Law360, Washington (February 17, 2017, 4:14 PM EST) — A financial consulting company asked a California federal court Thursday to confirm a $3.2 million arbitration award it won against a dolphin park operator regarding a fee dispute over finding investors, saying the Mexico-based operator has refused to pay the award.
Tradewinds Consulting Ltd., based in Belize, asked the court to confirm an award of $3,209,039.73, plus interest, that was issued in October by the American Arbitration Association‘s International Centre for Dispute Resolution following an arbitration that took place in Los Angeles. The tribunal found that the park operator, Grupo Dolphin Discovery, had breached an agreement to pay Tradewinds a fee for finding investors.
“Respondents have failed to voluntarily satisfy the final award since the final award was entered,” Tradewinds said. “Therefore, a judgment on the arbitration award is needed to permit petitioner to enforce the award.”
The underlying dispute stems from a September 2014 agreement between Tradewinds and Grupo Dolphin, in which Tradewinds would receive a fee upon finding financing for the park operator, according to the tribunal’s decision.
Grupo Dolphin, which offers a swim-with-the-dolphins experience, operates parks around the world, the tribunal noted. Under the agreement, Grupo Dolphin CEO Eduardo Albor had worked with Gene Geiger, an independent contractor who Tradewinds tapped to find financing for the park operator.
According to the tribunal’s findings, through a “series of events” that began with getting the interest of Merrill Lynch, Geiger’s work ultimately led to two investors — MGG Investment Group and TCW Group — providing $115 million in debt financing to Grupo Dolphin. However, the tribunal noted that an investment banking firm called Imperial Capital LLC ultimately closed out the deal with MGG and TCW.
Tradewinds had sought its fee of 2.5 percent, amounting to $2.88 million, but Albor declined to pay, according to the decision.
The tribunal noted that when Geiger had initially asked about the fee, Albor responded by saying, “I don’t owe you any fee because you did not find me the investor.”
According to the tribunal’s records, during arbitration, Grupo Dolphin had argued that Tradewinds could not recover a fee because it was not a registered broker-dealer.
But the tribunal ultimately sided with Tradewinds, rejecting Grupo Dolphin’s contention that Geiger’s creation of a “straight and narrow path” that led to the investors did not qualify as “identifying” them under the agreement. The tribunal issued an award of $2,875,000 for the company’s consulting fee, plus interest, attorney’s fees and costs, adding up to the $3.2 million total.
In its Thursday petition to confirm the award, Tradewinds noted that “[r]espondents disputed the claims and interposed numerous defenses, all of which were added at the eleventh hour, a few weeks prior to the arbitration.”
Counsel for Tradewinds declined to comment, and a representative for Grupo Dolphin could not be reached for comment on Friday.
Tradewinds is represented by Travis A Corder of Corder Law Office.
Counsel information for Grupo Dolphin was not immediately available on Friday.
The case is Tradewinds Ltd. d/b/a Tradewinds Consulting Ltd. v. Grupo Dolphin Discovery et al., case number 2:17-cv-01292, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
–Editing by Catherine Sum.