Many business contracts contain a mandatory arbitration clause for the resolution of any disputes arising out of or relating to the agreement. Arbitration clauses appear in all variety of agreements, from routine supply contracts to the most complex acquisition or divestiture agreements. Some agreements provide for administration of the arbitration by the American Arbitration Association. Others provide for non-administered arbitration, sometimes pursuant to rules such as those of the CPR Institute for Dispute Resolution. On occasion, parties will create their own detailed rules to govern all disputes relating to their contract, well in advance of any particular dispute.
Lawyers in our U.S. offices handle these kinds of business arbitrations, and all of the issues which they may present, on a regular basis. Sidley lawyers bring to bear not only their litigation skills, but their accumulated experience relating specifically to commercial arbitration. For example:
- Lawyers throughout the firm have handled proceedings before virtually every administering organization, including the American Arbitration Association, JAMS, the National Association of Securities Dealers, the American Film Market Association, the California Hazardous Substance Clean-up Panel, the National Futures Association, the Chicago Board of Trade, the Chicago Board Options Exchange, the New York Cotton Exchange and the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service;
- A long-time Washington, D.C. partner has served as a neutral arbitrator in over 25 commercial disputes administered by the American Arbitration Association and is on the CPR roster of neutrals; and
- All lawyers have access to the Sidley ADR Resource Group, which was established in 1990 to provide dispute resolution knowledge, experience and written resources to the firm's clients.
Reflecting the diversity of the firm’s client base, we have handled significant commercial arbitration cases in a wide spectrum of industries and business situations. Many of these cases arise from traditional contract claims; others stem from business organization disputes such as the reorganization of the Bell System. Recent cases include:
- Representing a major natural resources company in a contract dispute relating to responsibility for environmental liabilities at a divested refinery;
- Obtaining an arbitral award of $17 million in an unlawful competition case arising under the Federal Communications Act;
- Achieving a complete victory in an employment discrimination dispute by a former executive of one of our technology clients; and
- Representing a major professional services firm in the resolution of a copyright infringement claim.
In many of the industries in which our clients do business, specialized arbitration processes provide the principal method of resolving disputes. For example, in the securities industry, disputes between brokers and customers are resolved through binding arbitration administered by the National Association of Securities Dealers. In the government contracts fields, Federal Boards of Contract Appeals offer expedited, informal processes that are the functional equivalent of binding arbitration. In each of these instances and others, Sidley lawyers have an abundance of experience which draws not only on their dispute resolution skills, but on their substantive knowledge of the industry and the law which pertains to it. Among the areas in which we regularly handle cases are:
Securities. We represent leading brokers, dealers, investment banks and their employees in arbitrations and litigation to compel or stay arbitration. We participate in arbitration forums operated by the National Association of Securities Dealers, the New York Stock Exchange, the Chicago Board Options Exchange, the National Futures Association and various commodities exchanges. Sidley lawyers provide regular and ongoing representation of securities and commodities brokerage firms in arbitrations brought by customers to recover investment losses. We have experience in defending against customer claims such as those alleging fraud, unauthorized exercise of discretion, churning, unsuitability and failure to supervise.
Insurance. For decades, most reinsurance agreements have provided for dispute resolution by three-person arbitrator panels composed of experienced insurance executives in non-administered arbitrations. In this unique setting, counsel must understand the business of reinsurance and its customs and practices, as well as the applicable law. Our lawyers are highly experienced in arbitrating reinsurance disputes for our ceding company, reinsurer and insurance receiver clients. We also have a long history of publishing, speaking at and organizing important industry conferences for organizations including the Reinsurance Association of America and ARIAS-US.
Environmental. Sidley lawyers have handled numerous arbitrations and mediations involving all aspects of environmental law. Some of these cases grow out of federal and state enforcement of Superfund and related statutes where mediation is frequently employed to allocate the costs for clean up among potentially responsible parties, as well as to reach common ground on the steps necessary to implement the appropriate remedy. Other cases have been private disputes, frequently growing out of mergers or acquisitions; the questions these matters present often relate to environmental liability for prior periods.
Internet and Technology Disputes. Sidley’s Privacy, Data Security and Information Law practice includes extensive use of international dispute resolution procedures created by the World Intellectual Property Organization or the National Arbitration Forum to protect clients in matters relating to cybersquatting and Internet domain name registration disputes.
Regulated Industries. As part of our extensive representation of companies in the transportation, energy and communications arenas, we are well positioned to handle arbitrations which arise in these traditionally regulated industries. We have handled, for example, rate complaints against our railroad clients which by contract were required to be arbitrated; major proceedings under the mandatory arbitration provisions of the Federal Communications Act; and arbitrations growing out of the economic failure of one of the nation’s first coal gasification projects.
Labor and Employment. Our lawyers have extensive experience representing companies in arbitration with their labor unions as well as disputes with high-level executives concerning employment, non-competition, ERISA, compensation, change-in-control and a variety of other issues. In addition, we have defended clients in the arbitration of the full spectrum of employment discrimination disputes. Our group also has counseled clients in designing, drafting and implementing ADR procedures to include in employment and labor contracts and benefit plans, and helped them revise internal ADR policies and procedures with the constant goal of keeping abreast of a rapidly-changing legal landscape.
Government Contracts. Sidley lawyers regularly use the dispute resolution services provided by the Federal Boards of Contract Appeals and by the General Accounting Office. We have represented parties involved in disputes with the Army, Navy, Air Force, General Services Administration and other federal entities that have used ADR services provided by these judicial bodies. In bid protest cases, Sidley lawyers have appeared in the ADR program administered by the General Accounting Office and by the International Chamber of Commerce Court of Arbitration.
Intellectual Property. More than ever, intellectual property disputes now require swift and clear resolution. In many cases, disputes involving trade secrets and copyrights also benefit from the confidentiality that an arbitration process can provide. Sidley lawyers have extensive domestic and international experience in using binding arbitration to represent our clients in all aspects of international property and technology.
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