Tenth Circuit Refuses to Vacate FINRA Arbitration Dismissal

Carlton Fields
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Carlton Fields

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals recently rejected a claimant’s effort to vacate the dismissal of his FINRA claim following his repeated failure to comply with various deadlines.

Zane Piston initiated a FINRA arbitration against his former employer, Transamerica Capital Inc., claiming that Transamerica Capital incorrectly described the reason for his termination.

The arbitration panel issued a scheduling order. Piston’s attorney failed to make various filings in accordance with the scheduling order and timely respond to motions filed by Transamerica Capital.

Transamerica Capital eventually moved to have Piston’s claim dismissed with prejudice due to these failures. The arbitration panel held a hearing at which it required Piston to show good cause as to why his claim should not be dismissed. Piston’s counsel indicated that he had undergone surgery, been traveling in Europe, and that his wife had been hospitalized and that he had therefore been unable to make timely filings. The panel concluded that Piston’s counsel had not shown good cause for his various failings and dismissed Piston’s claim with prejudice as a sanction.

Piston moved to vacate that decision. The district court denied Piston’s motion, and Piston appealed to the Tenth Circuit. The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of Piston’s motion to vacate the dismissal of his claim. Piston primarily claimed that the arbitration panel exceeded its powers, disregarded the law, committed misconduct, and denied him a fair hearing because it allegedly dismissed his claim without a warning. The court rejected that claim. It concluded that the panel arguably interpreted and applied FINRA Rule 13212(c), which allows FINRA panels to dismiss a claim with prejudice as a sanction for material and intentional failure to comply with an order of the panel if prior warnings or sanctions proved ineffective. Whether the panel properly interpreted Rule 13212(c) was beyond the scope of the court’s review. The Tenth Circuit also rejected Piston’s claim that the panel misapplied the good cause standard, noting that Piston had to do more than show that the panel committed an error.

Piston v. Transamerica Capital, Inc., No. 19-1123 (10th Cir. July 21, 2020).

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