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Opinion of the Court

mistakes an admittedly broad definition of includable property for a “policy" underlying the Code as a whole. In any event, to the extent that policy considerations are even relevant where the language of the statute is so clear, we believe that our construction of $541(c)(2) is preferable to the one petitioner urges upon us.

First, our decision today ensures that the treatment of pension benefits will not vary based on the beneficiary's bankruptcy status. See Butner v. United States, 440 U. S. 48, 55 (1979) (observing that “[u]niform treatment of property interests” prevents “a party from receiving a windfall merely by reason of the happenstance of bankruptcy,'” quoting Lewis v. Manufacturers National Bank, 364 U. S. 603, 609 (1961)). We previously have declined to recognize any exceptions to ERISA's antialienation provision outside the bankruptcy context. See Guidry v. Sheet Metal Workers Nat. Pension Fund, 493 U. S. 365 (1990) (labor union may not impose constructive trust on pension benefits of union official who breached fiduciary duties and embezzled funds). Declining to recognize any exceptions to that provision within the bankruptcy context minimizes the possibility that creditors will engage in strategic manipulation of the bankruptcy laws in order to gain access to otherwise inaccessible funds. See Seiden, Chapter 7 Cases: Do ERISA and the Bankruptcy Code Conflict as to Whether a Debtor's Interest in or Rights Under a Qualified Plan Can be Used to Pay Claims?, 61 Am. Bankr. L. J. 301, 317 (1987) (noting inconsistency if “a creditor could not reach a debtor-participant's plan right or interest in a garnishment or other collection action outside of a bankruptcy case but indirectly could reach the plan right or interest by filing a petition ... to place the debtor in bankruptcy involuntarily”).

Our holding also gives full and appropriate effect to ERISA's goal of protecting pension benefits. See 29 U. S. C. $$ 1001(b) and (c). This Court has described that goal as one

Opinion of the Court

of ensuring that “if a worker has been promised a defined pension benefit upon retirement—and if he has fulfilled whatever conditions are required to obtain a vested benefithe actually will receive it.” Nachman Corp. v. Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, 446 U. S. 359, 375 (1980). In furtherance of these principles, we recently declined in Guidry, notwithstanding strong equitable considerations to the contrary, to recognize an implied exception to ERISA's antialienation provision that would have allowed a labor union to impose a constructive trust on the pension benefits of a corrupt union official. We explained:

“Section 206(d) reflects a considered congressional policy choice, a decision to safeguard a stream of income for pensioners (and their dependents, who may be, and perhaps usually are, blameless), even if that decision prevents others from securing relief for the wrongs done them. If exceptions to this policy are to be made, it is for Congress to undertake that task.” 493 U. S., at 376.

These considerations apply with equal, if not greater, force in the present context.

Finally, our holding furthers another important policy underlying ERISA: uniform national treatment of pension benefits. See Fort Halifax Packing Co. v. Coyne, 482 U. S. 1, 9 (1987). Construing "applicable nonbankruptcy law” to include federal law ensures that the security of a debtor's pension benefits will be governed by ERISA, not left to the vagaries of state spendthrift trust law.


In light of our conclusion that a debtor's interest in an ERISA-qualified pension plan may be excluded from the property of the bankruptcy estate pursuant to $541(c)(2), we need not reach respondent's alternative argument that

SCALIA, J., concurring

his interest in the Plan qualifies for exemption under $ 522(b)(2)(A).

The judgment of the Court of Appeals is affirmed.

It is so ordered.

JUSTICE SCALIA, concurring.

The Court's opinion today, which I join, prompts several observations.

When the phrase "applicable nonbankruptcy law” is considered in isolation, the phenomenon that three Courts of Appeals could have thought it a synonym for “state law” is mystifying. When the phrase is considered together with the rest of the Bankruptcy Code (in which Congress chose to refer to state law as, logically enough, "state law”), the phenomenon calls into question whether our legal culture has so far departed from attention to text, or is so lacking in agreed-upon methodology for creating and interpreting text, that it any longer makes sense to talk of “a government of laws, not of men.”

Speaking of agreed-upon methodology: It is good that the Court's analysis today proceeds on the assumption that use of the phrases "state law” and “applicable nonbankruptcy law” in other provisions of the Bankruptcy Code is highly relevant to whether "applicable nonbankruptcy law” means "state law” in $541(c)(2), since consistency of usage within the same statute is to be presumed. Ante, at 758, and n. 2. This application of a normal and obvious principle of statutory construction would not merit comment, except that we explicitly rejected it, in favor of a one-subsection-at-a-time approach, when interpreting another provision of this very statute earlier this Term. See Dewsnup v. Timm, 502 U. S. 410, 416,417 (1992); id., at 420–423 (SCALIA, J., dissenting). “[W]e express no opinion,” our decision said, “as to whether the words [at issue] have different meaning in other provisions of the Bankruptcy Code.” Id., at 417, n. 3. I trust

SCALIA, J., concurring

that in our search for a neutral and rational interpretive methodology we have now come to rest, so that the symbol of our profession may remain the scales, not the seesaw.





No. 91-615. Argued March 4, 1992—Reargued April 22, 1992—

Decided June 15, 1992 In order for a State to tax the multistate income of a nondomiciliary corpo

ration, there must be, inter alia, a minimal connection between the interstate activities and the taxing State, Mobil Oil Corp. v. Commissioner of Taxes of Vt., 445 U. S. 425, 436-437, and a rational relation between the income attributed to the taxing State and the intrastate value of the corporate business, id., at 437. Rather than isolating the intrastate income-producing activities from the rest of the business, a State may tax a corporation on an apportioned sum of the corporation's multistate business if the business is unitary. E. g., ASARCO Inc. v. Idaho Tax Comm'n, 458 U. S. 307, 317. However, a State may not tax the nondomiciliary corporation's income if it is derived from unrelated business activity that constitutes a discrete business enterprise. Exxon Corp. v. Department of Revenue of Wis., 447 U. S. 207, 224. Petitioner is the successor-in-interest to the Bendix Corporation, a Delaware corporation. In the late 1970's Bendix acquired 20.6% of the stock of ASARCO Inc., a New Jersey corporation, and resold it to ASARCO in 1981, generating a $211.5 million gain. After respondent New Jersey tax official assessed Bendix for taxes on an apportioned amount which included in the base the gain realized from the stock disposition, Bendix sued for a refund in State Tax Court. The parties stipulated that, during the period that Bendix held its investment, it and ASARCO were unrelated business enterprises each of whose activities had nothing to do with the other, and that, although Bendix held two seats on ASARCO's board, it exerted no control over ASARCO. Based on this record, the court held that the assessment was proper, and the Appellate Division and the State Supreme Court both affirmed. The latter court stated that the tests for determining a unitary business are not controlled by the relationship between the taxpayer recipient and the affiliate generator of the income that is the subject of the tax, and concluded that Bendix essentially had a business function of corporate acquisitions and divestitures that was an integral operational activity.

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