On September 6, 2017, the Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York issued the latest in the ongoing coverage battle between MF Global Holdings (“MF Global”) and Allied World Assurance Company regarding the former’s bankruptcy. The decision stemmed from MF Global’s motion to reconsider the court’s August 24, 2017 compelling arbitration in Bermuda. While the court initially granted the motion to reconsider, it reached the same result and granted Allied World’s motion to compel arbitration.
MF Global’s request for reconsideration was based on the court’s alleged failure to address its argument that the global bankruptcy plan explicitly retained jurisdiction over adversary proceedings, a provision which should have superseded the underlying insurance contract’s arbitration provision which formed the basis of the court’s decision to compel arbitration. The court noted that while its decision mentioned the argument, it did not address the merits of the argument, so the court granted the motion to reconsider.
On reconsideration, the court was unpersuaded by MF Global’s argument that the bankruptcy court retained jurisdiction pursuant to the global bankruptcy plan. In a short opinion, the court distinguished the principal authority upon which MF Global relied: Ernst & Young LLP v. Baker O’Neal Holdings, Inc., 304 F.3d 753 (7th Cir. 2002). That case addressed an adversary proceeding that commenced before the bankruptcy plan and a plan provision which retained jurisdiction over pending adversary proceedings. Here, the adversary proceeding was not filed until after the plan was confirmed, and, the court concluded, the plan language retaining jurisdiction of pending adversary proceedings should not be interpreted to supersede the contractual arbitration provision in the pre-petition contract without explicit instruction in the plan as to that interpretation. Furthermore, Allied World had not waived its right to demand arbitration at any point in the proceedings.
Thus, even though the court granted MF Global’s motion to reconsider, it ultimately reached the same conclusion and granted Allied World’s motion to compel arbitration and denied MF Global’s motion to stay the arbitration.