Al-Qarqani v. Chevron Corp., No. 19-17074 (9th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
In 1949, the government of Saudi Arabia transferred certain land in that country to an official named Khalid Abu Al-Waleed Al-Hood Al-Qarqani, who leased it to an affiliate of what later became Chevron. Five of Al-Qarqani's heirs now claim that Chevron owes them billions of dollars in rent. Plaintiffs contend that an arbitration clause contained in a separate 1933 agreement between Saudi Arabia and Chevron's predecessor, SOCAL, applies to their dispute. An Egyptian arbitral panel agreed and awarded plaintiffs $18 billion. Plaintiffs then petitioned for enforcement of the arbitral award, but the district court found that the parties had never agreed to arbitrate and therefore held that it lacked jurisdiction over the petition.
The Ninth Circuit agreed with the Second Circuit, disagreeing with the Eleventh Circuit, that the absence of an agreement to arbitrate was a reason to deny enforcement on the merits, rather than to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The panel held that so long as a party makes a non-frivolous claim that an arbitral award is covered by the New York Convention, the district court must assume subject-matter jurisdiction. In this case, the panel affirmed the district court's dismissal for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction as to Chevron USA because it was not named in the arbitral award and plaintiffs advanced no non-frivolous theory of enforcement. The court affirmed the district court's denial of the enforcement petition on the merits as to Chevron Corporation where there was no binding agreement to arbitrate between the parties.