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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Fourth Circuit: Dodd-Frank Does Not Invalidate Arbitration Agreement

4th CircuitDr. Armand Santoro (Dr. Santoro) was employed as a Senior Manager by Accenture Federal Services (Accenture) from 1999-2011.  He was dismissed at age 66 and replaced by a younger man.  In 2005, he signed an employment agreement that was subsequently renewed annually.  The agreement included a broad arbitration provision.  He filed a claim alleging age discrimination in violation of the District of Columbia Human Rights Act.  He later added claims alleging violations of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

Accenture moved to compel arbitration.  Dr. Santoro opposed this motion, arguing that three whistleblower provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 preempted the arbitration agreement.  The District Court granted Accenture's motion to compel arbitration, finding that Dr. Santoro's claims were not whistleblower claims.  In Santoro v. Accenture Federal Services, LLC, the Fourth Circuit affirmed.  

On appeal, Dr. Santoro contended that the Dodd-Frank provisions at issue were intended to invalidate all pre-dispute arbitration agreements that did not include a carve-out for Dodd-Frank whistleblower claims.  Dr. Santoro claimed that such arbitration agreements were invalid whether or not the particular claim at issue was a whistleblower claim.  Echoing in the U.S. Supreme Court, the Fourth Circuit noted that Dodd-Frank's language is a model a statutory clarity and it clearly prohibits only the arbitration of whistleblower claims.

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