A federal judge in the Southern District of New York recently denied a motion to vacate an arbitration award in a reinsurance dispute, scolding the movant for complaining that the arbitrators reached a compromise verdict. The movant, the ceding insurer, argued that two of the three members of the arbitration panel had engaged in “manifest disregard of the law” by failing to properly apply the “follow the fortunes” doctrine when they disallowed reimbursement for several claims. The movant challenged a portion of the award holding that the reinsurer was not required to reimburse the movant for certain claims due to negligent claims handling and/or late notice. In a somewhat gruff opinion (“Petitioner’s argument is manifestly wrong . . . .”), the court stated that the movant “asks this court to do what it cannot do – review the award for correctness.” The court noted that all the relevant legal issues were placed squarely before the panel, that considerable evidence and argument was presented on those issues during a five-day hearing, and the evidence on the disputed issues “could be read either way.” In denying the motion to vacate and confirming the award, the court noted that the arbitrators were not required to follow “judicial formalities” in making their decision, and therefore were not required to predict what a court would hold. Rather, all that was required of them was that the decision have “colorable justification.” Apparently frustrated by the movant’s “manifest disregard of the law” argument, the court lectured: “If parties want the luxury of judicial review and reasoned results that require strict application of the law, without the sort of compromises that often characterize arbitral awards, they should not agree to arbitration clauses. Having done so, they should not be heard to complain when the arbitrators do what arbitrators so often do – reach compromise verdicts that can easily be justified by taking a particular view of the evidence.”

Associated Industries Ins. Co., Inc. v. Excalibur Reinsurance Corp., Case No. 1:13-cv-08239 (USDC S.D.N.Y November 26, 2014)