S.E.C. 777, and the District Court confirmed it. 50 F.Supp. 114. Potts and Boag appealed from the District Court's decree confirming the plan. Although appealing as individuals, their appeal was based almost entirely on objections to allowances for the junior indebtedness which left less for distribution among all the preferred stockholders. Their appeal sought no separate individual relief for them-

Page 207

selves; they appealed only to have the confirmation set aside. Had their appeal succeeded, the District Court would have been required to reduce the value of junior claims asserted by Bradley and Murphy, thereby increasing the value of the claims of the preferred stockholders as a class.

In this situation, Potts and Boag sold their stock and their appeal3 to Bradley and Murphy, claimants under the junior debt; the consideration paid was $115,000.00. The par value of this stock was $26,000.00. Its admitted market value at the time, as the court below found, was $17,000.00. Pursuant to this contract for sale of the appeal a stipulation for dismissal was filed in the Circuit Court of Appeals. Petitioner Young, a preferred stockholder of the same class, sought to intervene and prosecute the appeal. His petition was denied and the case was dismissed without opinion. Young then, on behalf of himself and all other preferred stockholders, filed a petition in the District Court setting up these facts and praying that

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he be authorized to employ counsel to compel Potts and Boag to account to the debtor for the difference between what they received and the fair value of their stock, or praying in the alternative that Potts and Boag be required to pay over that amount to the preferred stockholders.4 After a hearing, a special master found as a fact that Potts and Boag had appealed in behalf of themselves only and had not acted as representatives of a class. The District Court approved this finding, thought it determinative of the case, and dismissed Young's petition. The Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. 6 Cir., 142 F.2d 1004, 1005. Because considerations of substantial importance to the effective administration of corporate reorganizations are involved, we granted certiorari, 323 U.S. 689, 65 S.Ct. 71.5

First. It is argued that since the Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal of Potts and Boag over Young's attempt to intervene, Young is estopped from prosecuting the present petition. This contention has no merit, for the reason, among others, that the determinative issues

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in the two proceedings were not the same. The first petition did not pray for an accounting by Potts and Boag. The court only decided then that Young could not intervene and continue that appeal, and that the appeal should be dismissed. Now, accepting the court's dismissal of the appeal as final, Young seeks an accounting for the consideration paid Potts and Boag for agreeing to dismiss.

Second: It is argued that since Potts and Boag did not expressly specify that they appealed in the interest of the whole class of preferred stockholders, but appealed only in their own names, they owed no duty to any stockholders but themselves. The appeal here, however, was not from a denial of any individual claim of Potts and Boag. Its basis was that every other preferred stockholder, as well as themselves, would be injured by confirmation. So far as the issues raised by the appeal are concerned, the rights of Potts and Boag and the other preferred stockholders were inseparable. Thus, even though their objection to confirmation contained no formal class suit allegations, the success or failure of the appeal was bound to have a substantial effect on the interests of all other preferred stockholders. The liability of one who assumes a determining position over the rights of thers must turn on something more substantial than mere formal allegations in a complaint.6 Equity looks to the substance and not merely to the form.

Furthermore, the right of appeal granted by a statute should not be interpreted in such way as to defeat rights clearly granted in other parts of the same Act. Peck v. Jennes et al., 7 How. 612, 623, 12 L.Ed. 841. Potts and Boag appealed un-

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der Sec. 206 of the Chandler Act, which, contrary to the general bankruptcy procedure, grants any stockholder or creditor the right to be heard on all matters relating to corporate reorganizations. Courts have liberally construed this language as authorizing appeals.7 We are now asked to say that the privilege of appeal granted to Potts and Boag by the Act vested them with an indefeasible right to sell the privilege to the disadvantage of all other stockholders in their class. But, historically one of the prime purposes of the bankruptcy law has been to bring about a ratable distribution among creditors of a bankrupt's assets; to protect the creditors from one another.8 And the corporate reorganization statutes look to a ratable distribution of assets among classes of stockholders as well as creditors. There would be no ratable distribution of this bankrupt estate if Potts and Boag could utilize their statutory right of appeal to get for their preferred stock.$7.00 for every $1.00 paid to other preferred stockholders. We are asked to say that Congress intended such a consequence, and to construe the right of a stockholder to be heard on a plan of reorganization as carrying with it the right to 'sell' the very appeal which the Act grants him.

Potts and Boag, by appealing from a judgment which affected a whole class of stockholders owed an obligation to them, the full extent of which we need not now delineate. Certainly, at the very least they owed them an obligation to act in good faith. If Potts and Boag had declined to accept this plan in bad faith, the court, under

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Section 2039 could have denied them the right to vote on the plan at all. The history of this provision makes clear that it was intended to apply to those stcokholders whose selfish purpose was to obstruct a fair and feasible reorganization in the hope that someone would pay them more than the ratable equivalent of their proportionate part of the bankrupt assets. 10 If Potts' and Boag's opposition to confirmation...

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200 practice notes
  • In re Inc., Bankruptcy No. HG 05–00690.
    • United States
    • United States Bankruptcy Courts. Sixth Circuit. U.S. Bankruptcy Court — Western District of Michigan
    • 17 Marzo 2011
    ...In Detroit, Inc.), 414 F.3d 576, 581 (6th Cir.2005). (2) Interpreting good faith voting under Section 1126(e): In Young v. Higbee Co., 324 U.S. 204, 65 S.Ct. 594, 89 L.Ed. 890 (1945), the Supreme Court analyzed the good-faith requirement under the predecessor statute to § 1126(e), and concl......
  • In re Am., Docket Nos. 10–1175
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • 7 Febrero 2011
    ...from both courts are now more than 65 years old and address § 1126(e)'s predecessor, § 203 of the Bankruptcy Act. See Young v. Higbee Co., 324 U.S. 204, 65 S.Ct. 594, 89 L.Ed. 890 (1945); In re P–R Holding Corp., 147 F.2d 895 (2d Cir.1945). Nevertheless, these cases, cases from other jurisd......
  • In re Victory Const. Co., Inc., Bankruptcy No. LA-80-07936-RO
    • United States
    • United States Bankruptcy Courts. Ninth Circuit. U.S. Bankruptcy Court — Central District of California
    • 26 Enero 1981
    ...157, 85 L.Ed. 91 (1940); SEC v. U.S. Realty Co., 310 U.S. 434, 60 S.Ct. 1044, 84 L.Ed. 1293 (1940); Young v. Higbee Co., 325 U.S. 204, 65 S.Ct. 594, 89 L.Ed. 890 (1945). 43 American Ins. Co. v. Avon Park, 311 U.S. 138, 61 S.Ct. 157, 85 L.Ed. 91 (1940). 44 Tinkoff, 85 F.2d 305 (7th Cir. 1936......
  • In re Hood, No. 00-8062.
    • United States
    • Bankruptcy Appellate Panels. U.S. Bankruptcy Appellate Panel, Sixth Circuit
    • 22 Mayo 2001
    ...to creditors. See BFP v. Resolution Trust Corp., 511 U.S. 531, 563, 114 S.Ct. 1757, 128 L.Ed.2d 556 (1994); Young v. Higbee Co., 324 U.S. 204, 210, 65 S.Ct. 594, 89 L.Ed. 890 (1945) ("Historically one of the prime purposes of the bankruptcy law has been to bring about a ratable distribution......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
200 cases
  • In re Inc., Bankruptcy No. HG 05–00690.
    • United States
    • United States Bankruptcy Courts. Sixth Circuit. U.S. Bankruptcy Court — Western District of Michigan
    • 17 Marzo 2011
    ...In Detroit, Inc.), 414 F.3d 576, 581 (6th Cir.2005). (2) Interpreting good faith voting under Section 1126(e): In Young v. Higbee Co., 324 U.S. 204, 65 S.Ct. 594, 89 L.Ed. 890 (1945), the Supreme Court analyzed the good-faith requirement under the predecessor statute to § 1126(e), and concl......
  • In re Am., Docket Nos. 10–1175
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • 7 Febrero 2011
    ...from both courts are now more than 65 years old and address § 1126(e)'s predecessor, § 203 of the Bankruptcy Act. See Young v. Higbee Co., 324 U.S. 204, 65 S.Ct. 594, 89 L.Ed. 890 (1945); In re P–R Holding Corp., 147 F.2d 895 (2d Cir.1945). Nevertheless, these cases, cases from other jurisd......
  • In re Victory Const. Co., Inc., Bankruptcy No. LA-80-07936-RO
    • United States
    • United States Bankruptcy Courts. Ninth Circuit. U.S. Bankruptcy Court — Central District of California
    • 26 Enero 1981
    ...157, 85 L.Ed. 91 (1940); SEC v. U.S. Realty Co., 310 U.S. 434, 60 S.Ct. 1044, 84 L.Ed. 1293 (1940); Young v. Higbee Co., 325 U.S. 204, 65 S.Ct. 594, 89 L.Ed. 890 (1945). 43 American Ins. Co. v. Avon Park, 311 U.S. 138, 61 S.Ct. 157, 85 L.Ed. 91 (1940). 44 Tinkoff, 85 F.2d 305 (7th Cir. 1936......
  • In re Hood, No. 00-8062.
    • United States
    • Bankruptcy Appellate Panels. U.S. Bankruptcy Appellate Panel, Sixth Circuit
    • 22 Mayo 2001
    ...to creditors. See BFP v. Resolution Trust Corp., 511 U.S. 531, 563, 114 S.Ct. 1757, 128 L.Ed.2d 556 (1994); Young v. Higbee Co., 324 U.S. 204, 210, 65 S.Ct. 594, 89 L.Ed. 890 (1945) ("Historically one of the prime purposes of the bankruptcy law has been to bring about a ratable distribution......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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