FINRA arbitrator was a fake lawyer, so court vacated his award

No kidding. FINRA's roster of arbitration chairpersons included a fake lawyer. James Frank got on that roster by claiming he was a lawyer licensed in three states. Actually he was impersonating a retired lawyer with the same first and last names. Frank was selected to chair a three-person arbitration panel. The party that lost in the arbitration learned about Frank's impersonation four years later, and moved to vacate the arbitration award. The district court denied the motion, and the 9th Circuit reversed, holding that the award must be vacated. Move, Inc. v. Citigroup Global Markets (9th Cir 11/04/2016) [Opinion text]

Move, Inc. sought arbitration of a claim that Citigroup had mismanaged $131 million of Move's funds. During the arbitrator selection process Move made it clear that they wanted a chairperson who was an experienced attorney. This was due to the complex nature of the securities issues involved. James Frank's résumé looked good, so he was picked. Then the three-arbitrator panel issued a unanimous award against Move.

Four years later somebody at Move read about the fake James Frank in The AmLaw Litigation Daily, and Move went to court.

The 9th Circuit had to deal with two issues: (1) whether equitable tolling of the FAA's statute of limitations was allowed, and (2) whether Move was deprived of a fundamentally fair hearing and therefore prejudiced by Frank's misrepresentation.

As for tolling the statute of limitations, the court said, "(1) Move acted with due diligence in pursuing its claim, as it justifiably relied on the information provided by FINRA; and that (2) tolling would not prejudice Citigroup under the circumstances."

As for vacating the award, the court noted that Frank should have been disqualified under FINRA's rules. Even without direct proof that the outcome was affected by Frank's participation, "Mr. Frank’s participation was itself prejudicial to Move."

By the way, FINRA removed this guy from their roster as soon as they figured out what was going on. I'm wondering what sort of résumé checking FINRA engages in.