Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

IN RE PENN CENT. TRANSP. CO.

March 9, 1978

In the Matter of PENN CENTRAL TRANSPORTATION COMPANY, Debtor, THE UNITED NEW JERSEY RAILROAD & CANAL COMPANY, BEECH CREEK RAILROAD COMPANY, THE CLEVELAND, CINCINNATI, CHICAGO & ST. LOUIS RAILWAY COMPANY, THE CLEVELAND AND PITTSBURGH RAILROAD COMPANY, THE CONNECTING RAILWAY COMPANY, THE DELAWARE RAILROAD COMPANY, ERIE AND PITTSBURGH RAILROAD COMPANY, THE MICHIGAN CENTRAL RAILROAD COMPANY, THE NORTHERN CENTRAL RAILWAY COMPANY, PENNDEL COMPANY, THE PHILADELPHIA, BALTIMORE & WASHINGTON RAILROAD COMPANY, THE PHILADELPHIA, AND TRENTON RAILROAD COMPANY, THE PITTSBURGH, YOUNGSTOWN & ASHTABULA RAILWAY COMPANY, PITTSBURGH, FORT WAYNE & CHICAGO RAILWAY COMPANY, UNION RAILROAD COMPANY OF BALTIMORE, Secondary Debtors


The opinion of the court was delivered by: FULLAM

A. INTRODUCTION

 The Trustees of the Penn Central Transportation Company, Debtor, have presented for approval a Plan of Reorganization for that company and 15 Secondary Debtors whose lines were a part of the Penn Central system. These related documents are generally referred to collectively in these proceedings as "the Plan." I have concluded that, subject to a few relatively minor adjustments, the Plan complies with all legal requirements, is feasible, fair and equitable, and should therefore be submitted to the vote of the participants. The Opinion which follows sets forth the reasons for those conclusions.

 The Opinion deals with a great many issues and the contentions of a large number of litigants. The reader will encounter certain recurring themes, because the same legal concepts, or the necessities of a certain set of circumstances, may have important, but slightly different, bearing upon the issues being decided in a variety of contexts. Every effort has been made to avoid unnecessary repetition, but in some instances reprise seemed preferable to constant cross-references.

 In anticipation of the hearings on the Plan, this Court extended an invitation to the Securities & Exchange Commission to review the proposed Plan and comment upon it. This was done because the traditional role of the Interstate Commerce Commission in railroad reorganization proceedings has been abrogated by statute, with respect to the Northeastern bankrupt railroads subject to the RRRA. The SEC graciously responded to the Court's invitation, and its Report has provided very valuable assistance to the Court and to the parties.

 The SEC Report has been particularly helpful with respect to feasibility issues and what may be referred to as the legitimacy of the new securities proposed to be issued pursuant to the Plan. I am satisfied that the SEC's valuations, and its conclusions concerning feasibility are sound. I incorporate herein the elaboration of these issues contained in the SEC Report, and have concluded that further discussion of feasibility and valuation issues in this Opinion would be superfluous.

 The excellent sketch of the pre-bankruptcy history of the Debtor which is included in the SEC Report has also made it unnecessary to repeat that material here.

 Because of the unavoidable length and complexity of the Opinion, I have provided at the outset a brief summary of the contents, for the benefit of those who are more interested in the decision of a particular issue than in the legal reasoning leading to that decision.

 B. SUMMARY OF OPINION

 The Opinion begins by explaining what a reorganization is, and how it occurs. This is followed by a review of the history of the Penn Central reorganization proceedings from June 21, 1970 to date. In combination, these opening sections of the Opinion point up the unique problems for this estate stemming from the implementation of the RRRA: the existence of huge amounts of unpaid administration claims against the estate, and the fact that the rail assets have been conveyed to ConRail but have not yet been paid for.

 Next, a summary of the Plan itself is provided. This section begins with an explanation of how the Plan attempts to deal with the uncertainties stemming from the RRRA-related problems. This is followed by a detailed description of the significant terms of the new securities to be issued under the Plan, and the proposed distribution of those securities. The section concludes with an explanation of the relationship between the Penn Central Plan and those of the Secondary Debtors.

 The next section contains a discussion of the compromise aspects of the Plan. The principal conclusions are that a reorganization plan may be achieved at this time without finally litigating all of the many disputed legal and factual issues; that it is permissible to incorporate in a reorganization plan compromise resolutions of disputed issues, regardless of whether the compromises are agreed upon by all of the affected parties, so long as the resolution is fair and reasonable, within the range of results which litigation could be expected to provide, and in the best interests of the affected parties. The major compromise settlements embodied in the Plan with the Federal Government, the secured bank group, and the New Haven Trustee are then discussed and approved.

 The following section contains a summary of the principal issues involved in the Valuation Case litigation before the Special Court, the status of that litigation, and its relationship to the provisions of the Plan.

 The balance of the Opinion deals with objections to various features of the Plan which have been expressed by the litigants. Section II-F deals with the claims of state and local taxing entities. In summary, the Court concludes that penalties should be disallowed, that tax claims need not be paid in full in cash; that the lien of tax claims against the rail assets conveyed to ConRail are not automatically transferred to the Debtor's retained assets; and that the Plan makes adequate provision for these claims.

 Section II-G deals with the Plan's provisions relating to the claims of secured creditors (Class J), and with a number of objections to that treatment. The conclusion is that the claims of secured creditors are properly classified in a single class, and are accorded fair and equitable treatment under the Plan. The various arguments of the so-called "super-secured" claimants (creditors whose claims are more than fully secured by retained assets) are discussed, and rejected for the most part; but the Court has concluded that slightly different treatment should be provided the claims of bondholders under four specified mortgages (Mohawk & Malone; Gold Bond; New York Central 6% Due 1990; Penn Central 61/2% Bonds due 1993). Specifically, their rights to redeem their preference stock are to have priority over the random-selection-by-lot redemptions for other Class J creditors.

 The Opinion then deals with various disputes concerning the manner in which retained assets have been allocated among various mortgages for purposes of establishing the correct allocations of A and B bonds under the Plan. The Court rejects most of the objections against the Plan but does require a slight revision in the allocation of retained assets to the R & I Mortgage in recognition of the denial of recourse against properties sold by the Debtor before bankruptcy and not released from the mortgage.

 The remaining objections of Class J creditors are discussed and overruled, with minor exceptions. The Court agrees with the contention of Girard Bank as Indenture Trustee of the Pennsylvania Railroad General Mortgage that the after-acquired property clause renders that mortgage a lien on certain disputed branch lines.

 Section II-H of the Opinion discusses the claims for priority under the so-called "six months" rule and under the "necessity of payment" doctrine. The conclusion is that the six months priority cannot be recognized in this proceeding, because there is no "current debt fund" and because there have been no diversions for the benefit of mortgagees. And the Court concludes that the "necessity of payment" doctrine does not apply at this time.

 Section II-I deals with claims for priority asserted by Bank Setoff claimants, the interline railroads, and claims for freight loss and damage. All of these claims for priority treatment are rejected.

 Finally, the Opinion deals with the contingent claims asserted by Amtrak and ConRail, and with certain miscellaneous claims of the Federal Government, and concludes that the Plan contains adequate provisions for these claims.

 PART II

 A. BACKGROUND

 1. Reorganization Process

 Federal bankruptcy law addresses the problems of financially embarrassed business debtors, and provides solutions which fall into two general categories: (1) liquidation, or "straight" bankruptcy, in which the assets of the debtor are sold and the proceeds distributed to its unsecured creditors in proportion to the amounts of their claims, whereupon all debts are discharged and the debtor can start anew *fn1" ; and (2) rehabilitation through reorganization of the enterprise *fn2" Generally speaking, if there is a reasonable prospect that the debtor can become successful, so that greater economic benefits would be realized by preserving it as a going concern than would be achieved through liquidation, then rehabilitation rather than liquidation is the correct choice.

 Railroads, however, are in a special category, both because the public interest requires that they continue to operate, and because dismantling and liquidating them would ordinarily be economically wasteful, and would be unlikely to provide as great a return to their creditors as would their preservation as operating units. Congress has therefore precluded railroads from availing themselves of the "straight" bankruptcy liquidation alternative, but instead has enacted the special provisions of § 77 of the Bankruptcy Act for the rehabilitation of railroad debtors *fn3" The Penn Central bankruptcy proceeding is a § 77 railroad reorganization proceeding.

 Assuming it makes economic sense to keep the enterprise going that is, assuming the value of its earning power is greater than the amount which would be produced by sale of its assets reorganization of the enterprise is feasible. Reorganization is achieved through the mechanism of a Plan *fn4" , which translates the value represented by the earning power of the enterprise into a new set of securities, and distributes these new securities appropriately among creditors and other claimants, in discharge of the debtor's obligations. Valuation of the enterprise involves at least two exercises of judgment: determining what the earning power of the enterprise realistically is (based upon past performance, present circumstances, and supportable predictions of future events), and establishing the appropriate capitalization rate for converting the predicted future earnings into present value.

 The design of the capital structure of the reorganized enterprise must be such that the debtor's earnings will support the new capital structure. The reorganized company must be reasonably likely to be able to comply with the requirements of the securities issued. That is, it must be reasonable to suppose that the reorganized company will be able to meet when due the payments required by the new debt securities, and that it will have sufficient earnings to enable it to pay dividends and grow, so that its equity securities will have value.

 By definition, if the Debtor were able to pay off its existing debt obligations according to their terms, it would not be in bankruptcy. Thus, the new securities provided for in a reorganization plan inevitably represent substantial alterations in the rights of creditors and other claimants.

 In a straight liquidation proceeding, the assets would be sold and the cash divided among the unsecured creditors, subject to priorities established by statute. All claims would be discharged, even though the proceeds from the sale of the Debtor's assets proved insufficient to pay all claims in full, or even left many claims unpaid altogether. By the same token, in a reorganization proceeding we are dealing with a finite quantity of values (the total value of the ongoing enterprise, represented by the new securities, or cash plus new securities) to be distributed among creditors and other claimants. The essential requirement is that the distribution be fair and equitable, and in accordance with the absolute priority rule.

 Under the absolute priority rule, all claims against the estate must be classified and ranked in accordance with the system of priorities established by law. The claims in each class must receive the fair equivalent of the rights lost through discharge, if there is to be any distribution to claimants of lesser rank. This does not mean that senior claimants must be paid in cash before junior claimants participate, nor does it mean that distributions to junior claimants must be made at later times than to senior claimants. But what is required is that the distributions to senior claimants must have value which is substantially equivalent to the value of the claim being surrendered, before claims of lower rank can be recognized.

 Generally speaking, there are four classes of claims: claims of administration (I. e., the costs and expenses incurred in conducting operations during bankruptcy), secured claims, unsecured claims, and equity interests. To the extent that a secured claim is not fully secured (that is, to the extent the assets securing the claim are worth less than the amount of the claim), it is treated as an unsecured claim. If the total amount of the claims against the estate exceed the total value of the estate, the estate is insolvent, albeit still reorganizable, and equity interests cannot be permitted to participate under the plan.

 A § 77 Plan of Reorganization must be submitted to the Court for approval *fn5" If approved as fair and equitable, and as complying with all legal requirements, the Plan must then be submitted to the vote of all who are entitled to participate in the Plan. If the vote is favorable *fn6" , the Plan is then confirmed by the Court, and carried out. If one or more classes of participants reject the Plan, the Court will review the matter in light of the results of the voting, but the Court is empowered to confirm the Plan notwithstanding the negative vote, in the absence of changed circumstances, if it deems that course appropriate.

 If the Court initially disapproves the Plan, it is not submitted to vote; the Court may require that a new Plan be submitted, or may dismiss the proceedings *fn7"

 The Penn Central Plan is now before the Court for approval. The Court is required to decide whether the Plan conforms to legal requirements, whether it is feasible and whether it is fair and equitable.

 2. History of the Penn Central Reorganization

 The Penn Central reorganization differs from the "normal' railroad reorganizations of the past in many ways. The immediately apparent difference, of course, is the magnitude of the enterprise and the complexity of its financial structure; but these are only matters of degree. The really important differences in kind have become manifest during the course of the proceedings, and require some explanation, as a prelude to our examination of the proposed Reorganization Plan.

 If a bankrupt railroad can be sufficiently revitalized so that it becomes income-producing again, it can be reorganized. In previous railroad reorganizations, the question whether the enterprise could be restored to profitability depended upon changes in the economic climate, or changes within the control of management (E. g., cost reductions, increases in efficiency, etc.). The successful reorganizations of the past were generally achieved because a combination of changed economic circumstances and management improvements provided sufficient net income to support a scaled-down and stretched-out debt structure.

 In instances where it proved impossible to achieve profitability, there were several alternatives. Merger into larger, profitable, railroads could sometimes provide a solution to the problem. Or, preservation of essential rail service could be achieved by selling major portions of the bankrupt railroad to other, profitable, carriers, and the remaining assets could be liquidated. Or, in rare instances, the bankrupt railroad could simply be shut down and liquidated, with only temporary and localized adverse consequences to the public.

 In the case of Penn Central, however, it early became apparent that profitability could not be restored by means within the control of the Trustees or of this Court. Very substantial changes in the regulatory climate, both procedural and substantive, were required, and sweeping changes in work rules and other aspects of labor-management relations bearing upon productivity. Some of these changes could theoretically have been brought about without further legislation by Congress. For example, greater flexibility in rate-making, more expeditious and more equitable divisions proceedings, and expedited proceedings for abandonment of unprofitable lines, were theoretically attainable through the actions of regulatory agencies. *fn8" And the labor-management issues were theoretically susceptible of resolution through the mechanisms provided by the Railway Labor Act. *fn9" But the changes needed here would have ramifications far beyond the Penn Central system itself; important issues of national transportation policy were at stake. Hence, as a practical matter, congressional action was essential.

 Thus, in the case of Penn Central, restoration of profitability which would render reorganization feasible was dependent upon governmental action. And many of the alternatives to independent reorganization which had provided acceptable solutions in other railroad reorganizations were simply not available to Penn Central because of its size, the magnitude of its problems, and the importance of its rail service to the nation's economy. For example, merger with another railroad was out of the question, and cessation of operations was unthinkable.

 The other major distinction between the Penn Central reorganization and earlier reorganizations, namely, the accumulation of huge amounts of unpaid administration expenses, is a product of the passage of time before legislative action occurred, and the nature of the legislative actions taken.

 The historical review which follows shows how these problems developed, and puts in chronological perspective the genesis of the proposed Plan of Reorganization.

 From the first day of the Penn Central reorganization, June 21, 1970, the full powers of § 77 were brought to bear. Pursuant to various Orders of this Court, the Trustees suspended all tax payments, leased line rents, and debt service, and all creditors' actions against the estate were stayed. *fn10" Notwithstanding the substantial reduction in expenses which resulted from these actions, there was inadequate cash available to continue operations. A federal guarantee provided $ 100 million from the issuance of trustees certificates and the entire amount was used to pay operating expenses during the early months of the case. *fn11"

 While the immediate cash shortage problem was working its way to resolution, the Trustees endeavored to cut costs and increase demand for the Debtor's services. They made some progress and predicted additional progress. Yet, on February 10, 1971, the Trustees reported to the Court: *fn12"

 
Penn Central is presently locked by circumstances beyond its managerial control into a situation which had best be recognized Now as completely precluding viability unless certain constraints are removed, or other arrangements are made to compensate for their effects. (Emphasis in original).

 The Trustees identified four conditions for viability: (1) elimination of losses on passenger service; (2) rationalization of freight plant through elimination or subsidy of uneconomic lines; (3) more flexible rate and division procedures; and (4) improved labor productivity. The Trustees properly observed with respect to these conditions:

 
It is appreciated that the conditions to Penn Central's viability are hard and introduce factors that go far beyond the normal boundaries of railroad reorganization proceedings under § 77. But in the firm opinion of the Trustees, nothing less has a chance.

  In September of 1971, the Trustees filed a further report. Progress had been made in improving the internal operations of the railroad, and the enactment of the Amtrak statute had resulted in a substantial diminution, but not elimination, of the estate's non-commuter passenger service losses *fn13" Between September of 1971 and January of 1972, the Trustees completed a series of economic studies, and in February of 1972, reported their conclusion that unless the conditions of viability were substantially met by the end of 1973, the estate could not be reorganized *fn14" On the positive side, the Trustees also reported that their studies indicated that there was within the 20,000 route miles of the Penn Central system a core freight railroad of about 11,000 miles which carried approximately 80% Of the traffic, and which would be a viable economic entity if certain labor practices were changed. However, the projected revenues of this core railroad would be inadequate to absorb the continuing losses under the Amtrak contract and from commuter operations. In sum, at the very early stages of the case the basic question was clearly drawn. Would the private and public institutions whose cooperation was essential to the attainment of the conditions of viability embrace the proposal for an 11,000-mile core railroad?

 On April 1, 1972, the Trustees filed a proposal for a Plan of Reorganization which spelled out in more specific terms the justification for and the method of implementing the core railroad concept *fn15" In October of 1972, the Trustees again reported their belief that the core railroad concept was appropriate but suggested increasing the size of the core to 15,000 miles *fn16" The reasons for this change were that reduction to the 11,000-mile core would not generate sufficient cash to pay the labor severance expenses which would flow from the concomitant reduction of the work force; and that the ICC's procedures for abandonment of rail lines would be inadequate to handle, within a reasonable time, the abandonment applications which would be necessary to reduce the system to the 11,000-mile core. The October 1972 report also contained an analysis by the Trustees of a variety of measures, short of outright nationalization, which would be necessary if the core system and the conditions of viability were not attained.

 In February of 1973, the Trustees again, eschewing nationalization, but apparently reconciled to the inevitability of delay before the conditions of viability could be achieved, concluded that plant improvement in the range of $ 600 to $ 800 million would be necessary and that the only source of this financing was the United States. Absent such capital investment even a sharply reduced freight system would not be viable *fn17"

 The dilemma facing the Trustees was that each day the estate operated, additional deferred charges were accruing. Time was expensive. High administration expenses gave rise to two concerns. First, the potential economic viability of any railroad which might emerge was diminished by each increase in high-priority obligations. Second, the continued accrual of administrative expenses would soon reach the point of being an unconstitutional impairment of the rights of the estate's creditors.

 During this early period this Court resolved virtually every question presented to it in such a way as to give the Trustees an opportunity to preserve the railroad. After all, that is the purpose of § 77. The problems came to a head in early 1973, as the April 1, 1973 deadline for the filing of a Plan of Reorganization approached. On March 6, 1973, I filed Memorandum and Order No. 1137, granting an extension of time for filing a Plan, but directing the Trustees, not later than July 1, 1973, to file either a Plan of Reorganization or their proposals for liquidating the enterprise. In the course of that Memorandum I made the following observations *fn18"

 
It has long been apparent that the particular problems of Penn Central cannot be completely divorced from problems of national transportation policy. Railroads are, after all, a regulated industry. However unappealing may be the notion that a regulated industry can become bankrupt, the Trustees' efforts to rehabilitate the Debtor are circumscribed by existing statutes and regulations. To the extent that these statutes and regulations, whether in the area of abandonment, tariffs, or resolution of labor disputes, preclude the exercise of self-help in achieving profitability, the legislative and executive branches of government must be looked to for solutions, if solutions are to be forthcoming.
 
And this is as it should be, for it is those branches of government which should determine whether the kind of railroad which could emerge from a private income-based reorganization would be consistent with long-range goals of national transportation policy. Such matters as how much rail transportation should be provided, how much competition among railroads is desirable in the Northeast, and the extent of public interest in maintaining rail service which cannot be operated profitably, are clearly beyond the province of the Trustees, the other parties to this reorganization, and this Court.
 
I take judicial notice of the fact that the legislative and executive branches are now addressing themselves to these problems. . . . It would obviously be premature, therefore, for this Court to make final determinations as to the future course of this reorganization proceeding on the basis of the existing legislative and regulatory framework. The legal and constitutional rights of the parties to this reorganization should be evaluated in the light of whatever changes Congress sees fit to enact.
 
By the same token, however, this Court cannot ignore the realities of the Debtor's situation. On the basis of the record to date, it appears highly doubtful that the Debtor could properly be permitted to continue to operate on its present basis beyond October 1, 1973.

 In July of 1973, the Trustees submitted a Plan of Reorganization which contemplated termination of rail operations and liquidation of rail properties unless arrangements were made with public authorities to assume interim losses. *fn19" That Plan contemplated that public agencies, and other carriers, would have preference in the bidding for the rail properties, and that service would be continued under interim operating agreements until ICC and Court approvals of any purchases could be obtained. Non-rail real estate was to be spun off into and managed by a new real estate company. Finally, after consummation of the sales of the rail property, the remaining rail assets would be conveyed to a real estate company. When and how the creditors would be compensated was left open. The Commission concluded, after extensive hearings, that the Trustee's Plan was not a "plan" within the meaning of § 77 because it did not provide concretely for the continuation of rail services. *fn20" The Commission specifically declined to take into account the evidence before the Commission relating to the unconstitutionality of continued loss operations, holding that that issue was exclusively for the courts. The Commission referred to the legislation then under preliminary consideration in the Congress as perhaps the appropriate solution to Penn Central's problem.

 From March of 1973 to the end of that year, the Congress was engaged in the process of drafting and enacting legislation designed to remedy the Northeast rail crisis. On January 2, 1974, the Regional Rail Reorganization Act of 1973 (RRRA) became law. *fn21"

 The broad outline of the RRRA is relatively straightforward. The bankrupts would operate under the aegis of the Reorganization Courts for a further period, approximately 20 months, during which time the United States Railway Association (USRA), a new corporate entity created under the Act, could complete the task of planning the new rail system or systems, and deciding what portions of the Northeast bankrupts' rail facilities should be conveyed to Consolidated Rail Corporation (ConRail), the company which was to take over the system which USRA designed. The statute contemplates a system which, while not profitable immediately, would ultimately be a profitable private sector carrier. In return for the properties conveyed to ConRail, the bankrupts were to receive common stock and other securities of ConRail in amounts commensurate with the value of the properties conveyed. The Act also created the Special Court, a three-judge panel selected by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, to rule on the adequacy of USRA's valuation of the conveyed property and the value of the stock of ConRail which was given in return.

 Before a debtor in a § 77 reorganization could be subjected to the regimen of the RRRA, the presiding reorganization court had to find the debtor was not reorganizable under § 77, or, if it was, that the public interest would be best served by reorganization under the RRRA. With respect to Penn Central and a number of the Secondary Debtors, I concluded that they were not reorganizable under § 77. *fn22" As to certain other Secondary Debtors, I found that, although they were reorganizable under § 77, the public interest would best be served by their reorganization under the RRRA. *fn23" Shortly after these preliminary decisions were handed down, a three-judge court (of which I was a member) held the RRRA unconstitutional. *fn24" Although that Court found a number of the plaintiffs' key contentions premature, it concluded that the failure to provide a mechanism for compensating the estates for unconstitutional erosion between the time of the passage of the Act and the conveyance to ConRail rendered the Act unconstitutional.

 The next sequence of judicial review occurred pursuant to the RRRA. This Court found that the processes of the Act were not "fair and equitable," and an appeal was taken to the Special Court. *fn25" At about the same time the three-judge court's judgment was appealed directly to the United States Supreme Court.

 The Special Court reversed this Court's decision on the grounds that unconstitutional erosion of the estates, if any, would be compensable under the Tucker Act. *fn26" Shortly thereafter, the United States Supreme Court reversed the three-judge court's finding that the Act was unconstitutional. *fn27" The Supreme Court's two essential findings were (1) that the securities of ConRail were a constitutional medium of exchange for the properties conveyed, because the Tucker Act provided a remedy to satisfy any difference between the constitutional minimum value of the property conveyed and the value of the ConRail securities, and (2) that any unconstitutional erosion of the estates which occurred prior to the conveyance of the properties to ConRail could also be compensated under the Tucker Act. The upshot of all this was that the RRRA, as supplemented by the potential Tucker Act remedy, was held constitutional.

 The Preliminary System Plan was filed on February 27, 1975, and the Final System Plan on July 26, 1975. The end result of the planning process was that the service and trackage of the competing Northeast bankrupts was trimmed somewhat and consolidated into one system to be operated by ConRail.

 Throughout this period, the parties faced the problem of maintaining rail services until the conveyance date. There was almost constant litigation in the reorganization courts concerning the implementation of the § 213 grant program and the § 215 improvement program, the statutory mechanisms for providing cash necessary to continue rail operations. *fn28" That litigation aside, the Trustees and the respective Federal agencies joined in the cooperative effort to insure that the transfer of the Debtor's properties to ConRail went smoothly.

 Before the conveyance of the properties took place, however, Congress made a number of important amendments to the RRRA. Of primary importance to the consideration of the Plan are § 306 of the Act, which authorized the issuance of Certificates of Value, and the § 211(h) loan program. *fn29"

 Section 306 Certificates of Value are interest-bearing USRA securities backed by the full faith and credit of the United States, redeemable on December 31, 1987 (but potentially callable earlier). The certificates are a pledge of the United States to make up with cash any difference between the net liquidation value of the assets conveyed by Penn Central and the other Northeast bankrupts, and the value of ConRail's stock and other benefits conferred on the estates by the RRRA. Recourse to the Tucker Act would, however, be necessary if the Special Court should find that the constitutional minimum value of the assets conveyed exceeds the net liquidation value of the assets.

 As the conveyance date approached, it became clear to all that even after all funding provided under §§ 213 and 215 was exhausted, Penn Central's payables would far exceed its receivables as of the date of conveyance. The situation was potentially tantamount to a second bankruptcy, since ConRail was not to assume any liability for Penn Central's pre-conveyance obligations. And ConRail's operations might be adversely affected if the bills remained unpaid. Section 211(h) was enacted to remedy this situation. It created a mechanism by which ConRail borrowed from USRA in order to pay certain classes of the Debtor's payables. In turn, the estate was obligated to recognize as a current cost of administration the amount of § 211(h) funds expended by ConRail on the estate's behalf.

 On April 1, 1976, the Debtor's rail properties designated in the Final System Plan were conveyed to ConRail. Of the retained rail lines, some are being operated under RRRA-funded subsidy agreements with state and local governmental entities.

 As a consequence of all this, the Debtor's estate now consists of real estate and other investments not acquired by ConRail, plus the eventual right to receive ConRail securities (backed by USRA Certificates of Value) in exchange for the Debtor's rail assets conveyed to ConRail.

 B. SUMMARY OF THE PLAN

 1. Introduction

 The presence of huge amounts of unpaid administration claims (represented in large part by the claims of the United States Government, for which Congress has mandated the highest possible priority) and the unanswerable questions concerning the amount and timing of the receipt of the consideration for the rail properties conveyed to ConRail, have greatly compounded the difficulties inherent in fashioning a Plan of Reorganization of this magnitude. In my 1974 Opinion dealing with the so-called "180-day" issues under the RRRA, I had occasion to anticipate (but not resolve) these problems:

 
Another problem relating to valuation is the lack of any mechanism for establishing a relationship between the values to be assigned to the rail properties conveyed, and the valuation of the interests of secured creditors holding liens against those properties. There are several facets to that problem. In the first place, the timing is off. In determining whether a plan of reorganization is fair and equitable, it is necessary to determine the extent to which particular groups of creditors are secured, and the value of their respective securities, so as to be sure that they will receive equivalent value before any junior classes of claimants participate. Since the exchanges under RRRA would be between Conrail and the Debtor's estate, rather than the creditors, the problem of later recognition of the correct treatment of the creditors in a reorganization plan would be rendered quite difficult.
 
Moreover, the valuation of the property for sale to Conrail might very well not be on a basis which would permit rational allocation of the consideration on a segment-by-segment basis for purposes of later assigning lien values. And that difficulty would itself be greatly magnified by the fact that Conrail will presumably be made up of parts of various existing railroads, blended together in a smaller system designed to handle the traffic now being handled by several different railroads.
 
A further difficulty with the statute is the lack of precision in defining what "other benefits of the Act' are to be taken into account as part of the purchase price for the rail properties conveyed to Conrail.

 In re Penn Central Transp. Co. (180-Day Decision Under § 207(b)), 382 F. Supp. 856, 865 (E.D.Pa.1974). The Plan now before the Court is the product of the Trustees' Herculean and, in my judgment, successful, efforts to surmount these difficulties.

 The problems would be easily resolved if the value of the assets remaining in the Trustees' hands after the conveyance to ConRail were sufficient to satisfy all claims against the estate. Unfortunately, the facts are otherwise. The assets remaining on hand are valued at almost $ 1.85 billion, but the principal amount of all claims against the estate totals more than $ 3 billion. Therefore, any reorganization plan which is to be consummated before 1987 (the anticipated conclusion of the Valuation Case) must distribute securities based in part upon the anticipated proceeds from the Valuation Case, and must also take into account the correlative, albeit theoretical, risk that there will be no proceeds.

 The Plan contemplates that most of the other assets (herein referred to collectively as the "retained assets") will be liquidated in an orderly fashion during the next 10 years pursuant to an Asset Disposition Program. This is a very detailed and carefully constructed plan of liquidation, and there is reasonable certainty as to the amount and timing of the fruits of that program.

 Pursuant to the conventional reorganization process outlined in Section II-A above, the first step is to arrive at a value for Pennco and the other retained assets. The next stop is to determine what claims are secured by those assets, and in what amount; this step includes applying marshalling principles. The final step is to establish a feasible capital structure and to design a fair and equitable scheme of distribution. It is at this final step that the Valuation Case must be taken into account.

 The Trustees have integrated the known values of Pennco and the retained assets with the unknown value of the proceeds from the Valuation Case in two ways: First, the various securities to be issued under the Plan are related primarily, and in some cases exclusively, to either the Asset Disposition proceeds, the value of the reorganized company, or the proceeds of the Valuation Case. Second, in determining an appropriate distribution scheme, the Trustees made two essential assumptions: (1) that the Debtor is solvent; and (2) that each secured creditor has a lien upon assets equal in value to the amount of his claim (principal and interest). If the Valuation Case should produce a very small recovery, the assumption of solvency would be incorrect, and the assumption of full security would be incorrect in many instances. But if a more favorable result is achieved in the Valuation Case litigation, both assumptions would be clearly correct. Since the record does not permit a finding of insolvency, and indeed it seems more probable than not that the estate is solvent, I am satisfied that the Trustees' assumptions represent the proper course of action.

 The Plan provides for the issuance of securities in various combinations designed to recognize the differing characteristics of each class of claims, and to achieve a fair and equitable distribution of both the known values and the ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.