Regions Bank v. Baldwin County Sewer Service, LLCAnnotate this Case
Morgan Keegan & Company, Inc. and Regions Bank (hereinafter referred to collectively as "Regions") appealed an order of the Baldwin Circuit Court which granted in part and denied in part their motions to compel arbitration in an action filed against them by Baldwin County Sewer Service, LLC ("BCSS"). In 2001 BCSS began discussing with AmSouth Bank ("AmSouth"), the predecessor-in-interest to Regions Bank, options to finance its existing debt. AmSouth recommended that BCSS finance its debt through variable-rate demand notes ("VRDNs").1 In its complaint, BCSS alleged that in late 2008 it received a notice of a substantial increase in the variable interest rates on its 2002, 2003, 2005, and 2007 VRDNs, which constituted BCSS's first notice that the interest-rate-swap agreements recommended by Regions did not fix the interest rate on the VRDNs but, instead, exposed BCSS to "an entirely new increased level of market risk in the highly complex derivative market." BCSS sued Regions Bank and Morgan Keegan asserting that Regions falsely represented to BCSS that swap agreements fixed BCSS's interest rates on all the BCSS debt that had been financed through the VRDNs. Following a hearing on the motions to compel arbitration, the trial court entered an order in which it granted the motions to compel arbitration as to BCSS's claims concerning the credit agreements but denied the motions to compel arbitration as to BCSS's claims concerning the failure of the swap transactions to provide a fixed interest rate. The trial court reasoned that the "Jurisdiction" clause in a master agreement, in combination with its merger clause, "prevent[ed] any argument that the VRDN arbitration agreement applies to disputes concerning the swap agreements" and that those clauses demonstrated that it was "the parties' intention, as it relates to the interest-swap agreement and any transaction related to that agreement, that the parties would not arbitrate but instead [any dispute] would be resolved by proceedings in a court of competent jurisdiction." Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that Regions presented evidence of the existence of a contract requiring arbitration of the disputes at issue. The Court reversed the order of the trial court denying the motions to compel arbitration of BCSS's claims concerning the master agreement and the swap agreement and remanded the case for further proceedings.