McLean Trucking Company v. United States/Opinion of the Court

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Opinion of the Court

United States Supreme Court

321 U.S. 67

McLean Trucking Company  v.  United States

 Argued: and Submitted Nov. 12-15, 1943. --- Decided: Jan 17, 1944

This is an appeal from a decree of a statutory three judge court, [1] 48 F.Supp. 933, refusing to set aside certain orders of the Interstate Commerce Commission which had authorized consolidation of seven large motor carriers.

Associated Transport, Inc., was organized in Delaware in March, 1941, to bring about the proposed merger. In July, 1941, it applied to the Interstate Commerce Commission for permission, under Section 5 of the Interstate Commerce Act, as amended, 49 U.S.C. § 5, 49 U.S.C.A. § 5, 54 Stat. 898, 905, to obtain control of eight motor carriers, through purchase of their capital stock, and to consolidate their operating rights and properties into one unit within a year from the date it acquired stock control. At the same time, Associated applied for permission under Section 214 of the Motor Carrier Act of 1935, 49 U.S.C. § 314, 49 U.S.C.A. § 314, 49 Stat. 543, 557, 52 Stat. 1240, 54 Stat. 924, to issue preferred and common stock to be used mainly in exchange for stocks of the eight common carriers and four associated noncarriers.

Before the Commission, approval of the applications was opposed by the Secretary of Agriculture, the Anti-Trust Division of the Department of Justice, the National Grange, four fruit growers associations and Super Service Motor Freight Company, a motor carrier. [2] An examiner held hearings at which evidence was introduced, and the Commission heard argument on objections to his report before finally authorizing the consolidation. [3] 38 M.C.C. 137. McLean Trucking Company, Inc., a motor carrier which claims to compete with some of the carriers included in the merger, brought suit in the District Court to set aside the Commission's orders. The Secretary of Agriculture and the American Farm Bureau Federation intervened as plaintiffs. The United States confessed error. The Interstate Commerce Commission and the parties to the merger defended the Commission's order.

The principal issues, later set forth with particularity, are intertwined. They relate to whether the Commission applied a proper standard in concluding to approve the merger; whether it failed to give due weight to the prohibitions and policies of the anti-trust laws; and whether, upon the evidence and within the meaning of Section 5(2)(b) of the Interstate Commerce Act, the Commission rightly could determine that Associated, upon consummation of the merger, would not be affiliated with any railroad. The Commission resolved all of these questions in favor of the merger, as did the District Court.

In one respect, however, the case as presented to the court was in different posture than as it came to the Commission. This change arose from the elimination of one of the constituent companies, Arrow Carrier Corporation, from the merger between the time the Commission's orders were rendered and the hearing in the District Court. After the suit was begun the Commission, on the applicant's petition, modified its orders to exclude Arrow. Accordingly the Commission also amended its answer to indicate the change, and the case was decided on the orders as modified. They present the only questions for our consideration. It may be noted that the elimination of Arrow has bearing upon the issue relating to anti-trust policy, but more particularly on that relating to railroad affiliation.

The eight carriers originally sought to be merged [4] were Arrow Carrier Corporation, Paterson N.J.; Barnwell Brothers, Inc., Burlington, N.C.; Consolidated Motor Lines, Inc., Hartford, Conn.; Horton Motor Lines, Inc., Charlotte, N.C.; McCarthy Freight System, Inc., Taunton, Mass.; M. Moran Transportation Lines, Inc., Buffalo, N.Y.; Southeastern Motor Lines, Inc., Bristol, Va.; and Transportation, Inc., Atlanta, Ga. The merger embraces some of the principal operators along the Atlantic seaboard from Massachusetts to Florida. Certain of them serve communities as far west as Cleveland, Ohio, Nashville, Tennessee, and New Orleans, Louisiana. But the most important effect will be to create an end-to-end consolidation from points in the far South to New England, with obviously large possibilities for through service. According to evidence before the Commission the total assets of the companies involved, as of April 30, 1941, exceed $8,000,000 and their gross operating revenues for 1940 exceeded $19,000,000. The carriers operate principally as motor vehicle common carriers of general commodities over regular routes totalling 37,884 miles. Over 13,546 miles between important service points one or more competes with others in the group. [5] This competitive mileage will be eliminated by the merger, leaving a single carrier with routes extending over 24,338 miles.

As a result of the proposed merger Associated will be the largest single motor carrier in the United States-at least in terms of its estimated revenues-and no other single motor carrier will compete with it throughout its service area. Nevertheless, after careful consideration and on evidence clearly sufficient to sustain it, the Commission found that on completion of the merger 'there would remain ample competitive motor-carrier service throughout the territory involved' and in addition that one or more rail carriers would offer substantial competition to Associated at all principal points. It also found that the consolidation would result in improved transportation service. Through movement of freight would be simplified and expedited, equipment would be utilized more efficiently, terminal facilities improved, handling of shipments reduced, relations with shippers and public regulatory bodies simplified, safe operation promoted, and substantial operating economies would be achieved. The Commission concluded that the applicant's assumption of the fixed charges of the carriers would not be inconsistent with the public interest, and consummation of the proposed transaction would not result in substantial injury to the carrier employees affected.

In connection with Arrow's participation, the Commission found that The Transport Company, whose stock was wholly owned by Kuhn, Loeb and Company, had an option to purchase Arrow's common stock and would receive Associated's stock therefor when the merger was effected. The stock thus received, together with 9,000 shares of Associated's common stock already held, would give. The transport Company, and through it Kuhn, Loeb and Company, 6,877 shares of Associated's preferred and 67,167 of Associated's common, a total of 13 per cent and 9.53 per cent, respectively, of the preferred and common stocks expected to be outstanding at the conclusion of the transactions. [6] Kuhn, Loeb and Company is represented on the boards of directors of several railroads and for years has had investment banking connections with the Baltimore and Ohio and the Pennsylvania Railroads, each operating in territory to be served by Associated. A representative of Kuhn, Loeb and Company would be one of Associated's nine directors. After examining the blocks of stock which other persons would hold on completion of the consolidation and other matters bearing on the relationship between the proposed merger and the railroads, the Commission concluded that Associated would not be affiliated with any rail carriers. With the elimination of Arrow, of course, the likelihood of any influence on Associated's policies by Transport, and thus by Kuhn, Loeb and Company and the railroads, was substantially reduced.

The pertinent provisions of the Interstate Commerce Act, which is controlling, are set forth in the margin. [7] Section 5(2) makes lawful a consolidation of the sort here attempted only if the Commission authorizes it. The Commission is empowered to authorize and approve a

sent an application to the Commission, and thereupon the Commission shall notify the Governor of each State in which any part of the properties of the carriers involved in the proposed transaction is situated, and also such carriers and the applicant or applicants (and, in case carriers by motor vehicle are involved, the persons specified in section 205(e)), and shall afford reasonable opportunity for interested parties to be heard. If the Commission shall consider it necessary in order to determine whether the findings specified below may properly be made, it shall set said application for public hearing, and a public hearing shall be held in all cases where carriers by railroad are involved. If the Commission finds that, subject to such terms and conditions and such modifications as it shall find to be just and reasonable, the proposed transaction is within the scope of subparagraph (a) and will be consistent with the public interest, it shall enter an order approving and authorizing such transaction, upon the terms and conditions, and with the modifications, so found to be just and reasonable: Provided, That if a carrier by railroad subject to this part, or any person which is controlled by such a carrier, or affiliated therewith within the meaning of paragraph (6), is an applicant in the case of any such proposed transaction involving a motor carrier, the Commission shall not enter such an order unless it finds that the transaction proposed will be consistent with the public interest and will enable such carrier to use service by motor vehicle to public advantage in its operations and will not unduly restrain competition.

'(c) In passing upon any proposed transaction under the provisions of this paragraph (2), the Commission shall give weight to the following considerations, among others: (1) The effect of the proposed transaction upon adequate transportation service to the public; (2) the effect upon the public interest of the inclusion, or failure to include, other railroads in the territory involved in the proposed transaction; (3) the total fixed charges resulting from the proposed transaction; and (4) the interest of the carrier employees affected.

'(6) For the purposes of this section a person shall be held to be affiliated with a carrier if, by reason of the relationship of such perpublic interest.' Section 5(2)(b). In passing upon a proposed consolidation the Commission is required to 'give weight to the following considerations, among others: (1) The effect of the proposed transaction upon adequate transportation service to the public; * * * (3) the total fixed charges resulting from the proposed transaction; and (4) the interest of the carrier employees affected.' Section 5(2)(c). The foregoing provisions supply the general statutory standards for guiding the Commission's judgment; and within their broad limits, its authority is 'exclusive and plenary.' Section 5(11).

However, in two particulars, pertinent especially to the issues concerning anti-trust policy and railroad affiliation, Section 5 lays down more explicit commands. One is a specific exemption of carriers and individuals participating in an approved merger 'from the operation of the antitrust laws and of all other restraints, limitations, and prohibitions of law, Federal, State, or municipal, insofar as may be necessary to enable them to carry into effect the trans-


^1  28 U.S.C. §§ 44, 47, 47a, 345, 28 U.S.C.A. §§ 44, 47, 47a, 345.

^2  Other motor carriers, shippers and shippers' organizations intervened in the proceeding, as did also the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers of America. Except for the latter, which at first opposed but ultimately supported the application, they took no position on the question whether the application should be approved.

^3  Three commissioners dissented. Approval of the merger was qualified by the imposition of certain conditions not here relevant.

^4  The four noncarriers, each associated with one of the carriers, are Barnwell Warehouse & Brokerage Company (associated with Barnwell), Brown Equipment & Manufacturing Company (associated with Horton), Conger Realty Company (associated with Horton), and Southern New England Terminals, Inc. (associated with McCarthy).

^5  The Commission found that Consolidated and McCarthy compete substantially throughout Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island but Consolidated alone operates between those areas and New York City. Consolidated and Moran complete between the principal points in New York State, but Moran's routes also extend to Cleveland, Ohio, and to several points in northern Pennsylvania. There is some competition among Arrow, Consolidated and Moran in New York, and others of Arrow's routes parallel those of Barnwell and Horton. Barnwell, Horton and Southeastern compete to some extent in parts of the Middle Atlantic States (excluding New York). Barnwell, Horton and Transportation, Inc., compete in portions of the southern region, and Southeastern competes somewhat with them in that area.

^6  Associated is authorized by its charter to issue 100,000 shares of $100 par value preferred stock drawing six per cent cumulative dividends annually and 1,000,000 shares of $1.00 par value common stock. One of the conditions of the Commission's order here is that no par value be assigned the common stock. The Commission found that in exchange for all the outstanding stock of the merged companies (except a small quantity of the preferred stock of two of the carriers which was to be redeemed for cash) Associated was to issue

648,643 shares of its common and 39,049 shares of its preferred stock, which on the cancellation of certain shares in connection with the stock of one of the noncarriers would leave outstanding 633,171 shares of common and 37,942 shares of preferred. Another 15,000 shares of preferred were to be offered to the public in order to enable Associated to obtain surplus cash. The preferred, which like the common was entitled to one vote per share, was convertible into common at the option of the holders, on terms not here relevant.

There were 71,480 shares of Associated's common stock outstanding at the time the application was filed, of which 31,240 were held by the president of Associated, 9,000 by The Transport Company (received for engineering accounting data given in connection with the merger), and the remainder by stockholders in the corporations to be merged.

^7  Section 5 provides in pertinent parts:

'Sec. 5. (1) Except upon specific approval by order of the Commission as in this section provided, and except as provided in paragraph (16) of section 1 of this part, it shall be unlawful for any common

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).