The question whether “manifest disregard of the law” allows a court to vacate an arbitration award lingered in the case law since Hall Street Assocs. v. Mattel, Inc., 552 U.S. 576 (2008), which held that an arbitration agreement cannot create a ground for vacatur or modification beyond those set out in the FAA.
Jones v. Michaels Stores provided “an opportunity to resolve at least one thing that we have directly resolved [about Hall Street]: ‘manifest disregard of the law as an independent, nonstatutory ground for setting aside an award must be abandoned and rejected.” No. 20-30428 (March 15, 2021) (quoting Citigroup Global Markets, Inc. v. Bacon, 562 F.3d 349, 358 (5th Cir. 2009)).
But what of McKool Smith, P.C. v. Curtis Int’l, Ltd., 650 F. App’x 208 (5th Cir. 2016) (per curiam)? Jones clarified that McKool Smith was a case “in which a party argued that an arbitrator’s manifest disregard of the law showed that he had ‘exceeded [his] powers within the meaning of 9 U.S.C. § 10(a)(4).” In that case, “[b]eecause of uncertainty about whether the manifest-disregard standard could still be used as a means of establishing one of the statutory factors, McKool Smith assumed arguendo that it could because the standard was not met in any event.” In this case, however, “[a]s Jones does not invoke any statutory ground for vacatur, Citigroup Global was dispositive of Jones’s challenge to the arbitration award.