Justia Arbitration & Mediation Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Corporate Compliance
Chris Ronnie v. U.S. Department of Labor
Petitioner was employed at Office Depot as a senior financial analyst. He was responsible for, among other things, ensuring data integrity. One of Ronnie’s principal duties was to calculate and report a metric called “Sales Lift.” Sales Lift is a metric designed to quantify the cost-reduction benefit of closing redundant retail stores. Petitioner identified two potential accounting errors that he believed signaled securities fraud related to the Sales Lift. Petitioner alleged that after he reported the issue, his relationship with his boss became strained. Eventually, Petitioner was terminated at that meeting for failing to perform the task of identifying the cause of the data discrepancy. Petitioner filed complaint with the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and OSHA dismissed his complaint. Petitioner petitioned for review of the ARB’s decision. The Eleventh Circuit denied the petition. The court explained that Petitioner failed to allege sufficient facts to establish that a reasonable person with his training and experience would believe this conduct constituted a SOX violation, the ARB’s decision was not arbitrary or capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with the law. The court wrote that Petitioner’s assertions that Office Depot intentionally manipulated sales data and that his assigned task of investigating the discrepancy was a stalling tactic are mere speculation, which alone is not enough to create a genuine issue of fact as to the objective reasonableness of Petitioner’s belief. View "Chris Ronnie v. U.S. Department of Labor" on Justia Law
Lyons v. PNC Bank
In 2005, Lyons opened a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) with PNC’s predecessor, signing an agreement with no arbitration provision. In 2010, Lyons opened deposit accounts at PNC and signed a document that stated he was bound by the terms of PNC’s Account Agreement, including a provision authorizing PNC to set off funds from the account to pay any indebtedness owed by the account holder to PNC. PNC could amend the Account Agreement. In 2013, PNC added an arbitration clause to the Account Agreement. Customers had 45 days to opt out. Lyons opened another deposit account with PNC in 2014 and agreed to be bound by the 2014 Account Agreement, including the arbitration clause. Lyons again did not opt out. Lyons’s HELOC ended in February 2015. PNC began applying setoffs from Lyons’s 2010 and 2014 Accounts.Lyons sued under the Truth in Lending Act (TILA). PNC moved to compel arbitration. The court found that the Dodd-Frank Act amendments to TILA barred arbitration of Lyons’s claims related to the 2014 Account but did not apply retroactively to bar arbitration of his claims related to the 2010 account. The Fourth Circuit reversed in part. The Dodd-Frank Act 15 U.S.C. 1639c(e) precludes pre-dispute agreements requiring the arbitration of claims related to residential mortgage loans; the relevant arbitration agreement was not formed until after the amendment's effective date. PNC may not compel arbitration of Lyons’s claims as to either account. View "Lyons v. PNC Bank" on Justia Law
Jaludi v. Citigroup
Jaludi began working for Citigroup in 1985 and rose steadily through the ranks. Jaludi was laid off and terminated in 2013 after reporting certain improprieties in Citigroup’s internal complaint monitoring system. Jaludi, believing Citigroup had fired him in retaliation for his reporting, sued under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. 1962 (RICO), and the Sarbanes–Oxley Act of 2002, 18 U.S.C. 1514A. Citigroup moved to compel arbitration, relying on two Employee Handbooks. The 2009 Employee Handbook, contained an arbitration agreement requiring arbitration of all claims arising out of employment—including Sarbanes–Oxley claims. In 2010, Congress passed the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which amended Sarbanes–Oxley to prohibit pre-dispute agreements to arbitrate whistleblower claims, 18 U.S.C. 1514A(e)). In 2011, Citigroup and Jaludi agreed to the 2011 Employee Handbook; the arbitration agreement appended to that Handbook excluded “disputes which by statute are not arbitrable” and deleted Sarbanes–Oxley from the list of arbitrable claims. Nonetheless, the district court held that arbitration was required for all of Jaludi’s claims. The Third Circuit reversed in part. Although Jaludi’s RICO claim falls within the scope of either Handbook’s arbitration provision, the operative 2011 arbitration agreement supersedes the 2009 arbitration agreement and prohibits the arbitration of Sarbanes–Oxley claims. View "Jaludi v. Citigroup" on Justia Law
Jackson County, Mississippi v. KPMG, LLP
The Mississippi Supreme Court previously unanimously held that KPMG, LLP could not enforce arbitration agreements attached to five annual engagement letters with Singing River Health System (Singing River), a community hospital, because the terms and condition of the letters were not sufficiently spread upon the hospital board’s minutes to create an enforceable contract. In this appeal, KPMG sought to enforce the very same arbitration agreements attached to the very same engagement letters with Singing River - this time against Jackson County, Mississippi, which acted as Singing River’s bond guarantor. For the same reason the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s denial of KPMG’s motion to compel arbitration in KPMG, LLP v. Singing River Health System, the Court reversed and remanded the trial court’s grant of KPMG’s motion to compel arbitration in this case. View "Jackson County, Mississippi v. KPMG, LLP" on Justia Law
Chrysler Grp. LLC v. Sowell Auto., Inc.
Section 747 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2010 created an arbitration procedure for automobile dealerships to seek continuation or reinstatement of franchise agreements that had been terminated by Chrysler during bankruptcy proceedings, with the approval of the bankruptcy court. After an arbitral decision favoring the dealer, the manufacturer was required to provide the dealer a “customary and usual letter of intent” to enter into a sales and service agreement. After arbitrations, a trial was held to determine whether Chrysler supplied each prevailing dealer with such a letter. Most of the rejected dealers reached settlements with New Chrysler. The court determined that the remaining dealers had received “customary and usual” letters. The Sixth Circuit agreed that section 747 does not constitute an unconstitutional legislative reversal of a federal court judgment and that the only relief it provides to successful dealers is the issuance of a letter of intent. The letters at issue were “customary and usual,” except one contractual provision that required reversal. Contrary to the district court’s conclusion application Michigan and Nevada state dealer acts is preempted by section 747, because those acts provide for redetermination of factors directly addressed in federally-mandated arbitrations closely related to a major federal bailout. View "Chrysler Grp. LLC v. Sowell Auto., Inc." on Justia Law
Everett v. Paul Davis Restoration, Inc.
The Everetts formerly operated a PDRI franchise. After that franchise was terminated, they violated a non-compete clause. Only Mr. Everett and the Everetts’ corporation actually signed the franchise agreement. PDRI sought to bind Ms. Everett to an arbitration award pursuant to the franchise agreement. Although Everett was a non-signatory to the franchise agreement, PDRI asserted she was subject to arbitration under the doctrine of direct benefits estoppel. The district court determined that the benefits Everett received were filtered through her ownership interest in their corporation or through her husband and were therefore indirect. The Seventh Circuit reversed, holding that Everett did receive a direct benefit. It is clear that the Everetts’ corporation was formed to gain the benefit of the franchise agreement and was used only to conduct the business of the franchise; Ms. Everett had a 50% ownership and played an active role in running the corporation. View "Everett v. Paul Davis Restoration, Inc." on Justia Law
Continental Holdings, Inc. v. Crown Holdings Inc., et al.
Continental sold its food and beverage metal can and can-end technology to Crown via a stock purchase agreement (SPA) in March 1990. The parties disputed the extent of each other's resultant liabilities, as defined by the indemnity provision in the SPA in concurrent binding arbitration and judicial proceedings. Continental subsequently appealed the grant of summary judgment and the district court's denial of its motion to reconsider or alter or amend its judgment. The court found that Continental failed to meet its burden of proving it was not afforded a full and fair opportunity to litigate the meaning of the indemnity provision. Therefore, the district court correctly determined that Continental was precluded from further litigating the provision's meaning, properly granted summary judgment in favor of Crown, and did not abuse its discretion in denying Continental's motion to reconsider. View "Continental Holdings, Inc. v. Crown Holdings Inc., et al." on Justia Law
Solymar Investments, Ltd., et al. v. Banco Santander S.A., et al.
Plaintiffs are personal investment holding corporations owned by two related Panamanian shareholders. Defendants, of who there are two distinct groups, are (1) a related group of banking corporations operating under the umbrella of Banco Santander, which provide banking, investment, and other financial management services; and (2) certain individual officers/employees of Santander. This dispute arose from plaintiff's investment of an undisclosed sum of money with defendants. At issue was whether a district court, having found a valid contract containing an arbitration clause existed, was also required to consider a further challenge to that contract's place within a broader, unexecuted agreement. Having considered those circumstances in light of Granite Rock Co. v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters and other relevant precedent, the court found that the district court properly construed the law regarding arbitrability in dismissing plaintiff's suit. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Solymar Investments, Ltd., et al. v. Banco Santander S.A., et al." on Justia Law
ASDC Holdings, et al. v. The Richard J. Malouf 2008 All Smiles Trust, et al.
This action arose from a transaction involving the sale of equity in a Texas-based dental practice management company to a Chicago-based private equity firm. At issue was whether the purchasers' ability to raise the forum selection clause issue in Texas provided them with an adequate remedy at law, undermining the basis for equity jurisdiction, and if not, whether the terms of the forum selection clause were broad enough to reach the Texas claims. The court held that the forum selection clause did not provide purchasers an adequate remedy at law, and therefore, the court had subject matter jurisdiction over their claims. The court also held that the forum selection clause here, which applied to any claims arising under or relating to the transaction, was sufficiently broad in scope that the purchasers were likely to succeed in showing that it provided exclusive jurisdiction in Delaware over the claims brought by the sellers in Texas. Accordingly, the court granted purchasers' motion for preliminary injunction. View "ASDC Holdings, et al. v. The Richard J. Malouf 2008 All Smiles Trust, et al." on Justia Law
UBS Financial Servs, Inc. v. West Virginia University Hosp.
UBS appealed the denial of their motion for a preliminary injunction enjoining defendants from proceeding with an arbitration before the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), and alternatively requiring that the arbitration proceed in New York County. In the arbitration, defendants sought damages for UBS's alleged fraud in connection with defendants' issuances of auction rate securities. The court held that defendants were entitled to arbitration because they became UBS's "customer" under FINRA's rules when they undertook to purchase auction services from UBS. The court also held that the enforceability of the forum selection clause was a procedural issue for FINRA arbitrators to address and that the district court lacked jurisdiction to resolve it. View "UBS Financial Servs, Inc. v. West Virginia University Hosp." on Justia Law