JUSTICE BLACKMUN delivered the opinion of the Court.
In this case we must determine whether the decision of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) to restore certain pension plans under § 4047 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), 88 Stat. 1028, as amended, 100 Stat. 237, 29 U. S. C. § 1347, was, as the Court of Appeals concluded, arbitrary and capricious or contrary to law, within the meaning of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U. S. C. § 706.
Petitioner PBGC is a wholly owned United States Government corporation, see 29 U. S. C. § 1302, modeled after the
When a plan covered under Title IV terminates with insufficient assets to satisfy its pension obligations to the employees, the PBGC becomes trustee of the plan, taking over the plan's assets and liabilities. The PBGC then uses the plan's assets to cover what it can of the benefit obligations. See 29 U. S. C. § 1344 (1982 ed. and Supp. IV). The PBGC then must add its own funds to ensure payment of most of the remaining "nonforfeitable" benefits, i. e., those benefits to
The cost of the PBGC insurance is borne primarily by employers that maintain ongoing pension plans. Sections 4006 and 4007 of ERISA require these employers to pay annual premiums. See 29 U. S. C. §§ 1306 and 1307 (1982 ed. and Supp. IV). The insurance program is also financed by statutory liability imposed on employers who terminate underfunded pension plans. Upon termination, the employer becomes liable to the PBGC for the benefits that the PBGC will pay out.
As noted above, plan termination is the insurable event under Title IV. Plans may be terminated "voluntarily" by an employer or "involuntarily" by the PBGC. An employer may terminate a plan voluntarily in one of two ways. It may proceed with a "standard termination" only if it has sufficient
The PBGC, though, may terminate a plan "involuntarily," notwithstanding the existence of a collective-bargaining agreement. Ibid. Section 4042 of ERISA provides that the PBGC may terminate a plan whenever it determines that:
Termination can be undone by PBGC. Section 4047 of ERISA, 29 U. S. C. § 1347, provides:
When a plan is restored, full benefits are reinstated, and the employer, rather than the PBGC, again is responsible for the plan's unfunded liabilities.
This case arose after respondent The LTV Corporation (LTV Corp.) and many of its subsidiaries, including LTV Steel Company Inc. (LTV Steel), (collectively LTV), in July 1986 filed petitions for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code. At that time, LTV Steel was the sponsor of three defined benefit pension plans (Plans) covered by Title IV of ERISA. Two of the Plans were the products of collective-bargaining negotiations with the United Steelworkers of America (Steelworkers). The third was for nonunion salaried employees. Chronically underfunded, the Plans, by late 1986, had unfunded liabilities for promised benefits of almost $2.3 billion. Approximately $2.1 billion of this amount was covered by PBGC insurance.
It is undisputed that one of LTV Corp.'s principal goals in filing the Chapter 11 petitions was the restructuring of LTV Steel's pension obligations, a goal which could be accomplished if the Plans were terminated and responsibility for the unfunded liabilities was placed on the PBGC. LTV Steel then could negotiate with its employees for new pension arrangements. LTV, however, could not voluntarily terminate the Plans because two of them had been negotiated in collective bargaining. LTV therefore sought to have the PBGC terminate the Plans.
To that end, LTV advised the PBGC in 1986 that it could not continue to provide complete funding for the Plans. PBGC estimated that, without continued funding, the Plans' $2.1 billion underfunding could increase by as much as $65 million by December 1987 and by another $63 million by December 1988, unless the Plans were terminated. Moreover, extensive plant shutdowns were anticipated. These shutdowns,
Because the Plans' participants lost some benefits as a result of the termination, the Steelworkers filed an adversary action against LTV in the Bankruptcy Court, challenging the termination and seeking an order directing LTV to make up the lost benefits. This action was settled, with LTV and the Steelworkers negotiating an interim collective-bargaining agreement that included new pension arrangements intended to make up benefits that plan participants lost as a result of the termination. New payments to retirees were based explicitly upon "a percentage of the difference between the benefit that was being paid under the Prior Plans and the amount paid by the PBGC." App. 181. Retired participants were thereby placed in substantially the same positions they would have occupied had the old Plans never been terminated. The new agreements respecting active participants were also designed to replace benefits under the old Plans that were not insured by the PBGC, such as early retirement benefits and shutdown benefits. With respect to shutdown benefits, LTV stated in Bankruptcy Court that the new benefits totaled "75% of benefits lost as a result of plan termination."
The PBGC objected to these new pension agreements, characterizing them as "follow-on" plans. It defines a follow-on plan as a new benefit arrangement designed to wrap around the insurance benefits provided by the PBGC in such a way as to provide both retirees and active participants substantially the same benefits as they would have received had no termination occurred. The PBGC's policy against follow-on plans stems from the agency's belief that such plans are "abusive" of the insurance program and result in the PBGC's subsidizing an employer's ongoing pension program in a way not contemplated by Title IV. The PBGC consistently has made clear its policy of using its restoration powers under § 4047 if an employer institutes an abusive follow-on plan. In three opinion letters, two in 1981 and one in 1986, the PBGC stated: "[T]he termination insurance program of Title IV was not intended to subsidize an employer's ongoing retirement program." App. to Pet. for Cert. 162a, 167a, 173a. Accordingly, the PBGC has indicated that if an employer adopts a new plan that, "together with the guaranteed benefits paid by the PBGC under the terminated plan, provide[s] for the payment of, accrual of, or eligibility for benefits that are substantially the same as those provided under the terminated plan," App. 229, the PBGC will view the plan as an attempt to shift liability to the termination insurance program while continuing to operate the plan.
LTV ignored the PBGC's objections to the new pension arrangements and asked the Bankruptcy Court for permission to fund the follow-on plans. The Bankruptcy Court granted LTV's request. In doing so, however, it noted that the PBGC "may have legal options or avenues that it can assert administratively . . . to implement its policy goals. Nothing done here tonight precludes the PBGC from pursuing these options. . . ." Id., at 261.
The Director issued a notice of restoration on September 22, 1987, indicating the PBGC's intent to restore the terminated Plans. The PBGC notice explained that the restoration decision was based on (1) LTV's establishment of "a retirement program that results in an abuse of the pension plan termination insurance system established by Title IV of ERISA," and (2) LTV's "improved financial circumstances." See App. to Pet. for Cert. 182a.
LTV refused to comply with the restoration decision. This prompted the PBGC to initiate an enforcement action in the District Court.
The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed, holding that the PBGC's restoration decision was "arbitrary and capricious" or contrary to law under the APA, 5 U. S. C. § 706(2)(A), in various ways. 875 F.2d 1008, 1015-1021 (1989). The court first concluded that the PBGC's action was arbitrary and capricious because the PBGC focused "inordinately on ERISA" to the exclusion of other laws. Id., at 1016. The court then found the agency's anti-follow-on policy to be contrary to law because the "legislative history of section 4047 reveals no indication that Congress intended the establishment of successive [i. e., follow-on] benefit plans to be a ground for restoration." Id., at 1017. The court also found the PBGC's other basis for restoration — improved financial condition — inadequate because the PBGC did not explain many of its economic assumptions. Id., at 1018-1020. Finally, the court concluded that the agency's restoration decision was arbitrary and capricious because the PBGC's decisionmaking process of informal adjudication lacked adequate procedural safeguards. Id., at 1021.
Because of the significant administrative law questions raised by this case, and the importance of the PBGC's insurance program, we granted certiorari. 493 U.S. 932 (1989).
The Court of Appeals first held that the restoration decision was arbitrary and capricious under § 706(2)(A) because the PBGC did not take account of all the areas of law the court deemed relevant to the restoration decision. The court expressed the view that "[b]ecause ERISA, bankruptcy and labor law are involved in the case at hand, there must be a showing on the administrative record that PBGC, before reaching its decision, considered all of these areas of the law, and to the extent possible, honored the policies underlying them." 875 F. 2d, at 1015. The court concluded that the administrative record did not reflect thorough and explicit consideration by the PBGC of the "policies and goals" of each of the three bodies of law. Id., at 1016. As the court put it, the PBGC "focused inordinately on ERISA." Ibid. The Court of Appeals did not hold that the PBGC's decision actually conflicted with any provision in the bankruptcy or labor laws, or that the PBGC's action "trench[ed] upon the . . . jurisdiction" of another agency. See Burlington Truck Lines, Inc. v. United States, 371 U.S. 156, 173 (1962). Rather, the court held that because labor law and bankruptcy law are "involved in the case at hand," the PBGC had an affirmative obligation, which had not been met, to address them. 875 F. 2d, at 1015.
The PBGC contends that the Court of Appeals misapplied the general rule that an agency must take into consideration all relevant factors, see Citizens to Preserve Overton Park, Inc. v. Volpe, 401 U.S. 402, 416 (1971), by requiring the agency explicitly to consider and discuss labor and bankruptcy law. We agree.
First, and most important, we do not think that the requirement imposed by the Court of Appeals upon the PBGC can be reconciled with the plain language of § 4047, under which the PBGC is operating in this case. This section gives the PBGC the power to restore terminated plans in any case
Even if Congress' directive to the PBGC had not been so clear, we are not entirely sure that the Court of Appeals' holding makes good sense as a general principle of administrative law. The PBGC points out problems that would arise if federal courts routinely were to require each agency to take explicit account of public policies that derive from federal statutes other than the agency's enabling Act. To begin with, there are numerous federal statutes that could be said to embody countless policies. If agency action may be disturbed whenever a reviewing court is able to point to an arguably relevant statutory policy that was not explicitly considered, then a very large number of agency decisions might be open to judicial invalidation.
The Court of Appeals' directive that the PBGC give effect to the "policies and goals" of other statutes, apart from what those statutes actually provide,
For these reasons, we believe the Court of Appeals erred in holding that the PBGC's restoration decision was arbitrary and capricious because the agency failed adequately to consider principles and policies of bankruptcy law and labor law.
The Court of Appeals also rejected the grounds for restoration that the PBGC did assert and discuss. The court found that the first ground the PBGC proffered to support the restoration — its policy against follow-on plans — was contrary to law because there was no indication in the text of the restoration provision, § 4047, or its legislative history that Congress intended the PBGC to use successive benefit plans as a basis for restoration. The PBGC argues that in reaching this conclusion the Court of Appeals departed from traditional principles of statutory interpretation and judicial review of agency construction of statutes. Again, we must agree.
In Chevron U. S. A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837 (1984), we set forth the general principles to be applied when federal courts review an agency's interpretation of the statute it implements:
Here, the PBGC has interpreted § 4047 as giving it the power to base restoration decisions on the existence of follow-on plans. Our task, then, is to determine whether any clear congressional desire to avoid restoration decisions based on successive pension plans exists, and, if the answer is in the negative, whether the PBGC's policy is based upon a permissible construction of the statute. See Mead Corp. v. Tilley, 490 U.S. 714 (1989) (applying Chevron principles to the PBGC's construction of ERISA).
Turning to the first half of the inquiry, we observe that the text of § 4047 does not evince a clear congressional intent to deprive the PBGC of the ability to base restoration decisions on the existence of follow-on plans. To the contrary, the textual grant of authority to the PBGC embodied in this section is broad. As noted above, the section authorizes the PBGC to restore terminated plans "in any such case in which [the PBGC] determines such action to be appropriate and consistent with its duties under [Title IV of ERISA]." 29 U. S. C. § 1347. The PBGC's duties consist primarily of furthering the statutory purposes of Title IV identified by Congress. These are:
Nor do any of the other traditional tools of statutory construction compel the conclusion that Congress intended that the PBGC not base its restoration decisions on follow-on plans. The Court of Appeals relied extensively on passages in the legislative history of the 1974 enactment of ERISA which suggest that Congress considered financial recovery a valid basis for restoration, but which make no mention of follow-on plans. The court reasoned that because follow-ons were not among the bases for restoration discussed by Members of Congress, that body must have intended that the existence of follow-ons not be a reason for restoring pension plans. See 875 F. 2d, at 1017.
We do not agree with this conclusion. We first note that the discussion in the legislative history concerning grounds for restoration was not limited to the financial-recovery example. The House Conference Report indicated that restoration was appropriate if financial recovery or "some other factor made termination no longer advisable." H. R. Conf. Rep. No. 93-1280, p. 378 (1974). Moreover, and more generally, the language of a statute — particularly language expressly granting an agency broad authority — is not to be regarded as modified by examples set forth in the legislative history. An example, after all, is just that: an illustration of a statute's operation in practice. It is not, as the Court of Appeals apparently thought, a definitive interpretation of a statute's scope. We see no suggestion in the legislative history that Congress intended its list of examples to be exhaustive. Under these circumstances, we conclude that ERISA's legislative history does not suggest "clear congressional intent" on the question of follow-on plans.
The Court of Appeals also relied on the legislative history of the 1987 amendments to ERISA effected by the Pension
Having determined that the PBGC's construction is not contrary to clear congressional intent, we still must ascertain whether the agency's policy is based upon a "permissible" construction of the statute, that is, a construction that is "rational and consistent with the statute." NLRB v. Food & Commercial Workers, 484 U.S. 112, 123 (1987); see also Sullivan v. Everhart, 494 U.S. 83 (1990). Respondents argue that the PBGC's anti-follow-on policy is irrational because,
Consequently, follow-on plans may tend to frustrate one of the objectives of ERISA that the PBGC is supposed to accomplish — the "continuation and maintenance of voluntary private pension plans." 29 U. S. C. § 1302(a)(1). In addition, follow-on plans have a tendency to increase the PBGC's deficit and increase the insurance premiums all employers must pay, thereby frustrating another related statutory objective — the maintenance of low premiums. See 29 U. S. C. § 1302(a)(3). In short, the PBGC's construction based upon its conclusion that the existence of follow-on plans will lead to more plan terminations and increased PBGC liabilities is "assuredly a permissible one." Everhart, 494 U. S., at 93. Indeed, the judgments about the way the real world works that have gone into the PBGC's anti-follow-on policy are precisely the kind that agencies are better equipped to make than are courts.
None of this is to say that financial improvement will never be relevant to a restoration decision. Indeed, if an employer's financial situation remains so dire that restoration would lead inevitably to immediate retermination, the PBGC may decide not to restore a terminated plan even where the employer has instituted a follow-on plan.
Finally, we consider the Court of Appeals' ruling that the agency procedures were inadequate in this particular case. Relying upon a passage in Bowman Transportation, Inc. v. Arkansas-Best Freight System, Inc., 419 U.S. 281, 288, n. 4 (1974), the court held that the PBGC's decision was arbitrary and capricious because the "PBGC neither apprised LTV of the material on which it was to base its decision, gave LTV an adequate opportunity to offer contrary evidence, proceeded in accordance with ascertainable standards . . . , nor provided [LTV] a statement showing its reasoning in applying those standards." 875 F. 2d, at 1021. The court suggested that on remand the agency was required to do each of these things.
The PBGC argues that this holding conflicts with Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Corp. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 435 U.S. 519 (1978), where, the PBGC contends, this Court made clear that when the Due Process Clause is not implicated and an agency's governing statute contains no specific procedural mandates, the APA establishes the maximum procedural requirements a reviewing court may impose on agencies. Although Vermont Yankee concerned additional procedures imposed by the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on the Atomic Energy Commission when the agency was engaging in informal rulemaking, the PBGC argues that the informal adjudication process by which the restoration decision was made should be governed by the same principles.
Respondents counter by arguing that courts, under some circumstances, do require agencies to undertake additional procedures. As support for this proposition, they rely on Citizens to Preserve Overton Park, Inc. v. Volpe, 401 U.S. 402 (1971). In Overton Park, the Court concluded that the
We believe that respondents' argument is wide of the mark. We begin by noting that although one initially might feel that there is some tension between Vermont Yankee and Overton Park, the two cases are not necessarily inconsistent. Vermont Yankee stands for the general proposition that courts are not free to impose upon agencies specific procedural requirements that have no basis in the APA. See 435 U. S., at 524. At most, Overton Park suggests that § 706 (2)(A), which directs a court to ensure that an agency action is not arbitrary and capricious or otherwise contrary to law, imposes a general "procedural" requirement of sorts by mandating that an agency take whatever steps it needs to provide an explanation that will enable the court to evaluate the agency's rationale at the time of decision.
Nor is Arkansas-Best, the case on which the Court of Appeals relied, to the contrary. The statement relied upon (which was dictum) said: "A party is entitled, of course, to know the issues on which decision will turn and to be apprised of the factual material on which the agency relies for decision so that he may rebut it." 419 U. S., at 288, n. 4. That statement was entirely correct in the context of Arkansas-Best, which involved a formal adjudication by the Interstate Commerce Commission pursuant to the trial-type procedures set forth in §§ 5, 7 and 8 of the APA, 5 U. S. C. §§ 554, 556-557, which include requirements that parties be given notice of "the matters of fact and law asserted," § 554(b)(3), an opportunity for "the submission and consideration of facts [and] arguments," § 554(c)(1), and an opportunity to submit "proposed findings and conclusions" or "exceptions," § 557(c)(1), (2). See 5 U. S. C. § 554(a); 49 Stat. 548, 54 Stat. 913, formerly codified at 49 U. S. C. §§ 17, 305(h) (1976 ed.), repealed 92 Stat. 1466; 96 Stat. 2444. The determination in this case, however, was lawfully made by informal adjudication, the minimal requirements for which are set forth in the APA, 5 U. S. C. § 555, and do not include such elements. A failure to provide them where the Due Process
We conclude that the PBGC's failure to consider all potentially relevant areas of law did not render its restoration decision arbitrary and capricious. We also conclude that the PBGC's anti-follow-on policy, an asserted basis for the restoration decision, is not contrary to clear congressional intent and is based on a permissible construction of § 4047. Finally, we find the procedures employed by the PBGC to be consistent with the APA. Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
It is so ordered.
JUSTICE WHITE, with whom JUSTICE O'CONNOR joins, concurring in part and dissenting in part.
I join the Court's opinion except for the statement of the judgment and footnote 11. In particular, I agree that the anti-follow-on policy at issue here is not contrary to the statute and that the PBGC would not have been prohibited from applying that policy as a basis for restoration in this case. Unlike the Court, however, I cannot read the notice of restoration as relying on the anti-follow-on policy and respondents' alleged improved financial position as alternative, independent grounds for restoration. The notice, as I read it, clearly rested on both grounds in conjunction. Furthermore, it would make good sense to rely on improved financial position, for without it there would be a risk of an early retermination of the plan. At the very least, there is serious doubt about the matter, and if the Court of Appeals was correct that the PBGC's assessment of respondents' financial position was inadequate — and I think it was — the case should be remanded to the agency to consider whether the anti-follow-on plan by itself provides sufficient grounds for a restoration order.
I would therefore reverse the Court of Appeals in part, affirm in part, and remand with directions to return the case to the PBGC.
JUSTICE STEVENS, dissenting.
In my opinion, at least with respect to ERISA plans that the PBGC has terminated involuntarily, the use of its restoration power under § 4047 to prohibit "follow-on" plans is contrary to the agency's statutory mandate. Unless there was a sufficient improvement in LTV's financial condition to justify the restoration order, I believe it should be set aside. I, therefore, would remand the case for a determination of whether that ground for the agency decision is adequately supported by the record.
A company that is undergoing reorganization under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code continues to operate an ongoing business and must have a satisfactory relationship with its work force in order to complete the reorganization process successfully. If its previous pension plans have been involuntarily terminated with the consequence that the PBGC has
According to the Court, the PBGC policy is premised on the belief that if the company cannot adopt a follow-on plan, the employees will object more strenuously (1) in the case of a
In the case of an involuntary termination, if a mistake in the financial analysis is made, or if there is a sufficient change in the financial condition of the company to justify a reinstatement of the company's obligation, the PBGC should use its restoration powers. Without such a financial justification, however, there is nothing in the statute to authorize the PBGC's use of that power to prevent a company from creating
Accordingly, I respectfully dissent.