APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK.
Hughes, Van Devanter, McReynolds, Brandeis, Sutherland, Butler, Stone, Roberts, Cardozo
MR. CHIEF JUSTICE HUGHES delivered the opinion of the Court.
On July 2, 1929, the Interstate Commerce Commission made an order authorizing the New York Central Railroad Company to acquire control, by lease, of the railroad systems of the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railway Company (known as the 'Big Four') and of the Michigan Central Railroad Company. By order of December 2, 1929, the Commission permitted the assumption by the lessee of obligation and liability in respect of certain securities of the lessors. In this suit, a minority stockholder of each of the lessors, and of the lessee, sought to set aside these orders upon the ground that the Commission had exceeded its authority. The District Court, of three judges, upon pleadings and proofs, and having filed findings of fact and conclusions of law, denied the motion for injunction and dismissed the petition upon the merits. 54 F.2d 122. The petitioner appeals. U. S. C., Tit. 28, §§ 47, 345.
The District Court, against objection, sustained its jurisdiction. The court took the view that the petitioner,
as a minority stockholder of the lessors, alleged an injury not merely derivative, but independent, being a member of a class created by the leasing agreements. 54 F.2d at p. 126; compare Pittsburgh & West Virginia Ry. Co. v. United States, 281 U.S. 479, 487. While appellees submit that there are certain contentions which appellant may not properly raise, the correctness of the decision as to jurisdiction is conceded.
The authority of the Commission to make the orders is rested upon § 5, subdivision 2, and § 20a of the Interstate Commerce Act. U. S. C., Tit. 49.*fn1 After full hearing, and upon consideration of the purpose of the proposals, of the physical, traffic and intercorporate relationships, of investment, income and dividends, of the provisions of the proposed leases, of the benefits deemed to accrue to the public, of the particular situation of certain short lines, and of the objections raised by minority stockholders,
the Commission found that the "considerations and terms and conditions" set forth in the proposed leases were "just and reasonable" and that the contemplated acquisition would be "in the public interest." The authorization was upon the express condition that before the leases became effective, the New York Central should offer to acquire specified short lines upon terms and conditions stated. Report, January 14, 1929, 150 I. C. C. 278, 321, 322. Upon proof of compliance with this condition, and upon further conditions, the acquisition was approved. Supplemental Report and Order of July 2, 1929, 154 I. C. C. 489, 494, 495. One of the conditions was that the New York Central and the 'Big Four' should not be relieved from compliance with provisions of law applicable to any assumption of obligations and liabilities by virtue of the execution of the leases. On later application
for authority in that respect, the Commission found that the proposed assumption by the carriers was "for a lawful object within their corporate purposes, and compatible with the public interest, which is necessary and appropriate for and consistent with the proper performance by them of service to the public as common carriers, and which will not impair their ability to perform that service" and was "reasonably necessary and appropriate for such purpose." Report and Order of December 2, 1929, 158 I. C. C. 317, 323, 328.
Appellant contends (a) that as the New York Central had already acquired control of the 'Big Four' and Michigan Central by stock ownership, the Commission could not authorize acquisition of control by lease; (b) that the proposed acquisition involved a "consolidation" which could not be authorized under § 5 (2); (c) that the main lines of the lessors are parallel and competing with those of the lessee so that competition would be suppressed, and that the attempt to confer authority upon the Commission to approve the acquisition of control was an unconstitutional delegation of power; (d) that the proposed leases transgressed limitations imposed by state authority; and (e) that the action of the Commission was unsupported by evidence and was arbitrary and confiscatory as to the ...