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Ruling from Imposter Arbitrator Overturned

Wednesday, November, 23, 2016

A federal appeal court recently overturned an arbitration ruling because the arbitrator in the case falsely claimed to be a California attorney.  According to information from the court, the imposter did so in dozens of cases before he was finally exposed.  The overturned award was related to a multimillion-dollar investment.


After hearing the case, the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals granted a new hearing for Move Inc., an online real estate services provider based in Santa Clara.  The provider had filed a lawsuit against Citigroup Global Markets in 2008, alleging the company mismanaged $131 million of Move’s funds. Move agreed to refer disputes with Citigroup to arbitration before FINRA in an effort to avoid a trial.


Move picked veteran attorney James H. Frank as its first choice for arbitrator and said it was because they wanted an experienced attorney to examine the complex issue.  Frank ruled against Move in December 2009.  In 2014, legal publications disclosed Frank had impersonated a retired Southern California attorney who had the same name and was actually not an experienced legal professional.


According to Reuters, the imposter Frank took part in 38 arbitration cases between 1998 and 2011.  They reported Frank claimed he was an attorney but that the State Bar lost his records.  Frank then admitted to lying to Reuters about being licensed in New York and Florida, and when asked why he lied stated, “It’s a damn good question and one that I’m having trouble with.”


According to a spokeswoman from FINRA, Frank had been approved by the agency in the 1990s and an imposter such as he would not be approved today because “We have a much more robust background check in place…”