First off, look at the lineup.
Chadbourne & Parke LLP, New York (Thomas J. Hall of counsel), and Cooley LLP, New York
Sidley Austin LLP, Washington, DC (
Sidley Austin LLP, New York
Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP, New York
Kirkland & Ellis LLP, Washington, DC (Paul Clement) , Williams & Connolly, New York (John J. Buckley, Jr. of counsel), and Lupkin and Associates, New York
Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, New York
Jenner Block LLP, New York
Moses & Singer LLP, New York for Kenneth R. Feinberg, amicus curiae.
Friedman Kaplan Seiler and Adelman, New York
Now that you have the scorecard, here is what happened in regular play in Matter of TCR Sports Broadcasting Holding, LLP v WN Partner, LLC 2017 NY Slip Op 05689 Decided on July 13, 2017 Appellate Division, First Department:
“Pursuant to the negotiated terms of the parties’ written agreement, the subject arbitration, governed by the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) (9 USC § 1 et seq.), was initiated before the Revenue Sharing Definitions Committee (RSDC) of Major League Baseball (MLB), to resolve a contractual dispute over telecast rights fees between TCR Sports Broadcasting Holding, LLP d/b/a the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN) and the Baltimore Orioles, and the Washington Nationals. For the reasons stated herein, we find that the arbitration award issued by the RSDC on June 30, 2014 was correctly vacated based on “evident partiality” (9 USC § 10[a]) arising out of the Nationals’ counsel’s unrelated representations at various times of virtually every participant in the arbitration except for MASN and the Orioles, and the failure of MLB and the RSDC, despite repeated protests, to provide MASN and the Orioles with full disclosure or to remedy the conflict before the arbitration hearing was held. However, even if this Court has the inherent power to disqualify an arbitration forum in an exceptional case, on the record before us there is no basis, in law or in fact, to direct that the second arbitration be heard in a forum other than the industry-insider committee that the parties selected in their agreement to resolve this particular dispute, fully aware of the role MLB would play in the arbitration process.
Contrary to the view of the dissent, there has been no showing of bias or corruption on the part of the members of the reconstituted RSDC, and the Nationals will use new counsel at the second arbitration. Speculation that MLB will dictate the outcome of the second arbitration by exerting pressure on the new members of the RSDC does not suffice to establish that they will not exercise their independent judgment or carry out their duties impartially, or that the proceedings will be fundamentally unfair.
In 2001, the Orioles and TCR Sports Broadcasting Holding, LLP (TCR) established the Orioles’ Television Network as a platform to broadcast Orioles games in a seven-state television territory. In 2002, MLB purchased the failing Montreal Expos for $120 million. In 2004, MLB announced the relocation of the Expos to Washington, D.C. to become the Nationals. The Orioles objected to the move on the grounds that the introduction of the Nationals into its previously-exclusive markets would cause it significant economic harm.”
“To vacate an award because of evident partiality under the FAA (9 USC § 10[a]), the movant bears the burden of showing that a reasonable person, considering all the circumstances, would have to conclude that an arbitrator was partial to one party to the arbitration (see Kolel [*8]Beth Yechiel Mechil of Tartikov, Inc. v YLL Irrevocable Trust, 729 F3d 99, 104 [2d Cir 2013]; U.S. Elecs., Inc. v Sirius Satellite Radio, Inc., 17 NY3d 912  [adopting the Second Circuit’s “reasonable person standard”]). Although this requires “something more than the mere appearance of bias” (see Morelite Constr. v New York City Dist. Council Carpenters Benefit Funds, 748 F2d 79, 83 [2d Cir 1984] [internal quotation marks omitted]), “[p]roof of actual bias is not required” (Scandinavian Reins. Co. Ltd. v St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co., 668 F3d 60, 72 [2d Cir 2012]). Rather, a finding of partiality can be inferred “from objective facts inconsistent with impartiality” (Kolel Beth Yechiel Mechil, 729 F3d at 104 [internal quotation marks omitted]).
“Among the circumstances under which the evident-partiality standard is likely to be met are those in which an arbitrator fails to disclose a relationship or interest that is strongly suggestive of bias in favor of one of the parties” (Scandinavian Reinsurance Co. Ltd., 668 F3d at 72). Factors to be considered include “(1) the extent and character of the personal interest, pecuniary or otherwise, of the arbitrator in the proceedings; (2) the directness of the relationship between the arbitrator and the party he is alleged to favor; (3) the connection of that relationship to the arbitrator; and (4) the proximity in time between the relationship and the arbitration proceeding” (Yosemite Ins. Co. v Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co., 2016 WL 6684246, *7, 2016 US Dist LEXIS 157061, *19-20 [SD NY 2016] [internal quotation marks omitted]). “While the presence of actual knowledge of a conflict can be dispositive of the evident partiality test, the absence of actual knowledge is not” (Applied Indus. Materials Corp. v Ovalar Makine Ticaret Ve Sanayi, A.S., 492 F3d 132, 138 [2d Cir 2007]).
The record shows that Proskauer, while representing the Nationals in the arbitration, had an extensive relationship with the clubs that comprised the RSDC and/or their representatives, and with MLB, which administered the proceeding. Discovery in the vacatur proceeding revealed that
(i) the Proskauer attorneys representing the Nationals represented the Pirates in Senne v Office of the Commissioner of Baseball, No. 14-00608 (ND Cal) and Garber v Office of the Commissioner of Baseball, No. 12-03704 (SD NY). Proskauer had also represented the Pirates president, who was its representative on the RSDC, in Phillips, et al. v Selig, No. 1966 EDA 2007 (Pa Super Ct), and advised the Pirates on Americans with Disability Act matters.
(ii) Proskauer represented the Rays in Senne and four separate salary arbitrations, one of which occurred during the arbitration; and
(iii) Proskauer defended the father of Jeffery Wilpon, the Mets chief operating officer and its representative on the RSDC, and the father’s company, in a class action arising out of the Madoff Ponzi scheme, which was ongoing during the arbitration. Proskauer also represented the Mets in Senne.”