Rhonda Enterprises S.A. (“Rhonda”), a vessel owner, entered into a charter party agreement with certain charterers, Projector S.A. and Projector Asia Pte. Ltd for the carriage of goods from Taiwan to Singapore (collectively, “Projector”). Rhonda submitted its claims to the London Maritime Arbitrator’s Association (“LMAA”), claiming that Projector breached the agreement. See Rhonda Enterprises S.A. v. Projector S.A., No. 08-civ-9563 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 6, 2009). On September 30, 2008, the LMAA issued an award in favor of Rhonda, but Projector failed to honor it.
Rhonda moved in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to confirm the arbitration award as to Projector Asia under the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, implemented by 9 U.S.C. §§ 201-08. Rhonda also sought attorney’s fees and costs it incurred in bringing the action, although it did not cite any statutory or contractual authority that supported its right to recover such fees.
In addition to confirming the LMAA’s arbitration award, the court found that, pursuant to its “inherent equitable powers,” it could award attorney’s fees “when the opposing counsel acts in bad faith, vexatiously, wantonly or for oppressive reasons.” As applied to lawsuits asserted to confirm or enforce an arbitration award, the court noted that “when a challenger refuses to abide by an arbitrator’s decision without justification, attorney’s fees and costs may be properly awarded.” See also Int’l Chem. Workers Union (AFL-CIO), Local No. 227 v. BASF Wyandotte Corp., 774 F.2d 43, 47 (2d Cir. 1985). Thus, because Projector presented no justification for failing to obey the arbitrator’s decision, the court granted Rhonda’s request for attorney’s fees and costs incurred as a result of the confirmation proceeding.