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Westminster Securities Corp. v. Petrocom Energy Limited, Petrocom Limited and Howard Au – 11-607

Lax & Neville successfully defends appeal of a significant American Arbitration Association (“AAA”) award against Petrocom Limited and Petrocom Energy Limited (“Petrocom”) (中港印能源集团有限公司(“中港印”). Lax & Neville represented Westminster Securities Corporation (“Westminster”) before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which has affirmed the ruling of Judge Cote in the Southern District Court of New York confirming the AAA arbitration award against Petrocom, a Chinese coal blending company. In the underlying arbitration, the Tribunal determined that Petrocom wrongfully failed to pay fees and issue warrants when Westminster successfully raised over $55 million for Petrocom and its Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Howard Au (区可). Specifically, the Tribunal awarded Westminster approximately $2,250,000 in damages, which included placement agent compensation, attorneys’ fees and costs and a $50,000 sanction against Petrocom for its “flouting” of the Tribunal’s Order to have John P. O’Shea appointed to the Board of Directors of Petrocom, plus a total of 4,080,000 in Warrants. Based upon shareholder reports from Petrocom a reasonable valuation for these warrants is believed to be $2.00 per warrant (at a minimum), the total damages awarded to Westminster exceeded $10 million. The Second Circuit Panel held that the Tribunal’s Award should be affirmed since the Tribunal provided a colorable justification when denying Petrocom’s argument that the tail provision only applied when the placement agreement was terminated, and not when it expired. The Second Circuit Panel reasoned that the placement agreement’s survival clause extended the tail provision in the event of termination or expiration, and therefore, Westminster was owed fees by Petrocom. The Second Circuit Panel also held that contrary to Petrocom’s argument, Westminster’s unjust enrichment clause was encompassed in the parties’ agreement to arbitrate since the parties’ arbitration agreement was worded broadly. Since Petrocom was enriched by Westminster’s efforts to introduce several potential investors, the Second Circuit held that Westminster’s unjust enrichment claim clearly related to the parties’ placement agreements, and therefore the claim was governed by the arbitration clause.