A borrower had previously entered into three payday loan agreements that contained arbitration provisions mandating that all claims be arbitrated in the National Arbitration Forum (NAF), and under the Code of Procedure of the NAF. As of 2009, however, NAF did not accept consumer arbitrations. When the borrower filed a class action lawsuit against certain banking institutions involved with her loans, the banks initially compelled arbitration. When the NAF was unable to serve as the forum for the arbitration, the borrower successfully returned the proceedings back to court. The banks appealed this result to the Second Circuit, contending that section 5 of the FAA, which authorizes the court to substitute an arbitrator if there is a “lapse in the naming of an arbitrator,” permitted the court to substitute arbitrators here. But the Second Circuit disagreed with the banks, ruling that the arbitration in this case contained “numerous indicators that the parties contemplated one thing: arbitration before NAF.” “Further,” the court explained, “the agreement makes no provision for the appointment of a substitute arbitrator should NAF become unavailable.” As to the FAA, the court followed Second Circuit precedent and held that an unavailable forum does not constitute a “lapse” within the meaning of section 5 of the FAA. The court noted that the position of its circuit is aligned with the Eleventh and Fifth Circuits, but at odds with the Seventh and Third Circuits. The court affirmed, ruling that the banks could not enforce the arbitration agreements, and that the borrower’s lawsuit should proceed in court. , Case No. 15-2513-cv (2d Cir. Aug. 29, 2016).
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