A disappointed claimant in a FINRA arbitration filed suit under section 10 of the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) in United States District Court to vacate the arbitral award.  The court dismissed the case for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.  The court noted the well established principle that the FAA is not itself a source of subject-matter jurisdiction.  Stating that the parties were not diverse, the court proceeded to evaluate whether it could exercise subject-matter jurisdiction based upon the existence of a federal question.  The plaintiff proposed two bases for federal question jurisdiction: (1) the failure of its opponent to produce certain documents, which it argued constituted a violation of FINRA rules, or a disregard by the panel of FINRA rules; and (2) the fact that the claims pursued in the arbitration included claims under federal securities laws and SEC regulations.  The court rejected both  contentions, finding with respect to the first issue that many courts have held that “manifest disregard” of FINRA or NASD rules do not constitute manifest disregard of federal law for purposes of the FAA.  With respect to the second contention, the court followed a Second Circuit opinion which held that a court may not “look through” the petition to the claims in the underlying arbitration for a basis for subject-matter jurisdiction.  The court rejected the argument that jurisdiction was supported by Vaden v. Discover Bank, 556 U.S. 49 (2009), which held that, with respect to petitions to compel arbitration under section 4 of the FAA, courts may look through the petition to determine whether it is predicated on an action that “arises under” federal law. Citing textual differences between sections 4 and 10 of the FAA, the court held that Vaden did not provide support for looking through the petition for purposes of evaluating whether the court had subject-matter jurisdiction over an action predicted on section 10 of the FAA. Doscher v. Sea Port Group Securities, LLC, Case No. 15-cv-384 (USDC S.D.N.Y. August 5, 2015).

This post written by Rollie Goss.

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