Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics v. Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data, No. 13-1274 (D.D.C. June 23, 2014) [click for opinion]

The Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics filed a petition in the D.C. district court to confirm an arbitration award issued by the Geneva Chamber of Commerce against Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data.  The Swiss Institute filed the petition pursuant to the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (the “New York Convention”).  When the Global Initiative failed to enter an appearance or answer the petition, the clerk of the court entered a default.  The Swiss Institute then filed a motion for entry of a default judgment. 

The court granted the motion and confirmed the foreign arbitral award pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”), which codifies the New York Convention and authorizes the recipient of a foreign arbitral award to seek enforcement in a federal district court.

The court also awarded the Swiss Institute requested attorney’s fees and costs.  Although neither the New York Convention nor the FAA expressly addresses whether courts may award attorney’s fees in proceedings to confirm foreign arbitral awards, courts retain inherent power to assess attorney’s fees when a party acts in bad faith, vexatiously, wantonly, or for oppressive reasons.  The court noted that, although the D.C. Circuit has not yet addressed this question, a former judge of the D.C. district court had held that a party seeking to confirm a foreign arbitral award under the New York Convention could recover reasonable attorney’s fees and costs, at least where the respondent unjustifiably refuses to abide by the arbitral award.

In addition, the court granted post-judgment interest.  Although the FAA provides no guidance on the issue, a generally applicable federal civil statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1961(a), provides that post-judgment interest shall be allowed on any money judgment in a civil case recovered in a district court.  Other federal districts have held that civil judgments confirming foreign arbitral awards are subject to § 1961.  The court agreed and held that post-judgment interest was appropriate in this case.

Jennifer BenEliyahu of the Washington, DC office contributed to this summary.