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Posts Tagged ‘FAA’

What can a Federal Arbitration Act Practitioner Learn from an ERISA MPPAA Pension Plan Arbitration Case?

May 5th, 2015 Appellate Practice, Arbitration Practice and Procedure, Arbitration Risks, Awards, ERISA, Federal Arbitration Act Enforcement Litigation Procedure, Federal Courts, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Judicial Review of Arbitration Awards, Labor Arbitration, Managing Dispute Risks, MPPAA Arbitration, Practice and Procedure, United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit Comments Off on What can a Federal Arbitration Act Practitioner Learn from an ERISA MPPAA Pension Plan Arbitration Case?

 Fourth Circuit Says Proceeding to Overturn ERISA MPPAA Pension Plan Dispute Arbitration Award is Commenced by Filing a Complaint—not a Federal Arbitration Act Application, Petition or Motion

Introduction

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“Sorry, I’m a bit of a stickler for paperwork. Where would we be if we didn’t follow the correct procedures?”

Sam Lowry (played by Jonathan Pryce ), Brazil (1985)

Dystopian-future bureaucratic procedure may be one thing, but federal court litigation procedure is quite another—not because of where we might or might not be if we don’t follow it—but simply because not following it can have disastrous consequences. That is true in spades in Federal Arbitration Act enforcement litigation, where proceedings to enforce arbitration agreements and awards are governed by a strange amalgam of procedural rules derived from the Federal Arbitration Act, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and district court local rules. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 1, 2, 3, 6(c), 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 15, 43(c) & 81(a)(6)(B); 9 U.S.C. §§ 6, 9, 10, 11, 12 & 13; see, e.g., IFC Interconsult v. Safeguard Int’l Partners, 438 F.3d 298, 308-09 (3rd Cir. 2006); Productos Mercantiles Industriales, S.A.  v. Faberge USA, Inc., 23 F.3d 41, 46 (2d Cir. 1994).

On April 21, 2015 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit decided Freight Drivers and Helpers Local Union No. 557 Pension Fund v. Penske Logistics LLC,  ___ F.3d ___, No. 14-1464, slip op. (4th Cir. April 21, 2015), a case that helps illustrate the risks associated with assuming that the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure’s liberal pleading and amendment rules apply to applications for relief under the Federal Arbitration Act. As it turns out, the appellant did nothing wrong by assuming that the Federal Arbitration Act’s procedural rules did not trump Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, because the case fell under the Multiemployer Pension Plan Amendments Act of 1980 (“MPPAA”), and the district court erred by interpreting the MPPAA to require compliance with Federal Arbitration Act litigation procedure rules.

The MPPAA was enacted to strengthen the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”)’s provisions designed to protect multi-employer pension plans (i.e., collectively bargained pension plans funded by multiple employers, which are generally participants in the same industry).  It features a mandatory arbitration requirement applicable to disputes about collectively bargained pension plans funded by multiple employers, including disputes about an employer’s withdrawal liability—that is the amount an employer must contribute to  the fund when it stops participating in it.

It requires a party seeking judicial review of an award to do so in 30-days and, as we’ll see, it contains a provision that at first glance appears to make the Federal Arbitration Act’s litigation procedure rules applicable to judicial review of an MPPAA arbitration award. The Court held that under the MPPAA, the Federal Arbitration Act governed only arbitration procedure, not litigation procedure, and that accordingly, the award challenger’s amended complaint related back to the timely-filed original one.

yay-608942-digitalEndingFreight Drivers illustrates how important compliance with Federal Arbitration Act procedures can be, especially given the short limitation periods applicable to motions to confirm, vacate, modify and correct awards.  Had the Federal Arbitration Act’s litigation procedures applied, then the plaintiff’s “amended complaint” might have been deemed time-barred on the ground that Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(c)’s relation-back provisions apply to pleadings only, and under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and the Federal Arbitration Act, the amended complaint had to be deemed to be a motion, not a pleading. As we’ll see, that’s what the district court concluded, and the Fourth Circuit decided the case on the sole ground that the Federal Arbitration Act did not apply to MPPAA litigation procedure. Continue Reading »

Arbitration and Mediation FAQs: Can I Appeal an Arbitration Award in Court?

May 21st, 2014 Arbitration Agreements, Arbitration and Mediation FAQs, Arbitration Practice and Procedure, Awards, Drafting Arbitration Agreements, Grounds for Vacatur, Nuts & Bolts, Nuts & Bolts: Arbitration, Practice and Procedure Comments Off on Arbitration and Mediation FAQs: Can I Appeal an Arbitration Award in Court?

Introduction

When a party is on the wrong end of an arbitration award that he, she or it thinks is fundamentally unfair, tainted by impropriety, or disconnected from the agreement the arbitrator was supposed to interpret and apply, the first question that comes to mind is whether there might be some form of recourse available. In court,  the usual avenue of relief from an adverse judgment or order is an appeal.

Can a losing party to an arbitration award governed by the Federal Arbitration Act (the “FAA”) appeal it in court? Since private arbitration is an alternative to public, government-sponsored court litigation, since the court system plays an important role in enforcing arbitration agreements, since both arbitration and court litigation share at least some of the same attributes and since in the U.S. procedural due process and the primacy of the rule of law are as dear to us as baseball and apple pie, it is natural to assume that one should be able to appeal an adverse arbitration award.

But one cannot—in any meaningful sense of the word—“appeal” an arbitration award to a court. In court litigation an appeal involves judicial review by an appellate court under which a panel of judges reviews trial-court rulings on questions of law independently—that is, as if the appellate court were deciding the question for itself in the first instance. The appellate court reviews the trial court’s findings of fact on a “clearly erroneous” or “clear error” standard of review, that is, paying a certain degree of deference to the finder of fact (the jury or trial judge). While appellate review thus does not involve a retrial on the merits, it is broad and searching, particularly where outcomes turn solely on questions of law.

The FAA does not authorize courts to review arbitration awards under an appellate standard of review, even if the parties consent to a court applying such a standard. Parties can agree before or after a dispute arises to an arbitration procedure that empowers another arbitrator or panel of arbitrators to review an award under an appellate or some other standard of review, but arbitration awards are subject to very limited and deferential review by courts and then only on a few narrow grounds.

The FAA Award-Enforcement Process

The FAA award enforcement process permits either party to make an application to vacate, modify or correct an award, or an application to “confirm” it, that is, enter judgment on it. Since the deadline for applying to vacate, modify or correct an award is considerably shorter than that for confirming an award, in many cases, parties who are seeking relief from the award make the initial application. If a putative challenging party does not timely seek relief, and the other party seeks confirmation after the expiration of the deadline for making an application to vacate, modify or correct the award, then the challenging party is time-barred from asserting grounds for vacatur or modification, even simply as affirmative defenses to confirmation. (See, e.g., L. Reins. & Arb. Law Forum post here.)

Let’s assume a party makes a timely motion to vacate an award. What will likely then happen is the other party will cross-move to confirm the award. The burden on the party seeking confirmation is pretty modest. Generally the party moving to confirm will need to show that the parties: (a) agreed to arbitrate; (b) consented to entry of judgment on the award; (c) appointed an arbitrator or panel of arbitrators; and (d) submitted the dispute to the arbitrators, who issued the award. The award is presumed valid and the court does not review its outcome or substance.

Once the modest prerequisites for confirmation have been established by a properly supported petition or motion to confirm an award, then the court “must grant” confirmation “unless the award is vacated, modified or corrected” under FAA Sections 10 or 11. 9 U.S.C. § 9. Thus, apart from those relatively rare cases where a party can show that the parties never agreed to arbitrate at all (and that the challenging party did not waive that defense), or perhaps never even impliedly consented to entry of judgment on the award, the only grounds on which the losing party can oppose confirmation are those set forth in Section 10 and 11.

The only exception might be if the award interprets the contract in a way that causes it to violate a well-defined and explicit public policy, or if the remedy the arbitrator awards violates the criminal law or requires one of the parties to do so. For example, one would not expect a court to enter judgment on an award that purported to authorize the prevailing party to inflict bodily harm on the losing party or vice-versa. That principle is simply an application of the contract-law rule that courts will not enforce contracts that violate public policy. See, generally, W. R. Grace & Co. v. Rubber Workers, 461 U.S. 757, 766 (1983); United Food & Commercial Workers Int’l Union v. King Soopers, 743 F.3d 1310, 1315 (10th Cir. 2014).

Continue Reading »

Re Colorado Energy Management, LLC v. Lea Power Partners, LLC: Another Appellate Division holds Construction Arbitration Award should be Vacated, but this time for Good Reason

May 10th, 2014 American Arbitration Association, Appellate Practice, Arbitrability, Arbitration Practice and Procedure, Arbitrator Vacancy, Authority of Arbitrators, Awards, Construction Industry Arbitration, Functus Officio, Grounds for Vacatur, Judicial Review of Arbitration Awards, New York State Courts, Practice and Procedure, State Arbitration Law, State Arbitration Statutes, State Courts Comments Off on Re Colorado Energy Management, LLC v. Lea Power Partners, LLC: Another Appellate Division holds Construction Arbitration Award should be Vacated, but this time for Good Reason

Introduction

In our recent post on the Merion Construction case (here), we were pretty critical of New Jersey’s Superior Court, Appellate Division, for reversing a trial court decision confirming a modified arbitration award, finding it should have been vacated and the original award confirmed. Today’s post takes a brief look at a decision by another state’s Appellate Division—New York’s Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department—which held that another construction-industry award should be vacated.

In Merion Construction the New Jersey Appellate Division thought the arbitrator had no authority to correct his award to reflect the rulings he intended to make on two issues the parties had submitted to him. Re Colorado Management, LLC v. Lea Power Partners, LLC , ___ A.D.3d ___, ___, 2014 N.Y. Slip Op. 01253 at 1-3 (1st Dep’t Feb. 20, 2014), held that a final arbitration award had to be vacated because the arbitrator had no authority to rule upon an issue that was not presented to him in light of the parties’ submissions and a ruling made in the same proceeding by a predecessor arbitrator.

While Merion Construction got an “F,” Colorado Management gets at least an “A-,” and perhaps even an “A.” Continue Reading »

Improving Arbitration-Award Making and Enforcement by Faithfully Implementing the Purposes and Objectives of the Federal Arbitration Act

November 13th, 2013 Arbitration Agreements, Arbitration Practice and Procedure, Authority of Arbitrators, Awards, General, Grounds for Vacatur, Practice and Procedure, Small Business B-2-B Arbitration, United States Supreme Court Comments Off on Improving Arbitration-Award Making and Enforcement by Faithfully Implementing the Purposes and Objectives of the Federal Arbitration Act

Part II:

A Consent-Based Framework

for Making and Enforcing Arbitration Awards

Introduction

In Part I we argued that improving arbitration in general—and the award making and enforcement process in particular—requires persons with a stake in arbitration’s success to adjust how they think about arbitration. We also argued that the purposes and objectives of the Federal Arbitration Act (the “FAA”) provide a relatively simple analytical framework which, if consistently and properly applied, can help persons with a stake in arbitration’s continued success make decisions that should help facilitate the achievement of that goal.

This Part II discusses that analytical framework, which is based on United States Supreme Court interpretations of the FAA and its purposes and objectives. It posits that arbitration’s improvement and continued success as a dispute resolution mechanism for a broad range of disputes depends on it being an attractive alternative to litigation, and that arbitration can remain such an attractive alternative for a broad range of disputes only if courts, arbitrators, and parties fully and forthrightly accept that arbitration is a matter of contract, and that the awards that it yields should be freely and summarily enforced, provided that they represent a legitimate product of the agreement to arbitrate. Continue Reading »

Improving Arbitration-Award Making and Enforcement by Faithfully Implementing the Purposes and Objectives of the Federal Arbitration Act

November 12th, 2013 Arbitration Agreements, Arbitration Practice and Procedure, Awards, General, Judicial Review of Arbitration Awards, Small Business B-2-B Arbitration Comments Off on Improving Arbitration-Award Making and Enforcement by Faithfully Implementing the Purposes and Objectives of the Federal Arbitration Act

Part I:

An Introduction to the Problem and its Solution

Arbitration can be a very effective way of resolving a wide range of disputes arising out of many legal and commercial relationships. It can benefit the parties if they make informed decisions about agreeing to it, and craft their agreement accordingly. It can benefit the courts and the general public by shifting to the private sector dispute-resolution costs that the public-sector would otherwise bear.

Arbitration is not a perfect form of dispute resolution (and none is, including court litigation). That is so even when parties carefully draft their arbitration agreements, and the parties, arbitrators, arbitration service providers and courts do their best to ensure the integrity and reliability of the process and otherwise strive to protect the legitimate expectations of the parties. But at least over the last couple of decades or so, arbitration has, in the opinion of many, become a less attractive alternative to court litigation than it was intended to be, could be and once was. Continue Reading »

What does the Arbitration Fairness Act of 2009 Have to Say About Commercial and Industry Arbitration Involving Sophisticated Parties? (Part IV)

April 16th, 2009 Arbitrability, Authority of Arbitrators, Legislative Developments, United States Supreme Court Comments Off on What does the Arbitration Fairness Act of 2009 Have to Say About Commercial and Industry Arbitration Involving Sophisticated Parties? (Part IV)

Will the Arbitration Fairness Act of 2009 Apply to Nondomestic Agreements and Awards Falling Under the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards?

Introduction

In Parts I and II we discussed how the Arbitration Fairness Act of 2009 (the “Fairness Act”)  will likely lead to litigation concerning whether, and if so, to what extent, Proposed Section 2(c) abrogates: (a) the severability doctrine; and (b) the rule that arbitrators may determine their own jurisdiction if the parties clearly and unmistakably agree, with that determination subject only to deferential judicial review (the “Own Jurisdiction Rule”).    In Parts IIIA-C  we discussed two constructions of Proposed Section 2(c):  one that would abrogate severability and the Own Jurisdiction Rule in all cases falling under Chapter 1 of the FAA  (the “Broad Construction”); and one that would limit the scope of Proposed Section 2(c) to Chapter 1 cases where one of the parties contends that the arbitration agreement requires arbitration of a consumer, employment, franchise or statutory civil rights dispute (the “Narrow Construction”). 

In this Part IV we consider whether Proposed Section 2(c) of the Fairness Act applies to agreements and awards falling under the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (the “New York Convention” or the “Convention”), which are governed by Chapter 2 of the FAA.  While the matter is not entirely free from doubt, Proposed Section 2(c) of the Fairness Act will probably be construed not to apply to awards and agreements falling under the New York Convention.  Thus, the doctrine of severability and the Own Jurisdiction Rule will probably continue to apply in cases falling under FAA Chapter 2, even if courts adopt the Broad Construction of the Fairness Act in cases governed by Chapter 1.       Continue Reading »

Some Interesting Questions Raised by the Pyett Decision

April 7th, 2009 Arbitrability, Authority of Arbitrators, Legislative Developments, United States Supreme Court 4 Comments »

On April 4 we reported on 14 Penn Plaza LLC v. Pyett, ___ U.S. ___ (2009) (Thomas, J.) (available here), as did many others last week.  Professor Sarah Cole of the ADR Prof Blog  published a thoughtful and well-written piece on Pyett (available here), which raised some interesting questions.   For example, Professor Cole observed that “if the Arbitration Fairness Act passes, it would not surprise me to see a subsequent effort to overturn the Pyett decision.”   As discussed in a series of posts we are publishing on the Fairness Act (Part I available here), the Act would render arbitration agreements falling within the scope of the FAA invalid and unenforceable to the extent they require predispute arbitration of consumer, employment, franchise and statutory civil rights disputes.  Continue Reading »

14 Penn Plaza LLC v. Pyett: A Step Toward Bringing Federal Labor Law Arbitrability Rules in Line With Their FAA Counterparts?

April 4th, 2009 Arbitrability, Authority of Arbitrators, United States Supreme Court 2 Comments »

On April 1 the United States Supreme Court decided 14 Penn Plaza LLC v. Pyett, ___ U.S. ___ (2009) (Thomas, J.), an interesting case that highlights some of the differences between labor arbitration governed by the National  Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) and arbitration governed by the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. §§ 1 et seq. (the “FAA”).  The question before the Court was whether “a collective bargaining agreement that clearly and unmistakably requires union members to arbitrate [Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”)] claims is enforceable as a matter of federal law.”  Slip op. at 25.  Reversing the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, the Court said “yes.”  See slip op. at 25.   Continue Reading »

Nuts & Bolts: When is an Arbitration Award a Final Award and Why Does it Matter?

March 30th, 2009 Authority of Arbitrators, Awards, Functus Officio, Nuts & Bolts: Arbitration Comments Off on Nuts & Bolts: When is an Arbitration Award a Final Award and Why Does it Matter?

In this first “Nuts & Bolts” post we briefly review the general rules concerning the finality of arbitration awards under the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”), and note some of the consequences that flow from finality.  Our principal focus is on Second Circuit finality rules.  The rules in other circuits may differ.    Continue Reading »