United States v. Noland, 517 U.S. 535, 4 (1996)

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Opinion of the Court

"not see the fairness or the justice in permitting the Commissioner's claim for tax penalties, which are not being assessed because of pecuniary losses to the Internal Revenue Service, to enjoy an equal or higher priority with claims based on the extension of value to the debtor, whether secured or not. Further, assessing tax penalties against the estate of a debtor no longer in existence serves no punitive purpose. Because of the nature of postpetition, nonpecuniary loss tax penalty claims in a Chapter 7 case, we believe such claims are susceptible to subordination. To hold otherwise would be to allow creditors who have supported the business during its attempt to reorganize to be penalized once that effort has failed and there is not enough to go around." Id., at 218.

See also Burden v. United States, 917 F. 2d 115, 120 (CA3 1990); Schultz Broadway Inn v. United States, 912 F. 2d 230, 234 (CA8 1990); In re Virtual Network Services Corp., 902 F. 2d 1246, 1250 (CA7 1990). We granted certiorari to determine the appropriate scope of the power under the Bankruptcy Code (Code) to subordinate a tax penalty, 516 U. S. 1005 (1995), and we now reverse.

The judge-made doctrine of equitable subordination predates Congress's revision of the Code in 1978. Relying in part on our earlier cases, see, e. g., Comstock v. Group of Institutional Investors, 335 U. S. 211 (1948); Pepper v. Litton, 308 U. S. 295 (1939); Taylor v. Standard Gas & Elec. Co., 306 U. S. 307 (1939), the Fifth Circuit, in its influential opinion in In re Mobile Steel Co., 563 F. 2d 692, 700 (1977), observed that the application of the doctrine was generally triggered by a showing that the creditor had engaged in "some type of inequitable conduct." Mobile Steel discussed two further conditions relating to the application of the doctrine: that the misconduct have "resulted in injury to the creditors of the bankrupt or conferred an unfair advantage on the claimant," and that the subordination "not be incon-

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