Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation v. LTV Corporation

PETITIONER: Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation
RESPONDENT: LTV Corporation
LOCATION: Jimmy Swaggart Ministries

DOCKET NO.: 89-390
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1988-1990)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

CITATION: 496 US 633 (1990)
ARGUED: Feb 27, 1990
DECIDED: Jun 18, 1990

ADVOCATES:
Carol Connor Flowe - on behalf of the Petitioner
Lewis B. Kaden - on behalf of the Respondents

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation v. LTV Corporation

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 27, 1990 in Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation v. LTV Corporation

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument now in No. 89-390, Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation v. LTV Corporation.

Ms. Flowe.

Carol Connor Flowe:

Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

This case concerns PBGC's efforts to protect the integrity of the government insurance program that insures the pensions of more than 30 million American workers.

At issue is the scope of the agency's statutory authority to restore a terminated pension plan.

I will discuss how the language of the statute, its legislative history, and PBGC's policy considerations each support its use of that statutory authority in this case.

We begin, of course, with the language of the statute itself.

In Section 4047 Congress authorized PBGC to restore a terminated pension plan and I quote,

"In any case in which the corporation. "

that is, the PBGC,

"determines such action to be appropriate and consistent with its duties under Title IV of ERISA. "

Now, Congress could have said that PBGC could restore a terminated pension plan only if an employer's financial condition had improved.

Or it could have said that PBGC could restore a plan where it could persuade a court that doing so was in the public interest.

But it didn't.

What Congress said was... was that PBGC should make this determination, and it limited our discretion only by requiring that we exercise it appropriately and consistently with our statutory duties.

The court of appeals slid right by the statutory language though and went immediately to the legislative history.

And then, rather than examining the legislative history to see whether there was a clearly expressed legislative intent contrary to PBGC's action in this case, the court of appeals turned the analysis on its head.

The court of appeals searched the legislative materials for an explicit reference to the use of restoration that PBGC made here.

Not surprisingly, it found none because the legislative history confirms what the plain language of the statute says, that Congress intended PBGC to determine when its restoration authority was to be used.

This legislative history is sparse, but it's straightforward.

It says that Congress intended PBGC to restore a plan if a plan or employer had a favorable reversal of business trends or if, and again I quote,

"some other factor made termination no longer advisable. "

The court of appeals simply disregarded this final phrase and focused instead on the one example given... a favorable reversal of business trends.

The court then concluded that was the only circumstance under which the agency could restore a terminated pension plan.

That approach was contrary to this Court's teachings in Chevron and its progeny.

And it also--

John Paul Stevens:

May I interrupt you for a moment?

It would help me if I understood why the termination decision was reversed in this case.

Carol Connor Flowe:

--There were two reasons, Justice Stevens.

The first reason was because LTV adopted follow-on plans, new pension arrangements which, when combined with the insurance payments that PBGC was paying under these terminated plans, effectively continued the terminated plan as if there had been no termination but--