Fifth Circuit Affirms Vacatur Of Arbitration Award Where Arbitrator Failed To Follow Provisions Governing Selection Of Arbitrator And Forum
Organizational Strategies Inc. (OSI) had entered into an agreement with Capstone Associated Services Ltd. for the latter to form three captive insurance companies for OSI. Included in the contract was an arbitration clause that required any disputes to be resolved under American Arbitration Association rules. PoolRe (a third-party insurer), and the three captive insurers separately entered into contracts that included different arbitration provisions requiring application of International Chamber of Commerce rules. Ultimately, all of the agreements were cancelled, and Capstone demanded arbitration for breach of contract against OSI under AAA rules. When PoolRe sought to compel a separate arbitration and was unable to appoint an Anguilla-based arbitrator through the mechanism envisioned under its contracts, PoolRe intervened in the OSI arbitration for the “limited purpose of having [the arbitrator] appoint an Anguilla-based arbitrator.” Instead of appointing an Anguilla arbitrator, however, the OSI arbitrator applied AAA rules and exercised jurisdiction over PoolRe’s claims, finding that PoolRe had waived its right to arbitration in Anguilla by intervening. An award later issued, finding that OSI had breached its contracts with Capstone, PoolRe, and a law firm involved with the captive insurance program. The arbitrator granted Capstone, PoolRe and the firm more than $450,000 in attorneys’ fees, expenses and costs.
OSI moved to vacate the entire award in Texas federal court on the grounds that the arbitrator exceeded his authority by including PoolRe in the arbitration; the arbitrator was not authorized under the contracts to appoint himself as the arbitrator of PoolRe’s claims nor to apply AAA rules instead of ICC rules. The court agreed and vacated the entire award, reasoning that PoolRe’s intervention had “tainted the entire process.” The Fifth Circuit affirmed, holding that because the arbitrator “acted contrary to the express arbitrator- and forum-selection clauses in the arbitration agreements to which PoolRe was a party” the district court’s holding that the arbitrator exceeded his authority would be affirmed. The Fifth Circuit further explained that a district court does not err “by failing to vacate in part, particularly where the arbitrator awarded a lump sum ‘to be divided among the parties as they see fit.’” , No. 14-20433 (5th Cir. April 7, 2015).