December 9, 2019

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Fifth Circuit Affirms Confirmation of Arbitration Ruling in Favor of Ameriprise Financial

The Fifth Circuit affirmed the confirmation of an arbitration ruling in favor of Ameriprise Financial Services Inc. In 2015, Ameriprise sought a temporary restraining order against Jeremy Walker, a former employee of an Ameriprise franchisee, to prevent him from using confidential customer information. The matter was referred to a FINRA arbitration panel, which resulted in an award against Walker and in favor of Ameriprise for injunctive relief, compensatory damages, and attorneys’ fees.

In 2017, Walker filed a FINRA arbitration against Ameriprise, primarily alleging that he was improperly enjoined by the 2015 arbitration. Ameriprise moved to dismiss under FINRA Code of Arbitration Procedure for Industry Disputes Rule 13504(a)(6)(C), which provides that dismissal may be granted when the “non-moving party previously brought a claim regarding the same dispute against the same party that was fully and finally adjudicated on the merits and memorialized in an order, judgment, award, or decision.” The 2017 arbitration panel found the 2015 arbitration and award met the requirements of Rule 13504(a)(6)(C) and unanimously dismissed the arbitration. Walker filed a motion to vacate arguing that the 2017 panel was “guilty of misconduct” under 9 U.S.C. § 10(a)(3) and “exceeded its powers” under 9 U.S.C. § 10(a)(4). The district court disagreed, denied Walker’s motion to vacate, and granted Ameriprise’s motion to confirm.

On appeal, the Fifth Circuit affirmed. Walker grounded his argument for vacatur under § 10(a)(3) upon the panel’s supposed failure to allow him to present evidence and testimony. However, the Fifth Circuit found that Walker was not prevented from presenting either. With regard to Walker’s argument that the panel exceeded its powers under § 10(a)(4), Walker argued that the panel erred in determining that the elements of Rule 13504(a)(6) had been met. However, this argument was insufficient under the § 10(a)(4) standard for vacatur, which requires a finding that the arbitration panel “acts contrary to express contractual provisions.” Even if Walker were correct that the panel had made a legal error, such errors “lie far outside the category of conduct embraced by § 10(a)(4).”

Walker v. Ameriprise Fin. Servs., Inc., No. 18-11641 (5th Cir. Oct. 9, 2019).

©2011-2019 Carlton Fields, P.A.

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About this Author

 Benjamin E. Stearns, Regulatory attorney, Carlton Fields
Associate

Benjamin Stearns’s practice focuses on regulated industries, primarily medical marijuana and property and casualty insurance. Benjamin works with state regulators to resolve compliance matters and negotiate enforcement actions. He also lobbies the Florida Legislature, and has testified before legislative committees.

In addition, Benjamin litigates insurance coverage matters and contests of government contract awards. He represented the state of Florida in an original action against Georgia in the United States Supreme Court over the apportionment of the waters in the Chattahoochee-...

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