Justia U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Arbitration & Mediation
Stafford v. Int’l Bus. Machs. Corp.
Petitioner is a former employee of International Business Machines Corporation (“IBM”) who signed a separation agreement requiring confidential arbitration of any claims arising from her termination. Petitioner arbitrated an age-discrimination claim against IBM and won. She then filed a petition in federal court under the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) to confirm the award, attaching it to the petition under seal but simultaneously moving to unseal it. Shortly after she filed the petition, IBM paid the award in full. The district court granted Petitioner’s petition to confirm the award and her motion to unseal. On appeal, IBM argued that (1) the petition to confirm became moot once IBM paid the award, and (2) the district court erred in unsealing the confidential award. The Second Circuit vacated the district court’s confirmation of the award and remanded with instructions to dismiss the petition as moot. The court reversed the district court’s grant of the motion to unseal. The court explained that Petitioner’s petition to confirm her purely monetary award became moot when IBM paid the award in full because there remained no “concrete” interest in enforcement of the award to maintain a case or controversy under Article III. Second, any presumption of public access to judicial documents is outweighed by the importance of confidentiality under the FAA and the impropriety of Petitioner’s effort to evade the confidentiality provision in her arbitration agreement. View "Stafford v. Int'l Bus. Machs. Corp." on Justia Law
In re IBM Arb. Agreement Litig.
Plaintiffs are twenty-six former employees of International Business Machines Corporation (“IBM”) who signed separation agreements requiring them to arbitrate any claims arising from their termination by IBM. The agreements set a deadline for initiating arbitration and included a confidentiality requirement. Plaintiffs missed the deadline but nonetheless tried to arbitrate claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (“ADEA”). Their arbitrations were dismissed as untimely. They then sued IBM in district court, seeking a declaration that the deadline is unenforceable because it does not incorporate the “piggybacking rule,” a judge-made exception to the ADEA’s administrative exhaustion requirements. Shortly after filing suit, Plaintiffs moved for summary judgment and attached various documents obtained by Plaintiffs’ counsel in other confidential arbitration proceedings. IBM moved to seal the confidential documents. The district court granted IBM’s motions to dismiss and seal the documents. On appeal, Plaintiffs argued that (1) the filing deadline in their separation agreements is unenforceable and (2) the district court abused its discretion by granting IBM’s motion to seal. The Second Circuit affirmed. The court first wrote that the piggybacking rule does not apply to arbitration and, in any event, it is not a substantive right under the ADEA. Second, the court held that the presumption of public access to judicial documents is outweighed here by the Federal Arbitration Act’s (“FAA”) strong policy in favor of enforcing arbitral confidentiality provisions and the impropriety of counsel’s attempt to evade the agreement by attaching confidential documents to a premature motion for summary judgment. View "In re IBM Arb. Agreement Litig." on Justia Law
Rabinowitz v. Kelman
Petitioner appealed from a district court judgment dismissing his to confirm an arbitral award. The court held that a forum selection 2 clause in the parties’ arbitration agreement required that any confirmation action be brought in the state courts of New Jersey or New York, and that this deprived the district court of subject matter jurisdiction. The Second Circuit vacated. The court concluded that the district court erred in dismissing Petitioner’s petition. First, the court held that the petition adequately pleaded subject matter jurisdiction based on diversity of citizenship. Because parties cannot contractually strip a district court of its subject matter jurisdiction, it was error to conclude that the forum selection clause did so. Second, the court interpreted the relevant forum selection clauses as permissive arrangements that merely allow litigation in certain fora, rather than mandatory provisions that require litigation to occur only there. Accordingly, applying the modified forum non conveniens framework, the court held that the forum selection clauses did not bar proceedings from going forward in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. View "Rabinowitz v. Kelman" on Justia Law
Olin Holdings Ltd. v. State of Libya
Respondent the State of Libya (“Libya”) appealed from a district court judgment granting Petitioner Olin Holdings Limited’s (“Olin”) petition to confirm an arbitration award issued under a bilateral investment treaty between Libya and the Republic of Cyprus and denying Libya’s cross-motion to dismiss the petition on forum non-conveniens grounds. On appeal, Libya’s primary argument is that the district court erred by declining to independently review the arbitrability of Olin’s claims before confirming the final award. The Second Circuit affirmed. The court held that Libya was not entitled to de novo review of the arbitral tribunal’s decisions because it “clearly and unmistakably” agreed to submit questions of arbitrability to the arbitrators in the first instance. The court further concluded that the district court properly confirmed the final award and rejected Libya’s cross-motion to dismiss the petition. The court explained that regarding the public and private interest factors, the district court held that Libya fell well short of satisfying its heavy burden because it “failed to identify even one” factor that weighed in favor of dismissal. On appeal, Libya makes “no persuasive argument identifying an error in the factual or legal components of the district court’s discretionary decision.” View "Olin Holdings Ltd. v. State of Libya" on Justia Law
The branch of Citibank, N.A., established in the Republic of Argentina v.
Respondent is a former employee who won a judgment in Argentina's National Court of Labor Appeals against Citibank, N.A. Petitioner, the Argentinian branch of Citibank, N.A., filed a demand for arbitration with the American Arbitration Association and brought the proceedings below. The district court compelled arbitration, preliminarily enjoined the employee from enforcing the Argentinian judgment against Petitioner, and held Respondent in contempt of court. It also denied his motion to dismiss. The Second Circuit reversed and remanded. The court held that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the Petition. Therefore, the district court was without authority to issue its orders in this case. The court reversed the district court's orders -- including its order to compel arbitration, the preliminary injunction it entered against Respondent, its order finding Respondent in contempt, and its order requiring Respondent to pay the Branch's attorneys' fees and costs. The court concluded that because the Branch has not shown it enjoys independent legal existence and Citibank has not sought to substitute itself or join this action as the real party in interest, there has been no party adverse to Respondent. Without adverse parties, there can be no subject matter jurisdiction under Article III. View "The branch of Citibank, N.A., established in the Republic of Argentina v." on Justia Law
Local Union 97, Int’l Bhd. of Elec. Workers, AFL-CIO v. Niagara Mohawk
Defendant Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation (the "Company"), which does business as National Grid, is an electric and natural gas utility that operates throughout New York State. According to Plaintiff Local Union 97, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, AFL-CIO (the "Union"), Defendant agreed to provide to certain retired employees, former members of the Union. The Union filed a motion to compel arbitration pursuant to section 301(a) of the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. Section 185(a). The same day, the Company filed a motion for summary judgment dismissing the Complaint. The district court granted the Union's motion to compel arbitration, denied the Company's motion for summary judgment, and ordered that the case be closed. The Second Circuit affirmed, holding that the agreement covers the dispute. The court explained that when it negotiated the Agreement, the Union bargained both for health insurance benefits for retired employees and for a grievance procedure that included, where necessary, access to arbitration. The court explained that it expressed no view on the merits of the Union's grievance; that is a question for the arbitrator. But interpreting the collective bargaining agreement in light of the principles the Supreme Court reaffirmed in Granite Rock, it is clear that the parties intended to arbitrate this dispute. View "Local Union 97, Int'l Bhd. of Elec. Workers, AFL-CIO v. Niagara Mohawk" on Justia Law
In re: George Washington Bridge
Plaintiff Tutor Perini Building Corp. appealed from the district court’s order affirming an order of the United States Bankruptcy Court, which held that Plaintiff may not use 11 U.S.C. Section 365(b)(1)(A) to assert a “cure claim” against the Trustee for the Trustee’s assumption of an unexpired lease to which Plaintiff was neither a party nor a third-party beneficiary. The Second Circuit affirmed. The court held that a creditor who seeks to assert a “cure claim” under Section 365(b)(1)(A) must have a contractual right to payment under the assumed executory contract or unexpired lease in question, and the court agreed that Plaintiff is not a third-party beneficiary of the assumed lease. The court explained that Tutor Perini’s expansive view of the priority rights conferred by 11 U.S.C. Section 365(b)(1)(A) is inconsistent with applicable principles of Bankruptcy Code interpretation, and its third-party beneficiary argument is inconsistent with controlling principles of New York contract law. View "In re: George Washington Bridge" on Justia Law
Smarter Tools Inc. v. Chongqing Senci Import & Export Trade Co., Ltd.
Smarter Tools Inc. (“STI”) appeals the district court’s judgment denying STI’s petition to vacate an arbitral award and granting Chongqing SENCI Import & Export Trade Co., Ltd.’s and Chongqing AM Pride Power & Machinery Co. Ltd.’s (collectively, “SENCI”) cross-petition to confirm that award. The district court agreed with STI that the arbitrator exceeded his authority by failing to provide a reasoned award as requested by the parties. The district court remanded to allow the arbitrator to issue a reasoned award. On remand, the arbitrator issued a final amended award, which STI again challenged in district court on the grounds that the award was not reasoned and that it reflected a manifest disregard of the law, and which SENCI again cross-petitioned to confirm. The district court denied STI’s petition to vacate the award and granted SENCI’s cross-petition to confirm the award. STI’s primary argument on appeal is that the district court erred in remanding for the arbitrator to issue a reasoned award, in contravention of the doctrine of functus officio and the Federal Arbitration Act. Absent a finding of ambiguity, or a minor clerical error, STI argues, once the district court determined that the arbitrator exceeded its authority by failing to issue a reasoned award, the only remedy available was vacatur. The Second Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the original award was found not to provide the reasoned award the parties bargained for; in its amended award, the arbitrator clarified the original award by including a rationale for rejecting STI’s counterclaims; and this clarification is consistent with the parties’ intent that the arbitrator issue a reasoned award. View "Smarter Tools Inc. v. Chongqing Senci Import & Export Trade Co., Ltd." on Justia Law
Local Union 97 v. NRG Energy, Inc.
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, AFL-CIO 20 (“Local Union 97”), a union primarily of electrical workers, executed a memorandum of agreement (“2003 MOA”) detailing a two-pronged approach to providing retiree life insurance benefits. Local Union 97 brought a complaint seeking to compel arbitration of a grievance they submitted alleging that NRG violated the terms of the CBAs by changing the life insurance benefit for the Pre-2019 Retirees to a lump sum of $10,000. The district court held that: 1) the grievance is not arbitrable under the 2019-2023 CBA, 2) the 2003 MOA is not arbitrable, and 3) the grievance is not arbitrable under any of the CBAs covering 2003-2019. The Second Circuit reversed and remanded and held the grievance is arbitrable under the 2019-2023 CBA because the broad arbitration provision creates a presumption in favor of arbitrability that NRG failed to overcome. The court also held that the parties’ dispute was arbitrable under the Prior CBAs because the 2003 MOA was a supplemental agreement that arguably vested the life insurance benefit for life. View "Local Union 97 v. NRG Energy, Inc." on Justia Law
Commodities & Minerals Enterprise Ltd. v. CVG Ferrominera Orinoco, C.A.
Appellant CVG Ferrominera Orinoco, C.A. (“Ferrominera”), appealed from the district court’s judgment confirming a foreign arbitral award and granting attorney’s fees and costs in favor of Petitioner Commodities & Minerals Enterprise Ltd. (“CME”). Ferrominera challenges the judgment on three grounds. First, it argues that the district court lacked personal jurisdiction because CME never served a summons on Ferrominera in connection with its motion to confirm the arbitral award. Second, Ferrominera contends that the district court erred in confirming the arbitral award based on purported lack of jurisdiction by the arbitral panel, issues with the scope of the award, and conflicts with United States public policy. Third, it argues that the district court abused its discretion in awarding attorney’s fees and costs in favor of CME. The Second Circuit held that a party is not required to serve a summons in order to confirm a foreign arbitral award under the New York Convention. The court concluded that the district court properly enforced the arbitral award, but that it erred in awarding attorney’s fees and costs. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part and vacated in part. The court wrote that CME complied with the service of notice requirements of the New York Convention and the FAA, and the district court properly exercised personal jurisdiction over Ferrominera. Further, the court explained that Ferrominera has not borne its burden to show that the arbitration agreement is invalid where, as here, it has put forth no arguments whatsoever under the applicable law. View "Commodities & Minerals Enterprise Ltd. v. CVG Ferrominera Orinoco, C.A." on Justia Law