Court Finds Jurisdiction Over Petition to Confirm Arbitration Award in Dispute Between Liquidator and Foreign Reinsurer

In the wake of the liquidation of Legion Indemnity Co., the Illinois Director of Insurance, as liquidator of Legion, and Catalina Holdings arbitrated claims originating under reinsurance agreements between Legion and a predecessor of Catalina. After the arbitrators ruled in favor of Catalina, Catalina filed a petition to confirm the award with the Northern District of Illinois. The Director moved to dismiss.

The court found that it had jurisdiction over the petition under the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards. The arbitration agreement arose out of a dispute over reinsurance contracts, which are generally considered “commercial” under 9 U.S.C. § 2, and the contracts arose out of a relationship between a citizen of the United States and a citizen of the United Kingdom. Pursuant to 9 U.S.C. § 202, all arbitral awards fall under the Convention unless they arise out of “a relationship which is entirely between citizens of the United States.”

The court ruled against the Director’s argument that the Convention is reverse-preempted by the McCarran-Ferguson Act because the Convention did not “invalidate, impair, or supersede any law enacted by [the] State for the purpose of regulating the business of insurance.” Finally, the court found that Burford abstention would be inappropriate in this case. The Director argued, pursuant to Burford, that the court should “abstain from the exercise of federal review that would be disruptive of state efforts to establish a coherent policy with respect to a matter of substantial public concern.” There are two “essential elements” to this type of Burford abstention: The state must offer a forum where these claims may be litigated, and that forum must “stand in a special relationship of technical oversight or concentrated review to the evaluation of those claims.” The requisite elements were not present in this case and, as a result, the court refused to abstain.

Catalina Holdings (Bermuda) Ltd. v. Hammer, No. 1:18-cv-05642 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 22, 2019).