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Standard Security Life Insurance Company of New York v. FCE Benefit Administrators, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

June 6, 2019

STANDARD SECURITY LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY OF NEW YORK and MADISON NATIONAL LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, INC., Plaintiffs,
v.
FCE BENEFIT ADMINISTRATORS, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Ronald A. Guzmán, United States District Judge

         Before the Court is plaintiffs' second amended motion to confirm an arbitration award. Defendant opposes the motion as to Phase I of the award, and, in the alternative, moves to vacate the Phase I Award. For the reasons explained below, the Court grants plaintiffs' motion, denies defendant's motion, and confirms the arbitration award in its entirety.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs, Standard Security Life Insurance Company of New York and Madison National Life Insurance Company, Inc., move under the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. § 9 (“FAA”), seeking confirmation of the “Partial Final Award - Phase I” (the “Phase I Award”) and the “Final Phase II Award” (the “Phase II Award”) (collectively, where appropriate, the “Awards”) rendered by an arbitration panel in a dispute between plaintiffs and defendant FCE Benefit Administrators, Inc. (“FCE”).

         The Court previously set out the background of this case as follows:

Pursuant to an Administrative Services Agreement, dated January 1, 2011, and an Amended and Restated Administrative Services Agreement, effective January 1, 2015 (together, the “ASA”), FCE, a third-party benefits claims administrator, administered health insurance policies underwritten by plaintiffs. The ASA contained an arbitration provision that states: “In the event of any dispute between the parties which arises under this Agreement, except for a dispute arising under Section 17 [titled “Mutual Indemnification and FCE Insurance”], such dispute shall be settled by arbitration in accordance with the rules for commercial arbitration of the American Arbitration Association (or a similar organization) in effect at the time such arbitration is initiated . . . .” (ECF No. 28-1, ASA, at 16-17.) The ASA stated that one arbitrator would be chosen by each side and that those two arbitrators would together choose an umpire, all of whom would be active or retired disinterested executive officers of insurance or reinsurance companies. The ASA further stated: “The decision of the arbitrators shall be final and binding on both parties; but failing to agree, they shall call in the Umpire and the decision of the majority shall be final and binding upon both parties. Judgment upon the final decision of the arbitrators may be entered in any court of competent jurisdiction.”
On May 21, 2015, plaintiffs terminated the ASA. On July 27, 2017, they initiated arbitration against FCE pursuant to the ASA's dispute-resolution procedures. Plaintiffs alleged that FCE breached several obligations under the ASA, including failing to timely and properly process healthcare claims, failing to remit premiums, and taking excessive and unearned administrative fees. Plaintiffs further alleged that FCE caused them to incur expenses in responding to Department of Labor subpoenas and caused regulatory penalties and fines to be imposed on Madison by the Texas Department of Insurance. FCE counterclaimed, contending that plaintiffs' termination of the ASA was wrongful.
The arbitration panel (the “Panel”) consisted of two arbitrators and an umpire. The arbitration hearing was scheduled to begin on September 25, 2018. In early July 2018, FCE requested a continuance of this date for reasons related to discovery. On July 27, 2018, the Panel issued an Interim Order denying FCE's request for a continuance and further stating in pertinent part: “[FCE]'s motion for leave to file an amended counterclaim is granted. The counterclaims will be presented in a second phase of the Hearing which will take place in November/December of this year. For this phase FCE has to produce the documents requested.” The Panel and the parties referred to this structure of the arbitration as “Phase I” and “Phase II.”
An arbitration hearing was held on September 25 through 29 and October 25, 2018. On November 30, 2018, the Panel held a post-hearing teleconference to discuss the evidence presented at the hearing. The Panel requested the parties to submit a proposed award for Phase I. Each side submitted a proposed award; both proposed awards were titled “Partial Final Award.” On December 31, 2018, the Panel issued its “Partial Final Award - Phase I, ” which states in full:
The Panel in the above-captioned arbitration, duly appointed by mutual agreement of the parties, upon consideration of all documents, arguments, and evidence submitted by Petitioners [Standard] and [Madison] (collectively “Petitioners”) and Respondent [FCE], and after having held a full hearing of Phase I of this arbitration from September 25 through September 29, October 25 and November 30, 2018 hereby renders its Partial Final Award as follows:
1. Petitioners were within their rights to terminate the amended Agreement for cause.
2. FCE shall pay to Petitioners the principal amounts due with respect to each Category of Damages as set forth in the chart annexed as Exhibit A hereto, together with interest calculated thereon at the rate of 5% per annum, as set forth therein. Such payment shall occur within twenty (20) business days of the date of this Partial Final Award. After such time, interest shall run at 9% per annum.
3. Each party shall bear its own costs, including the costs of its party-appointed arbitrator. The parties shall split equally the costs of the Umpire and the catering expenses associated with the Hearing.
4. The Panel members shall be paid within thirty (30) days of the date hereof.
5. All other claims for relief by the parties are denied.
Exhibit A to the Award, a chart titled “Damages Owed to Petitioners, ” provides for a total damages award to ...

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