Stonington Capital Advisors, LLC et al v. Southfield Capital LLC
OPINION AND ORDER: re: 36 MOTION to Enforce Judgment re: 28 Clerk's Judgment, 27 Memorandum & Opinion filed by Stonington Capital Advisors, LLC, Stonington Drive Securities LLC, 40 MOTION for Preliminary Injunction filed by Stonington Capital Advisors, LLC, Stonington Drive Securities LLC, 87 MOTION for Temporary Restraining Order filed by Stonington Capital Advisors, LLC, Stonington Drive Securities LLC. For the reasons set forth above and as stated on the re cord on July 27, 2022, Stonington's motion for a TRO is DENIED. For the same reasons, Stoningtons motions (1) to enforce the Court's judgment-by directing Southfield to pay the remaining, and disputed, amount of re-up fees-and (2) to enjoin arbitration also are DENIED. The Clerk of Court is respectfully directed to terminate the motions, Docs. 36, 40, and 87. IT IS SO ORDERED. (Signed by Judge Edgardo Ramos on 8/01/2022) (ama)
Case 1:20-cv-06053-ER Document 96 Filed 08/01/22 Page 1 of 11
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
STONINGTON CAPITAL ADVISORS, LLC, and
STONINGTIN DRIVE SERCURITIES LLC,
SOUTHFIELD CAPITAL, LLC,
OPINION AND ORDER
20 Civ. 6053 (ER)
In August 2020, Stonington Capital Advisors, LLC (“Stonington Capital”) and
Stonington Drive Securities, LLC (“Stonington Securities,” and together, “Stonington”),
petitioned the Court, pursuant to § 9 of the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”), to vacate in part
and confirm in part an award issued in an arbitration of their contract dispute with Southfield
Capital, LLC (“Southfield”). Docs. 1, 9. Stonington had served as the placement agent for an
investment fund managed by Southfield, and the dispute involved, inter alia, Stonington’s
entitlement to certain re-up fees in a successor fund, also managed by Southfield. See Doc. 1.
In September 2020, Southfield cross-moved to confirm the award. Doc. 21. In other
words, Southfield was no longer contesting that Stonington was entitled to the re-up fees. In an
opinion and order issued on March 25, 2021 (the “March 2021 Judgment”), the Court confirmed
the award in its entirety, including, as relevant here, the portion of the award granting Stonington
the right to the re-up fees. Doc. 27.
On December 22, 2021, Southfield, having determined it had actually overpaid the re-up
fees due to Stonington, commenced a second arbitration with the American Arbitration
Case 1:20-cv-06053-ER Document 96 Filed 08/01/22 Page 2 of 11
Association (“AAA”), seeking a declaration that it had overpaid the re-up fees. Doc. 41 at 3–4.
Southfield maintains that in accordance with its agreement with Stonington, this claim—whether
it overpaid the re-up fees—must be arbitrated. Stonington disagrees, and in February 2022
moved the Court to (1) enforce its judgment confirming the award obligating Southfield to pay it
re-up fees and (2) preliminarily enjoin Southfield from arbitrating its claim that it overpaid the
re-up fees. Docs. 36, 40.
On July 19, 2022, while its motions to enforce the March 2021 Judgment and for a
preliminary injunction remained pending, Stonington moved for a temporary restraining order
(“TRO”) enjoining Southfield from arbitrating its claim that it overpaid the re-up fees. See Doc.
87. At a hearing on July 27, 2022, the Court denied the TRO, finding Stonington had failed to
meet the TRO standard and in particular had failed to show a likelihood of irreparable harm due
to the delay in filing for the TRO, or that there were serious questions going to the merits.
Because—as the parties acknowledged at that hearing—Stonington’s pending motions seek
substantially the same relief as requested in its motion for a TRO, these motions also are denied.
Stonington Capital is a placement agent that works with middle market private equity
firms to introduce them to prospective investors and facilitate investment. Doc. 1 ¶ 4.
Stonington Securities, which is wholly owned by Stonington Capital, is a registered brokerdealer with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and a member of the Financial
Industry Regulatory Authority. Id. at ¶ 5. Southfield is a lower middle market private equity
firm. Id. at ¶ 6.
Case 1:20-cv-06053-ER Document 96 Filed 08/01/22 Page 3 of 11
On June 20, 2014, Southfield executed a Placement Agent Agreement (the “Agreement”)
with Stonington. Id. at ¶¶ 2, 9; see Doc. 11-1 at Ex. B. The Agreement provided that Southfield
would engage Stonington as the exclusive placement agent for Southfield’s private equity fund,
Southfield II, L.P. (the “Fund”). Doc. 1 at ¶ 9. Specifically, Stonington was engaged to
“introduce prospective Investors to [Southfield] and facilitate Investments by prospective
Investors.” Id. at ¶ 10.
The Agreement defines “Investors” as “any person admitted to the Fund other than an
Excluded Investor,” and defines “Investment” as “a subscription made to the Fund or the
Successor Fund by an Investor that has been accepted by [Southfield] in writing.” Doc. 11-1 at
Ex. B § 1(e), (f). “Successor Fund” is defined as “the first investment fund (including its parallel
funds, if any) formed by [Southfield] following the formation of the Fund that has substantially
similar investment focus as the Fund.” Id. at § 1(g). The Agreement also provided, as relevant
here, that under § 3(iv), Southfield was obligated to pay re-up fees to Stonington for each
Investment in a Successor Fund made by an Investor that had invested in the Fund.
And, as also relevant here, pursuant to § 14 of the Agreement, the parties agreed to
resolve any disputes under the Agreement by arbitration. Specifically, they agreed that: “Any
disputes between the parties relating to the terms of this Agreement, or the breach thereof, shall
be submitted to binding arbitration in New York, New York, in accordance with the rules of the
American Arbitration Association.” Id. at § 14.
In June 2017, aggregate investments in the Fund exceeded $125 million. Doc. 1 at ¶ 14.
By the time the Fund closed on July 30, 2017, it had received $200 million in capital
commitments. Id. at ¶ 15. On December 7, 2017, Southfield terminated the Agreement. Id. at ¶
19. Stonington responded that it “look[ed] forward to working with [Southfield] on future
Case 1:20-cv-06053-ER Document 96 Filed 08/01/22 Page 4 of 11
opportunities, including acting as placement agent for Southfield’s Successor Fund, a right [it]
earned when the Fund exceeded $125 million in capital commitments.” Id. at ¶ 21.
On August 20, 2019, Southfield informed Stonington that it had decided not to use
Stonington as the placement agent for its next fundraise. Id. at ¶ 24. On October 3, 2019,
Southfield further informed Stonington that it intended to form a Successor Fund. Id. at ¶ 25.
On October 8, 2019, Stonington notified Southfield in writing of its intent to exercise its right to
act as placement agent for the Successor Fund pursuant to § 6 of the Agreement. 1 Id. at ¶ 26.
On November 14, 2019, Southfield filed a demand for arbitration arguing that because
the agreement was terminated, it was relieved of its obligations to pay Stonington re-up fees
pursuant to § 3(iv) and to engage Stonington as placement agent for the Successor Fund.
On May 26, 2020, the former Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals, Hon.
Jonathan Lippman (the “Arbitrator”), issued an award finding that Stonington was entitled to §
3(iv) re-up fees, but that it was not entitled to be named as placement agent to the Successor
Fund pursuant to § 6. Doc. 1 at Ex. A. In other words, the Arbitrator found that Southfield’s
obligations under § 3(iv) survived the termination of the Agreement but that Southfield’s
obligations under § 6 did not. Id.
On March 1, 2021, Southfield sent Stonington a summary identifying the Investors in the
Fund that had also invested in the Successor Fund, the amount that each such Investor had
invested in the Successor Fund, the computed dollar amount of the total re-up fee it owed to
§ 6 of the Agreement provides: “[Southfield] or its Affiliate shall provide [Stonington] with written notice of its
intent to launch the Successor Fund not fewer than 180 days prior to the first closing of the Successor Fund (the
“Successor Fund Notice”). [Stonington] shall have the right to act as placement agent for the Successor Fund upon
providing [Southfield] or its Affiliate, as applicable, with notice of their intent to do so delivered not more than 90
days after the date of their receipt of the Successor Fund Notice. [Stonington’s] right in the preceding sentence is
conditioned on the Fund having received aggregate Investments of at least $125 million.” Doc. 11-1 at Ex. B § 6.
Case 1:20-cv-06053-ER Document 96 Filed 08/01/22 Page 5 of 11
Stonington, and the payment dates for each of the eight quarterly installment payments of the reup fee. Doc. 38 ¶ 22. That same day, Southfield paid Stonington the first four quarterly
installment payments. Id. ¶ 23.
As set out above, on March 25, 2021, the Court confirmed the Arbitrator’s award in its
entirety, determining, as relevant here, that the Arbitrator did not err in finding that § 3(iv)—
requiring the payment of re-up fees—survived the termination of the Agreement. Doc. 27 at 10.
Several months later, in the fall of 2021, Southfield—after receiving an invoice from
Stonington relating to investors in another fund—undertook to confirm the accuracy of the four
payments it had made on re-up fees. Doc. 56 at 6. Southfield explains that the Agreement
plainly requires re-up fees to be paid only if investors that entered into subscription agreements
for the Fund also entered into subscription agreements for the Successor Fund. Id. According to
Southfield, contrary to the summary it had previously sent to Stonington, it accepted investments
in the Successor Fund only from two Investors that had invested in the Fund and, as a result, had
overpaid the re-up fees and was due a refund from Stonington. Id.
On December 22, 2021, Southfield sent a letter to Stonington explaining the overpayment
and requesting a refund, and on the same day filed a second demand for arbitration with the
AAA. Doc. 41 at 3–4; Doc. 58 ¶ 3. One of Southfield’s claims in this arbitration is for a
declaration that it overpaid Stonington for re-up fees under § 3(iv). Doc. 52 at 5. Southfield
argues this claim must be arbitrated, as under § 14 of the Agreement, the parties agreed to
resolve through arbitration any disputes relating to the terms of the Agreement. In other words,
because, as Southfield points out, resolution of the dispute over the alleged overpayment of re-up
fees involves interpretation of one of the Agreement’s terms—namely, “Investors”—that dispute
Case 1:20-cv-06053-ER Document 96 Filed 08/01/22 Page 6 of 11
must be arbitrated. Stonington on the other hand objects to the arbitration of this claim, arguing
it must be decided by this Court.
On February 11, 2022, after Southfield failed to tender the scheduled payment of the reup fees due on January 13, 2022, Stonington moved the Court to enforce its March 2021
Judgment confirming the portion of the award obligating Southfield to pay § 3(iv) re-up fees to
Stonington. See Doc. 36. According to Stonington, Southfield, in violating its payment
obligation, had failed to comply with this Court’s order. As a result, Stonington asked the Court
to enter an order enforcing the March 2021 Judgment and directing Southfield to pay the balance
of the re-up fees to Stonington.
A few days later, on February 18, 2022, Stonington also moved the Court for a
preliminary injunction, requesting that the Court enjoin arbitration of Southfield’s claim that it
had overpaid the re-up fees. See Doc. 40. At the outset, Stonington asserted that this Court has
exclusive jurisdiction over that claim, arguing that because Stonington’s right to the re-up fees
arises from the March 2021 Judgment and the parties did not agree to arbitrate disputes over
Southfield’s compliance with the judgment, any dispute with respect to the payment of the re-up
fees is not arbitrable and must be determined by this Court.
Stonington then argued that the Court must enjoin the ongoing arbitration as (1)
Stonington would be irreparably harmed if compelled to arbitrate that claim, and (2)
Stonington’s motion raises serious questions as to whether the claim is arbitrable. As to
irreparable harm, Stonington argued first that it had not agreed to arbitrate any disputes over
enforcement of this Court’s March 2021 Judgment. And, second, Stonington argued it would
suffer irreparable harm as a result of the risk of inconsistent rulings concerning the parties’
respective obligations from an arbitrator and the Court.
Case 1:20-cv-06053-ER Document 96 Filed 08/01/22 Page 7 of 11
Last, Stonington argued that threshold questions of arbitrarily, namely whether the
parties’ agreement to arbitrate applies to a particular dispute, should be resolved by the Court and
not by an arbitrator. In other words, according to Stonington, if there is a question as to whether
the dispute over the re-up fees is arbitrable or not, the Court, not the arbitrator, must answer that
On July 19, 2022, while its motions to enforce the March 2021 Judgment and for a
preliminary injunction remained pending, Stonington moved for a TRO enjoining Southfield
from arbitrating its claim that it overpaid the re-up fees. See Doc. 87. The Court held a TRO
hearing on July 27, 2022. As Stonington conceded at that hearing, its TRO set out the same
arguments already proffered in its February, 2022, motion for a preliminary injunction. Indeed,
the two motions are nearly identical: in its TRO motion, as before, Stonington argues the Court
has jurisdiction to enforce its own judgment; Stonington is irreparably harmed (1) by being
forced to arbitrate an issue it did not agree to arbitrate and is not arbitrable and (2) by assuming
the risk of inconsistent rulings; and there are serious questions as to whether Southfield’s claim
that it has already overpaid the re-up fees is arbitrable. 2
In addition, Stonington also argues that it is being irreparably harmed by Southfield’s
continued refusal to provide federal-court discovery, and that this refusal is an attempt on
Southfield’s part to delay this matter.
In the Second Circuit, as an alternative to showing a likelihood of succeeding on the merits, the movant can rely on
the “serious questions” standard. Under this standard, the movant may secure relief if it establishes that, even in the
absence of a likelihood of success, there exist “sufficiently serious questions going to the merits to make them a fair
ground for litigation,” so long as the movant also establishes that “the balance of hardships tips decidedly” in its
favor. Christa McAuliffe Intermediate Sch. PTO, Inc. v. de Blasio, 364 F. Supp. 3d 253, 273 (S.D.N.Y.), aff'd, 788
F. App’x 85 (2d Cir. 2019)
Case 1:20-cv-06053-ER Document 96 Filed 08/01/22 Page 8 of 11
At the hearing on July 27, the Court denied Stonington’s motion for a TRO and will,
here, reiterate the reasons for that denial, as set out on the record.
This Court has the inherent power and jurisdiction to manage its proceedings and to
control the conduct of the litigants before it. See Chambers v. NASCO, Inc., 501 U.S. 32, 33
(1991); Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 409 F.2d 718, 725
(2d Cir. 1969), rev’d on other grounds, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). That inherent power includes the
authority to issue orders enjoining litigants, preliminarily or permanently, from engaging in
contumacious conduct. “[A] district court has the inherent power to issue an injunction against
litigants who harass their opponents.” United Artists Corp. v. United Artist Studios LLC, No. CV
19-828-MWF (MAAx), 2019 WL 6917918, at *5 (C.D. Cal. Oct. 17, 2019), citing Yates v. Belli
Deli, No. C 07-01405 WHA, 2007 WL 2318923, at *3 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 13, 2007); see also Lewis
v. S. S. Baune, 534 F.2d 1115, 1121 (5th Cir. 1976) (“Injunctive relief, where warranted, can be a
useful tool to aid a court in controlling the conduct of litigants.”). Such injunctions bind not only
parties, but also their officers, agents, servants, and employees. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 65(d)(2).
The standard for an entry of a temporary restraining order (“TRO”) is the same as for a
preliminary injunction, Andino v. Fischer, 555 F. Supp. 2d 418, 419 (S.D.N.Y. May 20, 2008),
and, to obtain a preliminary injunction, a party must show “a likelihood of success on the merits,
a likelihood of irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief, that the balance of equities
tips in the party’s favor, and that an injunction is in the public interest.” Coronel v. Decker, 449
F. Supp. 3d 274, 280–81 (S.D.N.Y. 2020) (citing Am. Civil Liberties Union v. Clapper, 804 F.3d
617, 622 (2d Cir. 2015)).
Case 1:20-cv-06053-ER Document 96 Filed 08/01/22 Page 9 of 11
Irreparable harm is the “single most important prerequisite” to a TRO. Coronel, 449 F.
Supp. 3d at 281. To succeed on this factor, a movant must show that, absent the injunction, they
will suffer a harm that cannot be remedied by damages or a permanent injunction upon final
adjudication. Id. The harm must also be actual and imminent, not remote or speculative. Id.
As the Court noted at the outset and as conceded by the parties, there was no difference
between the TRO motion at issue and the motion for a preliminary injunction previously filed.
The lapse in time between the two motions, the Court reasoned, mitigated against the issuance of
Beyond this, Stonington has failed to establish irreparable harm. Stonington’s central
argument is that it is harmed by being compelled to arbitrate an issue it has not agreed to
arbitrate. That issue, at bottom, is a dispute over the identity of the Investors in the Successor
Fund. In other words, Stonington expected from Southfield a certain amount of re-up fees as
determined by its understanding of which Investors from the Fund had also invested in the
Successor Fund—an understanding which was in turn informed by Stonington’s interpretation of
the term “Investors.” After paying half the amount, Southfield ultimately determined it had
mistakenly overpaid, challenging Stonington’s understanding of the Investors’ identities as well
as its interpretation of the term “Investors.”
As the Court made clear, neither the original arbitrator nor this Court was asked to
determine the identity of the Investors or construe the meaning of the term “Investor” as used in
the Agreement. Here, the Court’s only role was to confirm that the arbitrator correctly
determined that Stonington was entitled to re-up fees. As to the identities of the Investors, these
are discernible not from the Court’s judgment—or the Award—but from the Agreement, which
Case 1:20-cv-06053-ER Document 96 Filed 08/01/22 Page 10 of 11
sets out definitions for “Investors,” among a number of other terms. A determination, then, of
whether Stonington or Southfield is correct with respect to who qualifies as an Investor would
require an interpretation of the Agreement. And the parties expressly agreed, in § 14 of the
Agreement, that any dispute relating to the terms of the Agreement must be arbitrated in
accordance with the rules of the AAA. Accordingly, there is no irreparable harm because
arbitration of the dispute over the definition of the term “Investors” is precisely what the parties
agreed to in § 14 of the Agreement.
Because irreparable harm is the “single most important prerequisite” to a TRO, Coronel,
449 F. Supp. 3d at 281, the analysis could end here. In any event, none of the remaining factors
is met. As the Court made clear, Stonington has not raised a sufficiently serious question as to
the arbitrability of this claim—and, indeed, of the threshold question whether the claim is
arbitrable—as it is clear that the dispute is over the terms of the Agreement and that such a
dispute is arbitrable. Likewise, because the parties agreed to arbitrate such a dispute, the equities
weigh in favor of Southfield, which is only asking that the parties abide by their Agreement to
arbitrate. And, last, as the public interest broadly favors arbitration provisions, it would be
contrary to the public interest for the Court to insist that the arbitration be enjoined. See Chelsea
Square Textiles, Inc. v. Bombay Dyeing & Mfg. Co., 189 F.3d 289, 294 (2d Cir. 1999).
For the reasons set forth above and as stated on the record on July 27, 2022, Stonington’s
motion for a TRO is DENIED. For the same reasons, Stonington’s motions (1) to enforce the
Court’s judgment—by directing Southfield to pay the remaining, and disputed, amount of re-up
fees—and (2) to enjoin arbitration also are DENIED. The Clerk of Court is respectfully directed
to terminate the motions, Docs. 36, 40, and 87.
Case 1:20-cv-06053-ER Document 96 Filed 08/01/22 Page 11 of 11
It is SO ORDERED.
August 1, 2022
New York, New York
Edgardo Ramos, U.S.D.J.
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?