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INVESTMENT CO. INST. v. CAMP

September 27, 1967

INVESTMENT COMPANY INSTITUTE et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
William B. CAMP, Comptroller of the Currency, Defendant


McGarraghy, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: MCGARRAGHY

This action is brought against the Comptroller of the Currency by the Investment Company Institute in its representative capacity of the open-end investment companies, investment advisers and principal underwriters which comprise its membership. The Investment Company Institute (hereinafter called the Institute) is an unincorporated association, having its principal place of business in the city, county and state of New York. The Institute is a national association, having as its members 177 openend management investment companies and their 88 investment advisers and 78 principal underwriters. The open-end management investment companies which are members of the Institute have assets of $36 billion, representing about 94 percent of the assets of all such companies in the United States, and have approximately 3.5 million shareholders. The other plaintiffs in this action are several individual members of the Institute. They seek an injunction to restrain the Comptroller from authorizing national banks to collectively invest funds tendered to the bank as managing agent solely for investment purposes. They also pray for a declaratory judgment adjudicating the pertinent regulation promulgated by the Comptroller to be invalid.

 The action is now before this court on cross motions for summary judgment, all of the parties agreeing that no factual issues exist and that the legal issues are ripe for disposition by summary proceedings.

 It is first necessary to review and to delineate the factual background upon which the issues in this action arose and within which these motions are made. In September of 1962 the statutory authority to regulate the fiduciary activities of national banks was transferred from the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System to the Comptroller of the Currency. Pub.L. 87-722, 76 Stat. 668, 12 U.S.C. § 92a. Pursuant to this authority, the Comptroller caused to be published in the Federal Register for February 5, 1963, a proposed revision of the fiduciary regulation, 12 C.F.R. § 9. In addition to the types of collective investment funds permitted under the prior regulation, this proposed revision provided that national banks were authorized to invest funds held in the capacity of managing agent in a collective investment account, 12 C.F.R. § 9.18(a) (3). *fn1" Moreover, the proposed revised regulation allowed the Comptroller to approve collective investment of such funds in manners other than those expressly provided by Regulation 9, 12 C.F.R. § 9.18(c) (5). *fn2"

 The Comptroller invited national banks and other interested parties to submit comments pertaining to the proposed regulation. Plaintiff Institute, on behalf of its members, participated to the full degree permitted and submitted a statement in opposition to the proposed regulation. It premised its argument on the same basis that it is presenting before this court, namely, that the revised regulation would allegedly permit activity prohibited by 12 U.S.C. § 92a, and certain provisions of the Glass-Steagall Act, as amended, 12 U.S.C. §§ 24, 78, 377 and 378. Notwithstanding this opposition the final regulation was adopted by the Comptroller on April 5, 1963, and revised by minor modifications on February 5, 1964, 12 C.F.R. § 9.18.

 Pursuant to the regulation, on May 10, 1965, the Comptroller approved a plan submitted by First National City Bank of New York (hereinafter referred to as the Bank) for the establishment and operation of a collective investment fund, called the Commingled Investment Account, under Regulation 9, 12 C.F.R. § 9. The plan as outlined by the Bank differed from the specifically enumerated collective investment funds authorized by the Comptroller's revised Regulation, but the Bank, pursuant to 12 C.F.R. § 9.18(c) (5) sought and obtained the Comptroller's written approval of the plan.

 On April 20, 1966, the Bank registered its Commingled Investment Account with the Securities and Exchange Commission pursuant to the Investment Company Act of 1940, 15 U.S.C. § 80a-1 et seq. as an open-end management investment company. On the same date, the Bank filed a registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission pursuant to the Securities Act of 1933, 15 U.S.C. § 77a et seq., for the purpose of registering the participating interests or units to be issued by its Commingled Investment Account. The registration statement concerning those participating interests or units became effective on June 14, 1966. From that date the Bank has offered and sold to the public participating interests or units issued by the Commingled Investment Account by means of the prospectus for the First National City's Commingled Investment Account.

 Before proceeding to the merits of this controversy, it is best at this time to specifically describe the operation of a mutual fund and the operation of the Commingled Investment Account (hereinafter referred to as the Account) so that a better understanding of the problem can be achieved.

 Generally, "mutual funds" are open-end management companies engaged in the business of continuously issuing and offering for sale redeemable securities which represent an undivided interest in the fund's assets. Most mutual funds are corporate in form and the securities issued by them usually consist of capital stock. However, there are a number of mutual funds in a variety of noncorporate forms and the securities issued by some of them are variously denominated as beneficial interests, participating agreements, and the like. The proceeds from the sale of the securities issued by a mutual fund are invested in a portfolio of securities of various kinds, in accordance with the stated investment policy of the particular fund. Some funds invest primarily in securities offering current income; others concentrate on long-term growth securities; still others specialize in particular industries or classes of securities; and many offer various combinations of objectives. The shareholder in a mutual fund is entitled at any time to redeem his interest, usually at net asset value, or in a few instances upon payment of a charge. To facilitate this redemption privilege as well as to establish a price at which new shares are being offered, the value of a share in a mutual fund is calculated regularly, typically twice daily, on the basis of the market value of the securities held by the fund. Because of the continuous process of redemption, the mutual fund would be restricted and contracted in size, unless it continuously issued and offered new securities for sale.

 Except in unique circumstances, virtually no shares in mutual funds are traded from one investor to another, and there is no significant trading market for such shares. In almost all cases, shareholders in mutual funds desiring to obtain cash for their shares redeem them with the issuing company. The securities issued by most mutual funds are offered to the public at a price which includes a sales commission or sales load. There are some mutual funds whose shares are sold with no sales commission being charged. These latter funds are frequently called "no load" mutual funds. The activities of mutual funds are under the control of a board of directors or board of trustees. Directors or trustees are elected annually by the vote of a majority of the fund's outstanding voting securities.

 Mutual funds usually contract an outside investment adviser for investment advice and other management services, and with a principal underwriter for the distribution of the fund's shares, pursuant to the statutory pattern established by the Investment Company Act of 1940, 15 U.S.C. § 80a-15. The investment adviser of a mutual fund furnishes advice to the fund with respect to its investment portfolio and the securities it should buy, hold, and sell. In some cases the adviser is empowered to purchase and sell securities for the fund. Some investment advisers also furnish supervisory and administrative services to the mutual fund. The investment adviser receives compensation for its services, usually in the form of a fee based on the total value of the assets being managed.

 The principal underwriter of a mutual fund is engaged in the business of selling and distributing the securities issued by the fund to the investing public through brokers or dealers, or directly through the underwriter's own salesmen, or both. The principal underwriter either purchases the securities issued by the fund for resale or acts as agent for the fund in distributing the securities. Except in the case of a no-load fund, the principal underwriter receives a fee for its services, usually in the form of a portion of the sales commission included in the selling price of the shares issued by the mutual fund.

 Mutual funds are required to be registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission pursuant to the Investment Company Act of 1940. The activities of the mutual funds and their relationship with affiliated persons and others are all subject to regulation under the Act. The investment advisers and principal underwriters who are plaintiffs herein, perform their services for the mutual funds they serve pursuant to contracts, the terms, execution and continuation of which are subject to the provisions of Section 15 of the Investment Company Act of 1940, 15 U.S.C. § 80a-15. The securities issued by each of the mutual fund members of the Institute are registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission pursuant to the Securities Act of 1933, 15 U.S.C. § 77a et seq. All such securities are offered to the investing public by means of a prospectus which is initially filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission under the Securities Act of 1933 as part of the registration statement for the securities to which the prospectus relates.

 As can be readily ascertained, the mutual fund community is composed of three principal members. First the body corporate of the fund itself whose membership is the general investing public. This relationship is analogous to the common productive corporate structure. However, the primary function of the investment corporation is to obtain the objectives which are outlined in their charter through the mutual investment of the funds contributed by the "shareholders". Aldred Inv. Inst. v. S.E.C., 151 F.2d 254 (1st Cir. 1945) cert. denied 326 U.S. 795, 66 S. Ct. 486, 90 L. Ed. 483 (1945). The relationship between the shareholder and the body corporate is plainly one of contract. Stevenot v. Norberg, 210 F.2d 615 (9th Cir. 1954); see also Schroeter v. Bartlett Syndicate Bldg. Corp., 8 Cal.2d 12, 63 P.2d 824, 825; Ellingwood v. Wolf's Head Oil Refining Co., 27 Del.Ch. 356, 38 A.2d 743, 154 A.L.R. 406 (1944); Corporations, 18 Am. Jur.2d § 463 (1965).

 The management function of the mutual fund lies with the board of directors. They have essentially the equivalent powers as any corporate board of directors. In the same manner they are also responsible to their shareholders as fiduciaries. Pepper v. Litton, 308 U.S. 295, 60 S. Ct. 238, 84 L. Ed. 281 (1939); Brown v. Bullock, 194 F. Supp. 207 (S.D.N.Y.1961), affirmed 294 F.2d 415 (2nd Cir. 1961).

 The board of directors within its broad scope of authority has the power to enter into contracts with the other two members of the mutual fund community, that is the investment advisers and the underwriters. The functions performed by the latter two members of the mutual fund community is essential for the propagation of the investment or the mutual fund corporation. The interrelationship of these independent entities is one of contract which essentially determines the respective position occupied within the structure by each member. The independence of each member is governed by statute as is their interdependence; see the Investment Company Act of 1940, 15 U.S.C. § 80a-1 et seq.

 The above few paragraphs outline the general operation of the mutual fund structure. A similar outline is now presented for the operation of the Account as created by the Bank and approved by the Comptroller pursuant to Regulation 9.

 The Account as established by the Bank, operates as follows: the investor-customer tenders his funds, $10,000 or more, to the Bank pursuant to a broad authorization making the Bank the customer's managing agent. There is thus created a principal-agent relationship between each individual investor-customer and the Bank. The authorization includes specific authority for the Bank to invest the customer's funds, together with the funds of other customers who have given the equivalent authorization, through the commingled Account. Funds in the commingled Account are invested in a pool of securities, principally common stocks and securities convertible into common stocks, offering the opportunity for long term growth of capital and income. The Account is divided into "units of participation" of equal value in order to determine conveniently the proportionate interest of each participant. No certificates indicating the "units of participation" are issued by the Bank; however, the participant is informed by a nonnegotiable document as to how many "units of participation" are contained in his account.

 A participation is transferable only to another person who has validly appointed the Bank as managing agent, and, because of the underlying agency relationship, the interest of a participant terminates upon his death or incompetency and his funds are withdrawn from the Account and held for his legal representatives. There is no sales charge imposed on amounts invested in the commingled Account nor is there any redemption charge incurred upon withdrawal from the Account. An investor-customer may terminate his participation in whole or in part on the basis of the net asset value of the units of participation being redeemed. The net asset value of each unit of participation is determined as of the close of business of each of a number of specified valuation dates by dividing the net asset value of the Account as of the close of business on the valuation date by the number of units of participation then outstanding.

 The operation of the Account is supervised by a Committee of five persons, who act essentially as a board of directors of the Account. Initially the members were appointed by the Bank, but hereafter are to be elected annually by the participants. Each participant will be entitled to vote at the election of the Committee members and his vote will be weighted according to the number of "units of participation" in his account. At least 40% of the members of the Committee must at all times be persons not affiliated with the Bank, but the majority of the members may be, and are expected to be, officers in the Bank's Trust and Investment Division.

 The Committee is authorized to enter into a management agreement with the Bank. The agreement and any amendments thereto must be approved by more than 50% of the participants at their annual meeting and the Comptroller's approval thereof must also be obtained.

 In accordance with the management agreement, the Bank serves as investment adviser and custodian for the Account. The Bank, therefore, maintains a continuous investment program consistent with the commingled Account's stated investment policy; it will determine what securities are to be purchased and sold, and will execute all transactions. The management agreement provides that the Bank will furnish all administrative, custodial and clerical services required by the Account and will pay all the organization costs and expenses. Subsequent maintenance fees, the cost of independent professional services, such as legal, auditing and accounting services, and the cost of preparation and distribution of notices to participants and proxy statements are to be borne by the commingled Account. The Bank will, however, reimburse the Account for the compensation and expenses, if any, paid by the Account to the members of the Committee who are not affiliated with the Bank; the other members of the Committee will receive no separate compensation for their services to the Account. For these services the Bank receives a fee equal to 1/8th of 1 per cent of the average of the net asset value of the Account taken on each valuation date during each fiscal quarter, which is approximately 1/2 of 1 per cent on an annual basis.

 Essentially, the commingled management agency Account as delineated by the Bank's plan consists of two principal members, the first being the membership of the Account consisting of the investor-customer, and the second being the Bank which occupies a dual position, one as investment adviser to the Account and the other as general agent to the participants of the Account. The Bank can also be considered to occupy the position of underwriter for the units of participation which are issued to the investor-customer. The Committee of the Account occupies a position equivalent to that occupied by the board of directors of the mutual funds.

 The Account has been approved by the Comptroller, even though it does not essentially comply with all provisions of Regulation 9 as promulgated by him. This action indicates that even though the Account as presently structured does not meet every minute detail of the Regulation, any future plans similar to the one established by the Bank will obtain his approval under 12 C.F.R.§ 9.18(c) (5). Therefore, it is not necessary for this court to analyze the differences between the Account as established by the Bank and Regulation 9. For the disposition of the issues before this court, the Account will be treated as if it completely meets the substantive requirements of Regulation 9. 12 C.F.R. § 9.

 Before the merits of the issues in this case can be reached, two preliminary procedural matters must be noted. The Comptroller interposes the objection that the plaintiffs lack standing to sue, and that there is no justiciable issue before this court.

 These issues - standing and justiciability - are nominally termed procedural only to differentiate between the initial hurdles which a plaintiff must overcome in order to obtain a judicial determination of his action on the merits, and the actual adjudication of the case on its substantive issues. This characterization often borders on mere semantics, since in order to obtain the proper perspective and focus upon the essence of these issues, as here, the substantive law upon which the plaintiffs premise their action must also be taken into account.

 Standing has been, and remains, one of the most enigmatic areas of the law. 3 Davis, Administrative Law Treatise, § 22.18, at 291-92, n. 3. The courts have not developed a single formula which can be applied to a set of facts to determine whether a plaintiff has or does not have standing. The ever changing concepts which have been used in this area of the law can be readily ascertained by the many cases which have been cited in the briefs of both parties upholding their contentions. Due to the pervasiveness of definition in this area, the court is left with no alternative but to examine the long list of cases which hold that a particular plaintiff has standing on one hand, and on the other the long list of cases where the plaintiff has been denied his day in court because of the lack of standing.

 Standing has been generally expressed by an indication that the alleged aggrieved party has asserted a legal right which was his to assert, or has been injured, or has been threatened with injury. Perkins v. Lukens Steel Co., 310 U.S. 113, 60 S. Ct. 869, 84 L. Ed. 1108 (1940), cf. FCC v. Sanders Bros. Radio Station, 309 U.S. 470, 60 S. Ct. 693, 84 L. Ed. 869 (1940), Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510, 45 S. Ct. 571, 69 L. Ed. 1070 (1925). But standing should not be confused with the doctrine of standing to sue which provides that in an action in a federal constitutional court, by a citizen against a government officer in his official capacity, there is no justiciable controversy unless the citizen shows that such conduct invaded or will invade a private substantive legally protected interest. Associated Industries of New York v. Ickes, 134 F.2d 694, 702 (2nd Cir. 1943) vacated as moot, 320 U.S. 707, 64 S. Ct. 74, 88 L. Ed. 414 (1943), but see Scott v. Macy, 121 U.S.App.D.C. 205, 349 F.2d 182 (D.C.Cir. 1965). The former standing is basically a means by which courts can accept or refuse jurisdiction, and it generally alludes to the capacity of a party to obtain judicial review of an administrative action. See United States v. Storer Broadcasting Co., 351 U.S. 192, 197, 76 S. Ct. 763, 100 L. Ed. 1081 (1956) and Jaffe, Primary Jurisdiction, 77 Harv.L.Rev. 1037 (1964). The doctrine of standing to sue is generally directed towards the capacity of a plaintiff to present his case before a district court ab initio.

 The question as to whether a plaintiff may obtain judicial relief in cases like this has been variously phrased, but the many appellations which have been devised do not detract from the underlying policy objective which permeates each of these cases. This policy is well enshrined in Article III, § 2 of the United States Constitution, that is, a "constitutional" federal court cannot be given power to sit in judgment and revise administrative action, since there is no justiciable controversy and the opinion thus issued would merely be advisory. See concurring opinion of Mr. Justice Frankfurter in Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee v. McGrath, 341 U.S. 123, 149, 150, 71 S. Ct. 624, 95 L. Ed. 817 (1951), Muskrat v. United States, 219 U.S. 346, 354, 31 S. Ct. 250, 55 L. Ed. 246 (1911), Chicago & Southern Airlines, Inc. v. Waterman Corp., 333 U.S. 103, 113, 68 S. Ct. 431, 92 L. Ed. 568 (1948), United Public Workers of America v. Mitchell, 330 U.S. 75, 89, 67 S. Ct. 556, 91 L. Ed. 754 (1947), Associated Ind. of New York v. Ickes, supra.

 Standing to challenge an administrative action can be premised on a statutory provision specifically appended to the statute under which the administrative action was promulgated or where the provision for review has been made generally applicable by the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 701-704 (recodified by Pub. Law 89-554, 80 Stat. 378). Since there is no specific provision for review of the Comptroller's regulation within the terms of the enabling statute, Title 12, Section 1 et seq., the terms of the Administrative Procedure Act will apply. Citizens Nat. Bank of Maplewood v. Saxon, 249 F. Supp. 557 (D.C.Mo.1965), affirmed Webster Groves Trust Co. v. Saxon, 370 F.2d 381 (8th Cir. 1966). See also United Gas Pipe Line Co. v. F.P.C., 86 U.S.App. 314, 181 F.2d 796 (1950), cert. denied 340 U.S. 827, 71 S. Ct. 63, 95 L. Ed. 609 (1950).

 The pertinent section of the Administrative Procedure Act specifically provides that:

 
"A person suffering legal wrong because of agency action, or adversely affected or aggrieved by agency action within the meaning of a relevant statute, is entitled to judicial review thereof." 5 U.S.C. § 702.

 Under this statutory provision a plaintiff must allege that he has suffered a legal wrong or that a legally protected right will be adversely affected or aggrieved by the agency's action in order to obtain standing before this court. The plaintiffs here are alleging that they are suffering a legal wrong by the allegedly illegal competition made possible by the Comptroller's regulation, thereby being adversely affected or aggrieved. The exact amount of damages which will be incurred by the plaintiffs is rather difficult to assess in precise figures, but the Comptroller has predicted that over the next five to ten years, commercial banks might capture as much as two billion dollars of mutual fund business. *fn3" The defendant interposes that the competition, even if illegally promulgated, does not create any legal wrong for which the plaintiffs may complain.

 In support of its contention that the plaintiffs are not suffering any legal wrong and thereby lack standing to challenge the Comptroller's regulation, the defendant relies on a series of cases which contain the general principle that mere competitive injury made possible by governmental action does not confer standing on the injured party to restrain governmental action. Tennessee Electric Power Co. v. TVA, 306 U.S. 118, 137, 59 S. Ct. 366, 83 L. Ed. 543 (1938); Alabama Power Co. v. Ickes, 302 U.S. 464, 479, 58 S. Ct. 300, 82 L. Ed. 374 (1937); Perkins v. Lukens Steel Co., 310 U.S. 113, 60 S. Ct. 869, 84 L. Ed. 1108 (1940); Texas State AFL-CIO v. Kennedy, 117 U.S.App.D.C. 343, 330 F.2d 217, 218 (1964); Benson v. Schofield, 98 U.S.App.D.C. 424, 236 F.2d 719 (1956), cert. denied 352 U.S. 976, 77 S. Ct. 363, 1 L. Ed. 2d 324 (year); Kansas City Power & Light Co. v. McKay, 96 U.S.App.D.C. 273, 225 F.2d 924 (1955), cert. denied 350 U.S. 884, 76 S. Ct. 137, 100 L. Ed. 780 (1955). In these cases, the plaintiffs alleged that they were suffering economic loss from the government created competition, but it is significant to note that the competition created by government action in these cases was specifically authorized and sanctioned by Congress and was based upon specific statutory grounds.

 Moreover, most of the cases cited by the defendant in support of his allegation that the plaintiffs lack standing have been assiduously distinguished by subsequent decisions of the Supreme Court, even though they have not been expressly overruled. In City of Chicago v. Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway, 357 U.S. 77, 78 S. Ct. 1063, 2 L. Ed. 2d 1174 (1958), the Supreme Court gave explicit recognition to a competitor's standing to challenge illegal competition. That case involved two competitors, one of whom (Parmlee) had alleged that the other (Transfer) was operating illegally because it had not complied with certain licensing requirements imposed by the City of Chicago. Transfer argued that Parmelee had no standing to object to Transfer's allegedly illegal competition, but this argument was flatly rejected by the Court:

 
"It is enough, for purposes of standing, that we have an actual controversy before us in which Parmelee has a direct and substantial personal interest in the outcome. Undoubtedly it is affected adversely by Transfer's operation, Parmelee contends that this operation is prohibited by a valid ...

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