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Affinity Financial Corporation et al v. Aarp Financial

July 1, 2011

AFFINITY FINANCIAL CORPORATION ET AL.,
PETITIONERS,
v.
AARP FINANCIAL, INC., RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina United States District Judge

Re Document Nos.: 1, 3

MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING THE PETITION TO CONFIRM THE ARBITRATION AWARD; DENYING THE RESPONDENT'S MOTION TO VACATE THE ARBITRATION AWARD

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter is before the court on a petition to confirm an arbitration award and the respondent's motion to vacate the arbitration award. The petitioners, Affinity Financial Corporation and Waterfield Financial Services, seek an order confirming their receipt of an arbitration award. The respondent moves for an order vacating that same award. Because the arbitration panel did not exceed its authority or manifestly disregard the law, the court grants the petition and denies the respondent's motion.

II. FACTUAL & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

The petitioners are Affinity Financial Corporation ("Affinity") and Waterfield Financial Services ("Waterfield"). Pet. ¶ 1. The respondent is AARP Financial, Inc. ("respondent" or "AARP"). Id. ¶ 2. In August 2006, Affinity entered into a contract ("the Agreement") with the respondent under which Affinity would provide financial services to AARP members. Id. ¶ 3. Affinity then assigned its rights under the Agreement to Waterfield. Id. ¶ 4.

The Agreement required any dispute between the parties to be resolved by arbitration.

Id.; Respt.'s Opp'n Ex. A ("Agreement") § 9.1. The Agreement granted the arbitrators the discretion to "fashion appropriate relief," which included monetary damages and equitable relief. Agreement § 9.2.

Following a dispute between the parties, Affinity commenced arbitration proceedings against the respondent on February 11, 2009. Pet. ¶ 10. The arbitration took place before a panel of three arbitrators ("the Panel") over the course of a four-day period at the offices of the respondent's counsel in Washington, D.C. Id. ¶ 7. On October 27, 2010, the Panel issued its written decision ("the Award"), in which it unanimously found in favor of the petitioners. Id. ¶ 15.

In the Award, the Panel noted that it was difficult to pinpoint the moment when any one party "crossed the line and breached the Agreement when the other party was not in breach." Respt.'s Opp'n Ex. E. ("Award") at 3. Accordingly, the Panel stated that "one could readily conclude that both parties were in default during various points during the life of the contract." Id. In calculating the total amount of damages, the Panel concluded that the fair result would be for Affinity to recover "some portion of the money expended by Affinity in getting its planned program up and running" in reliance on the contract. Id. Ultimately, "considering the law and the equities," the Panel awarded a total of $2.75 million in damages to the petitioners. Id.

Affinity and Waterfield now petition this court under 9 U.S.C. § 9 and D.C. Code § 16-4422 for an order confirming the Award. See generally Pet. The respondent filed an opposition, see generally Respt.'s Opp'n to Pet. ("Respt.'s Opp'n"), and a contemporaneous motion under 9 U.S.C. § 10 and D.C. Code § 16-4423(b) to vacate the arbitration award, see generally Respt.'s Mot. to Vacate the Arbitration Award ("Respt.'s Mot."). Both parties also request an award of reasonable attorney's fees and post-judgment interest under D.C. Code § 16-4225(c). Pet. ¶ 19; Respt.'s Reply at 8. With the petition and the respondent's motion now ripe for review, the court turns to the parties' arguments and the relevant legal standards.

III. ANALYSIS

A.The Court Grants the Petition to Confirm the Arbitration Award and Denies the Respondent's Motion to Vacate the Arbitration Award Both federal and local law instruct a court to confirm an arbitration award unless the award is vacated. See 9 U.S.C. § 9; D.C. CODE § 16-4422. This court, therefore, will grant the petition to confirm the award only if it denies the respondent's motion to vacate the award (and vice ...


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