On June 15, the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in Stolt-Nielsen SA v. AnimalFeeds Int’l Corp. The case involves an allegation that a group of shipping companies engaged in a “global conspiracy to restrain competition in the world market for parcel tanker shipping services in violation of federal antitrust laws.” Based on clauses in the contracts between AnimalFeeds and the shipping companies, the case was sent to arbitration. However, the agreements were silent about a right to seek class relief via arbitration. The arbitration panel interpreted the agreements to permit class arbitration, a decision ultimately upheld by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The shipping companies then petitioned the Supreme Court for review.
The issue now to be decided by the Court is whether imposing class arbitration on parties whose arbitration clauses are silent on that issue is consistent with the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. §§ 1 et seq. A Supreme Court decision here will have significant implications with regards to antitrust and other class actions involving commercial contracts that contain arbitration clauses. (Stolt-Nielsen SA v. AnimalFeeds Int’l Corp., 548 F.3d 85 (2d Cir. 2008))