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YOUNG v. HIGBEE COMPANY ET AL.

decided: February 26, 1945.

YOUNG
v.
HIGBEE COMPANY ET AL.



CERTIORARI TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT.

Stone, Roberts, Black, Reed, Frankfurter, Douglas, Murphy, Jackson, Rutledge

Author: Black

[ 324 U.S. Page 205]

 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,*fn1 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

[ 324 U.S. 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.*fn2 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 themselves;

[ 324 U.S. Page 207]

     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 appeal*fn3 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

[ 324 U.S. Page 208]

     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.*fn4 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. 142 F.2d 1004. Because considerations of substantial importance to the effective administration of corporate reorganizations are involved, we granted certiorari, 323 U.S. 689.*fn5

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, ...


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