Justia Securities Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Arbitration & Mediation
Donelson v. Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc.
Plaintiff filed suit against Defendants Sachse, Ameriprise, and individual Ameriprise officers, alleging violations of federal securities law. Plaintiff also sought to represent other Sachse and Ameriprise clients in a class action. Defendants filed motions to strike plaintiff's class action allegations and to compel arbitration, which the district court denied.The Eighth Circuit reversed and remanded for entry of an order striking plaintiff's class action allegations and compelling arbitration. The court concluded that it has appellate jurisdiction to review the district court's denial of defendants' motions to strike class action allegations because this denial was contained in an order reviewable under 9 U.S.C. 16(a)(1)(B). The court also concluded that defendants have not waived their right to arbitrate by moving to strike plaintiff's class action allegations at the same time they moved to compel arbitration where the action was not inconsistent with their right to arbitrate and did not substantially invoke the litigation machinery. On the merits, the court concluded that a valid arbitration clause exists and that it encompasses the dispute between the parties. In this case, the court agreed with defendants that the arbitration clause was valid because it was supported by mutual assent, was supported by consideration, and was not unconscionable. View "Donelson v. Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc." on Justia Law
Interactive Brokers LLC v. Saroop
Investors filed a claim with FINRA's arbitration division seeking to recover substantial losses from Broker, alleging nine causes of action. Broker counterclaimed, seeking payment of the debt and attorneys' fees. The arbitration panel found in favor of Investors and dismissed Broker's counterclaim. The arbitrators then issued a modified award on remand. The district court subsequently granted Broker's motion to vacate the modified award in favor of the Investors and remanded Broker's counterclaim to a new panel of arbitrators. Investors timely appealed.The Fourth Circuit held that the district court erred in vacating the modified award where the arbitrators' imposition of liability against Broker is not in manifest disregard to the law. The court explained that imposing liability based on a contractual obligation to comply with the FINRA rules is, at the very least, an arguable interpretation of the parties' contracts. In this case, Broker executed trades of iPath S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures (VXX) on Investors' portfolio margin accounts, in clear violation of FINRA Rule 4210. Rule 4210 prohibits trades of certain high-risk securities through portfolio margin accounts, including trades of VXX. The court also held that the arbitration panel did not manifestly disregard the law by imposing damages in the amount of Investors' accounts on August 19, 2015. In light of Connecticut law, the court reasoned that the award placed Investors in the position they would have been if the contracts had been properly performed after August 19. Finally, the arbitration panel did not manifestly disregard the law by awarding Investors attorneys' fees. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded with instructions to confirm the modified arbitration award. View "Interactive Brokers LLC v. Saroop" on Justia Law
Mid Atlantic Capital v. Bien
A married couple, Beverly Bien and David Wellman, invested money with Mid Atlantic Capital Corporation (“Mid Atlantic”). Their investments performed poorly. Stung by the losses, Ms. Bien and Mr. Wellman initiated arbitration proceedings against Mid Atlantic. The arbitration panel awarded damages, fees and costs to the couple. The panel also ordered Ms. Bien and Mr. Wellman to reassign their ownership interests in their investments to Mid Atlantic. Mid Atlantic moved the federal district court to modify the arbitration award to correct “an evident material miscalculation of figures.” The district court denied the motion because the alleged error that Mid Atlantic sought to remedy did not appear on the face of the arbitration award. In the amended final judgment, in addition to ordering Mid Atlantic to pay Ms. Bien and Mr. Wellman certain damages, the court ordered that prejudgment interest would accrue on the damages portion of the award and that postjudgment interest would accrue at the federal rate specified in 28 U.S.C. 1961. Both parties appealed the district court’s order. Mid Atlantic specifically challenged the court’s denial of its motion to modify the arbitration award; the couple cross-appealed to challenge the court’s rulings with respect to prejudgment interest and the reassignment of distributions they received since the arbitration award due to their ownership interests in the investments. Finding no abuse of discretion or other reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court. View "Mid Atlantic Capital v. Bien" on Justia Law
INTL FCStone Financial Inc. v. Farmer
Defendants, commodities futures investors, maintained trading accounts with FCStone, a clearing firm that handled the confirmation, settlement, and delivery of transactions. In 2018, extraordinary volatility in the natural gas market wiped out the defendants’ account balances with FCStone, leaving some defendants in debt. The defendants alleged Commodity Exchange Act violations against FCStone and initiated arbitration proceedings before the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). FCStone sought a declaratory judgment, claiming the parties must arbitrate their disputes before the National Futures Association (NFA), and that FINRA lacks jurisdiction over the underlying disputes. The district court ruled for FCStone, ordered arbitration and designated an arbitration forum, then stayed the case to address related issues, including the arbitration venue. The Seventh Circuit dismissed an appeal for lack of jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1291 or the Federal Arbitration Act, ” 9 U.S.C. 16(a)(3). The district court’s decisions were non-final and no exception to the rule of finality applies. The court rejected an argument that the order amounted to an injunction prohibiting FINRA arbitration. A pro‐arbitration decision, coupled with a stay (rather than a dismissal) of the suit, is not appealable. The court noted that the district court did not decide whether the parties’ arbitration agreements relinquished defendants’ purported rights to FINRA arbitration. View "INTL FCStone Financial Inc. v. Farmer" on Justia Law
Daly v. Citigroup Inc.
Plaintiff filed suit against Citigroup, alleging gender discrimination and whistleblower retaliation claims under several local, state, and federal statutes, including the Dodd‐Frank and Sarbanes‐Oxley Acts.The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment and held that the district court appropriately compelled arbitration of all but plaintiffʹs Sarbanes‐Oxley claim, including her Dodd‐Frank whistleblower retaliation claim, because her claims fall within the scope of her employment arbitration agreement and because she failed to establish that they are precluded by law from arbitration. The court also held that plaintiff's Sarbanes‐Oxley claim was properly dismissed because the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over it inasmuch as plaintiff failed to exhaust her administrative remedies under the statute. View "Daly v. Citigroup Inc." on Justia Law
Alvarez-Mauras v. Banco Popular of Puerto Rico
In this case brought under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. 1962, 1964, the First Circuit affirmed the district court's ruling dismissing Plaintiff's claims against all defendants, holding that Plaintiff's claims against his securities broker may only be resolved through arbitration, the claims against the broker's wife and the couple's conjugal partnership were also subject to the arbitration agreement, and Plaintiff's claims against a bank were out of time.Plaintiff, a building contractor in Puerto Rico, argued that his securities broken, in collusion with the investment firm and affiliated bank, fraudulently stole more than $400,000 from his investment account. Plaintiff also named as defendants his broker's wife and their conjugal partnership . The district court dismissed all claims against all defendants. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) subject to the binding agreement between the parties, Plaintiff's claims against the broker may only be resolved through arbitration; (2) the claims against the broker's wife and the conjugal partnership were derivative of the claims against the broker and therefore also subject to the arbitration agreement; and (3) Plaintiff's claims against the bank were time-barred under 18 U.S.C. 1964. View "Alvarez-Mauras v. Banco Popular of Puerto Rico" on Justia Law
Reading Health System v. Bear Stearns & Co., Inc.
Reading, a Pennsylvania not-for-profit health system, issued auction rate securities (ARSs) to finance capital projects. J.P. Morgan was the underwriter and broker-dealer. Reading claims that J.P. Morgan and others artificially propped up the ARS market through undisclosed support bidding; when they stopped in 2008, the market collapsed. Reading filed state law claims and demanded arbitration with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). The 2005 and 2007 broker-dealer agreements state “all actions and proceedings arising out of” the agreements or ARS transactions must be filed in the Southern District of New York. Reading filed a claim under FINRA Rule 12200, which requires a FINRA member (J.P. Morgan) to arbitrate any dispute at the customer’s request. J.P. Morgan refused, arguing that the forum-selection clauses in the 2005 and 2007 broker-dealer agreements constituted a waiver of Reading’s right to arbitrate under Rule 12200. The Third Circuit affirmed the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, which resolved the transfer dispute before the arbitrability dispute, declined to transfer the action, and required J.P. Morgan to submit to arbitration. Reading’s right to arbitrate is not contractual but arises out of a binding, regulatory rule, adopted by FINRA and approved by the SEC. Condoning an implicit waiver of Reading’s regulatory right to arbitrate would erode investors’ ability to use a cost-effective means of resolving allegations of misconduct and undermine FINRA’s ability to oversee and remedy such misconduct. View "Reading Health System v. Bear Stearns & Co., Inc." on Justia Law
Honea v. Raymond James Financial Services, Inc.
In case no. 1130590, Kathryn L. Honea appealed the denial of her motion to vacate an arbitration award entered in favor of Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. ("Raymond James"), and Bernard Michaud, an employee of Raymond James (collectively, "RJFS"). In case no. 1130655, RJFS appealed the trial court's denial of its motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction; that appeal was dismissed. Honea opened several investment accounts with Raymond James. Honea and Raymond James executed a "client agreement" that included an arbitration provision. Honea filed a complaint in the Jefferson Circuit Court asserting that she had opened four accounts with Raymond James and that Michaud had acted as her financial advisor as to those accounts. She alleged that RJFS engaged in "abusive brokerage practices" in that her investments were not diversified, "were far too risky," and "were of poor quality." The arbitration panel dismissed Honea's breach-of-fiduciary-duty, negligence, wantonness, fraud, and Alabama Securities Act claims and proceeded to hear the breach-of-contract claims. An arbitration panel entered an award in favor of RJFS. The arbitration panel found that "Michaud did not sufficiently know his client nor make sufficient inquiry to attempt to know his client, her holdings, and/or her investment experience. These failures contributed to losses in [Honea's] account." However, the arbitration panel "denied" Honea's breach-of-contract claims, stating that they were "barred by the applicable statutes of limitations." Although the Alabama Supreme Court found one contract appeared to govern this case and that RJFS breached its duties by failing to properly understand Honea's investment knowledge before March 2000, Honea contended that allegedly improper transactions--the excessive use of margin and overly aggressive, high-risk trading occurring after March 2000--represented independent breaches of the FINRA rules. Those claims accrued within the six-year limitations period before her complaint was filed. Further, any knowledge by Honea of her losses did not mean that the trading activity was proper. Thus, to the extent that any transactions after March 2000 would be considered separate breaches of contract unrelated to the failure to properly know Honea, her holdings, or her investment experience, or setting up an "unsuitable" account, the Court found Honea demonstrated probable merit--for purposes of a Rule 59(g) hearing--that those claims would not be barred by the statute of limitations. Honea demonstrated that, in relation to the certain breach-of-contract claims, she was entitled to a Rule 59(g) hearing on her motion to vacate the arbitration award. View "Honea v. Raymond James Financial Services, Inc." on Justia Law
Conway Family Trust v. Commodity Futures Trading Commission
During October 2008 the Trust lost $3.6 million trading futures contracts. Contending that errors by Dorman, a futures commission merchant, caused some of these losses, in October 2011 the Trust asked the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to order Dorman to make reparation, 7 U.S.C. 18(a)(1). The Commission dismissed the claim as untimely. The Trust had made a claim within the two-year limitations period, but with the National Futures Association, which referred it to arbitration. The arbitrators awarded the Trust $500,000 against several defendants but ruled in favor of Dorman because the Trust’s contract with that entity set a one‐year time limit for financial claims. The Commission rejected the Trust’s claim of equitable tolling. The Seventh Circuit denied a petition for review. The Trust knew about the trading losses as soon as they occurred but did nothing for almost two years; it did not diligently pursue the Commission’s processes. The Trust did not say that any circumstance, let alone an extraordinary one, prevented timely filing. The court reasoned that the arbitral award, right or wrong, has nothing to do with equitable tolling. View "Conway Family Trust v. Commodity Futures Trading Commission" on Justia Law
Ortiz-Espinosa v. BBVA Securities of Puerto Rico, Inc.
Appellants sought arbitration with BBVA Securities of Puerto Rico, Inc. and one of its securities brokers, asserting several claims under both federal and Puerto Rico law. An arbitration panel issued an award denying Appellants’ claims. Appellants then filed a complaint in the Puerto Rico Court of First Instance requesting that the court vacate or modify the arbitration award, seeking relief under the Puerto Rico Arbitration Act. Defendants removed the case to the U.S. District Court of the District of Puerto Rico, arguing that the district court had federal question jurisdiction and also had supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims. Appellants moved to remand the case to Puerto Rico state court for lack of jurisdiction. The district court denied the motion after applying the look-through approach and determining that the underlying statement of claim alleged federal claims. The district court subsequently confirmed the award. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the look-through approach was the correct test in this case; (2) federal jurisdiction existed; and (3) the district court did not err in refusing to vacate the award and in confirming it. View "Ortiz-Espinosa v. BBVA Securities of Puerto Rico, Inc." on Justia Law