Articles Posted in U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals

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Plaintiff-Appellant Waterford Investment Services, Inc. appealed the district court’s ruling that it must arbitrate certain claims that a group of investors brought before the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). The investors alleged in their FINRA claims that they received bad advice from their financial advisor, George Gilbert. The investors named Gilbert, his current investment firm, Waterford, and his prior firm, Community Bankers Securities, LLC (CBS), among others as parties to the arbitration. In response, Waterford filed this suit asking a federal district court to enjoin the arbitration proceedings and enter a declaratory judgment that Waterford need not arbitrate the claims. The district court, adopting the recommendations of a magistrate judge, concluded that because Gilbert was an "associated person" of Waterford during the events in question, Waterford must arbitrate the investors' claims. Upon review of the matter, the Fourth Circuit affirmed, finding that Gilbert was inextricably an "associated person" with Waterford, and that the district court did not abuse its discretion in adopting the magistrate judge's opinion. View "Waterford Investment Services v. Bosco" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a citizen of the Philippines, brought suit against defendants for damages arising from severe injuries he sustained aboard the M/V Asian Spirit in the Chesapeake Bay near Baltimore. Plaintiff's complaint alleged multiple clams against defendants, including unseaworthiness, maintenance and cure, breach of contract, violation of the Seaman's Wage Act, 46 U.S.C. 10313(i), and negligence under general maritime law and the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C. 30104. The court affirmed the district court's judgment that the Arbitration Clause at issue was enforceable and that plaintiff must arbitrate his claims against defendants in the Philippines. Nevertheless, the court vacated the dismissal of the case and remanded for reinstatement thereof, for assessment of the injunction request, for entry of a stay pending arbitration to ensure that plaintiff would have an opportunity at the award-enforcement stage for judicial review of his public policy defense based on the prospective waiver doctrine, and for such other and further proceedings. View "Aggarao, Jr. v. Mol Ship Mgmt. Co." on Justia Law

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Wachovia appealed from the district court's refusal to vacate an arbitration award entered against it after it sued several former employees on what the arbitrators determined were frivolous claims. Wachovia argued that the arbitrators violated section 10(a)(3) of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), 9 U.S.C. 10(a)(3), and "manifestly disregarded" the law when they awarded attorneys' fees and costs under the South Carolina Frivolous Civil Proceedings Act (FCPA), S.C. Code Ann. 15-36-10. The court held that arbitrators have broad discretion to set applicable procedure and the court would not overturn an award for violating section 10(a)(3)'s protection against "any other misbehavior by which the rights of any party have been prejudiced" where the arbitrators attempted to address the one party's unhappiness with the fairness of the hearing and that party refused to take advantage of the opportunity provided. The court could not hold that the arbitrators manifestly disregarded the law when they awarded the attorneys' fees and costs where, in this case, the court found whether the arbitrators erred by not applying the FCPA's procedural requirements was a question that was itself not clearly defined and was subject to debate. Accordingly, the judgment was affirmed. View "Wachovia Securities, LLC v. Brand, II" on Justia Law

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This case arose when Union entered into a limited job-preference agreement with Peabody Coal where the agreement included an arbitration clause. The district court subsequently entered judgment in favor of Union, ruling that the arbitrator properly determined the arbitrability of the dispute. In the alternative, the district court concluded that the dispute was arbitrable, even if the arbitrator lacked authority to decide the arbitrability question. Peabody Coal appealed. The court held, as an initial matter, that the court, not the arbitrator must decide whether the dispute was arbitrable. The parties' agreement lacked the requisite "clear and unmistakable" language evincing an intent to arbitrate arbitrability. Exercising the court's independent judgment on the arbitrability question, the court concluded that Peabody Coal had not rebutted the ordinary presumption in favor of arbitrability. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment and the parties must proceed to arbitration. View "Peabody Holding Co. v. United Mine Workers of America" on Justia Law

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The National Treasury Employees' Union (Union) sought review of an adverse ruling by the Federal Labor Relations Authority (Authority) where the Union filed a grievance alleging that the IRS was processing its members' dues revocation forms without following contractually-mandated procedures. After the parties filed exceptions to the arbitrator's award with the Authority, the Authority denied the parties' exceptions and confirmed the award in its entirety. The Union petitioned the court for review. The court held that because the Authority's decision upholding the arbitrator's award was not arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law, the court had no warrant to disturb the Authority's decision. View "Natural Treasury Employees Union v. Federal Labor Relations Auth." on Justia Law

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A 1997 coal supply contract provided that "[a]ll disputes under" the agreement would be referred to arbitration in Charleston. The parties extended the 1997 Agreement until 2006, but disagree as to whether a series of emails effectuated extension through 2008. In July 2008, buyer and supplier signed a new contract with an increased price, providing for arbitration in Richmond and containing a merger clause. Buyer paid the higher price under protest, claiming that the 1997 agreement remained in effect and filed for arbitration in Charleston; supplier filed for arbitration in Richmond under the 2008 agreement. The Charleston panel found that the parties had extended the 1997 agreement and that the 2008 agreement was "a glaring breach" of the extension. The Richmond panel stayed proceedings. A Virginia district court dismissed supplier's suit. A West Virginia district court granted summary judgment for buyer. The Fourth Circuit upheld the West Virginia award under the Federal Arbitration Act 9 U.S.C. 10(a). The issue of which panel should decide the validity of the 2008 agreement was procedural, not jurisdiction, and did not require a decision in court. The Charleston panel based its jurisdiction on a plausible reading of the 1997 agreement.