Webb v. Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, No. 17-2526 (7th Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
Brokers Webb and Beversdorf were fired by Jefferies. They challenged their termination. As their employment contracts required, they filed claims in the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s arbitration forum. They signed FINRA's required “Arbitration Submission Agreement.” Their dispute proceeded in arbitration for two-and-a-half years. They withdrew their claims before a final decision was rendered. Under FINRA’s rules, that withdrawal constituted a dismissal with prejudice. Webb and Beversdorf then sued FINRA in Illinois, alleging that FINRA breached its contract to arbitrate their dispute with Jefferies by failing to properly train arbitrators, failing to provide arbitrators with appropriate procedural mechanisms, interfering with the arbitrators’ discretion, and failing to permit reasonable discovery. They sought damages in “excess of $50,000” and a declaratory judgment. The district court held that FINRA was entitled to arbitral immunity and dismissed the suit. The Seventh Circuit vacated, concluding that the federal courts lacked jurisdiction under the diversity statute, 28 U.S.C. 1332, which grants jurisdiction when there is complete diversity of citizenship between the parties and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000, exclusive of interest and costs. While Illinois law permits plaintiffs to recover legal expenses as damages in limited circumstances, those circumstances are not present here, so the amount in controversy requirement was not satisfied.