“Clearing firms are generally not responsible to customers for the actions of an introducing broker”
Warren v. Tacher, C.A. No. 3:99-CV-806-R (W.D. Ky., 6/2/00):
We mentioned this recent ruling in this well-known arbitration case in last weeks Arbitration Alert (00-26). The Award under challenge in this proceeding constituted the largest punitive damages award in SACs Award Database (NASD ID #97-04772, Louisville, 9/20/99).
Ironically, it was the investor-Claimants who initiated the vacatur proceeding.
As the Court notes, the $15 million punitive damages and $4.7 million compensatory damages awards are unlikely to be collected from the two Kensington Wells principals, Steven Vornea and Salvador Tacher, against whom the Arbitrators ruled. Messrs. Tacher and Vornea are both in bankruptcy proceedings and Tacher has been indicted for fraud. Petitioners seek confirmation of the Award in part, but request vacatur of the Panels dismissal of the claims against KWIs clearing broker, Bear Stearns & Co., Inc.
They claim that the Panel acted in manifest disregard of the law, committed arbitrator misconduct for refusing to hear evidence, and exceeded their powers by dismissing their claims against Bear Stearns prior to discovery and a full-blown evidentiary hearing.
While the Panel clearly refused to hear evidence in dismissing the case against Bear Stearns, the real issue is whether that refusal prejudiced Claimants through the exclusion of material evidence. The Court is skeptical that discovery, if provided, would overcome the panels decision . Clearing firms are generally not responsible to customers for the actions of an introducing broker and do not owe fiduciary duties to the customer, and courts have confirmed pre-hearing dismissals on these grounds.
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