Tag Archives: AT&T

Eastern District Finds Class-Wide Arbitration Agreement Unenforceable

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United States District Court for the Eastern District of California rejected defendant’s argument that Stolt-Nielson preempted Gentry, and the court held that a class-wide arbitration agreement was unenforceable as against an unpaid wage and overtime plaintiff.  Mathias v. Rent-A-Center, Inc., Civ. No. S-10-1476 LKK/KJM, 2010 WL 3715059 (E.D. Cal. Sept. 15, 2010) (slip op.).

Background

Ryan Mathias (“Mathias” or “plaintiff”) was employed by Rent-A-Center, Inc. (“RAC” or “defendant”) as an Assistant Manager, a position that was classified as a non-exempt or hourly position. Id. *1. As a condition of employment, plaintiff executed an arbitration agreement (“Agreement”), which Agreement contained a class action waiver and excluded arbitration private attorney general actions.  Id. Plaintiff filed a class action alleging eight claims arising from his employment with defendant, including claims for unpaid wages and overtime, unpaid rest and meal period premiums, and penalties arising from non-compliant wage statements under the California Labor Code and California Business and Professions Code. Id. Continue reading

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Second District Holds that Federal Choice of Law Provision in Arbitration Agreement Requires Application of Vacatur Provisions of FAA

CALABASAS, CA - JULY 18:  The Countrywide Fina...
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In a 3-0 opinion, the Second District held that while California state courts do not apply the FAA vactur provisions, because of the choice of law provision in the arbitration agreement, the trial judge was required to utilize the vacatur provisions of the FAA in passing on the amended petition to vacate the partial arbitration awards.

In Countrywide Financial Corp. v. Bundy, — Cal.Rptr.3d —-, 2010 WL 3064481 (Cal. Ct. App. 2d Dist. August 06, 2010), Defendants, Thomas Bundy, Misty Sanchez, Kevin Prevost and David Godina, appealed from an order vacating partial arbitration awards against plaintiffs, Countrywide Financial Corporation and Full Spectrum Lending, Inc.

The underlying case involved two arbitrations that were ultimately consolidated. The Bundy-Sanchez-Prevost arbitration demand sought classwide arbitration of claims for unpaid wages including incentive compensation, waiting penalties, costs and attorney fees pursuant to Labor Code section 200 et seq., Business and Professions Code section 17200 et seq., and common law principles.  The Godina arbitration demand alleged many of the same matters in terms of plaintiffs’ operations.

The arbitrator issued partial arbitration awards in favor of defendant.  Judge Elizabeth A. White vacated the partial arbitration awards on the ground the arbitrator committed a number of legal errors.  The Second District concluded that because of the unambiguous choice of law language in the agreements to arbitrate, “we must apply the vacatur provisions applicable before a United States District Court in a case subject to the Federal Arbitration Act. (9 U.S.C. § 1 et seq.)”  Applying the vacatur provisions of the Federal Arbitration Act, the Court of Appeal reversed, finding “no grounds permitted the partial awards to be vacated.”

The Court expressed doubt regarding whether the “manifest disregard of the law standard” survives Hall Street Associates L.L.C., but it chose to evaluate the interim awards under both title 9 United States Code section 10(a)(4) and the manifest disregard of the law test.  ; the course chosen by the Supreme Court in Stolt-Nielsen S.A. v. AnimalFeeds Int’l Corp., supra, 559 U.S. at page —- [130 S.Ct. at page 1768].”  The Court described the manifest disregard standard as follows:

The first element is the arbitrator must know the governing rule of law and refuse to apply it or ignore it. The second element is that the law ignored by the arbitrator is well-defined, explicit, and clearly applicable to the case.

Presiding Justice Paul A. Turner wrote the opinion.  Hon. Sandy R. Kriegler and Hon. Richard M. Mosk concurred.

Defendants and appellants were represented by Caryl L. Boies, Sigrid S. McCawley and Lauren E. Fleischer of Boies, Schiller & Flexner.

Plaintiffs and Respondents were represented by Andrew M. Paley, Gregg A. Fisch and Jennifer Sloane Abramowitz of Seyfarth Shaw.

By CHARLES H. JUNG

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Navy Wins MSJ in Reverse-FOIA Case with a Trade Secrets Act Cause of Action

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In a reverse-FOIA case, JCI Metal Products v. U.S. Dept. of the Navy, Slip Copy, 2010 WL 2925436 (S.D. Cal.  Jul 23, 2010) (NO. 09-CV-2139-IEG), Plaintiff JCI Metal Products (“JCI”) brought an action seeking to prevent disclosure of certain information relating to its past contract with Defendant United States Department of the Navy (“Navy”). Before the Court were Plaintiff’s and Defendant’s cross-Motions for Summary Judgment. The court granted Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment.

JCI’s second cause of action alleged that disclosure by the Navy of JCI’s unit prices for each contract line item (“CLIN”) information at issue would violate and contravene the Trade Secrets Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1905.

The Trade Secrets Act provides a criminal penalty for:

Whoever, being an officer or employee of the United States . . . publishes, divulges, discloses, or makes known in any manner or to any extent not authorized by law any information coming to him in the course of his employment or official duties . . . which information concerns or relates to the trade secrets, processes, operations, style of work, or apparatus, or to the identity, confidential statistical data, amount or source of any income, profits, losses, or expenditures of any person, firm, partnership, corporation, or association . . . .

The Court held that the Trade Secrets Act “cannot override the FOIA’s obligatory disclosure provisions.” Citing CNA Fin. Corp., 830 F.2d at 1141-42; Gen. Elec. Co. v. U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Comm’n, 750 F.2d 1394, 1401-02 (7th Cir.1984) (“[T]he Trade Secrets Act has no independent force in cases where the Freedom of Information Act is involved….”).  The Court concluded that the information sought was not protected by Exemption 4 of the FOIA, which exempts from disclosure “trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person and privileged or confidential.”  Accordingly, “because the information in this case is not protected by Exemption 4, neither can it be protected by the Trade Secrets Act.”  Therefore, the Court granted the Navy’s Motion for Summary Judgment on the Trade Secrets Act cause of action.

By CHARLES H. JUNG

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