A trend seems to be emerging in favor of allowing arbitration awards to be sealed. Two district courts recently granted Swiss Re’s and Nationwide Mutual’s respective motions to seal petitions to confirm arbitration awards. In the first instance, Swiss Re argued, and the court agreed, that the existence of a confidentiality agreement between the parties was a sufficient basis to seal the records relating to the award. Swiss Reinsurance Co. v. Lincoln National Reinsurance Co. Ltd, Case No. 1109-036 (USDC N.D. Ind. February 6, 2009). Similarly, the Northern District of Indiana granted Nationwide Mutual’s motion to seal in an effort to comply with a confidentiality order entered by the panel that entered the award. Nationwide Mutual Ins. Co. v. Westchester Fire Ins. Co., Case No. 08 -673 (USDC W.D. Wisc., February 3, 2009). (See also February 10, 2009 post “Court Grants Motion to Seal Arbitration Award” and December 2, 2008 post “Arbitration Award Allowed to be Filed Under Temporary Seal”).
Just last year, however, the Southern District of New York held that despite the confidential nature of arbitration proceedings, a party seeking to confirm an arbitration award in court must establish some justifiable reason as to why the award and any documents filed in conjunction with the petition to confirm should remain confidential in order to overcome the strong judicial presumption against sealing judicial records. The New York court concluded that the risk of impairing the exchange of information between parties to a reinsurance agreement due to fear of ultimate disclosure could not overcome the strong presumption of access afforded to documents filed in court. Global Reinsurance Corp. v. Argonaut Ins. Co., Case No. 07-8196 and 07- 8350 (USDC S.D.N.Y. April 18, 2008). (For full details see May 6, 2008 post “Reinsurance Claims Rejected; Court Refuses to Seal Confirmation.”)