Los Angeles, CA – In a ruling yesterday that sent a strong message to the California State Athletic Commission (“CSAC”), Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert H. O’Brien, on behalf of Judge Maureen Duffy-Lewis vacated an arbitration decision by a CSAC arbitrator that voided boxer Robert Guerrero’s promotional agreement with Goossen Tutor Promotions, finding “The award was procured by corruption, fraud or other undue means.” California Code of Civil Procedure § 1286.2(a)(1). As a result, Goossen Tutor Promotions remains the promoter of Guerrero pursuant to its Promotional Agreement.
After changing managers in 2007, Guerrero tried to get out of his promotion agreement with Goossen Tutor, claiming the five-year term of the agreement had expired. Goossen countered that the agreement, which was signed by Guerrero, his mangers, and a representative of CSAC, provided for extensions due to various injuries and suspensions. According to the CSAC’s own rules, then Executive Officer Armando Garcia was to arbitrate the dispute.
Mr. Garcia conducted the arbitration, heard from the witnesses, took evidence, and under CSAC’s own rules, had until November 14, 2008, to issue his decision. He did not issue his decision and four days later, tendered his resignation, effective December 31, 2008. Although Mr. Garcia remained CSAC’s Executive Director and was on the State’s payroll at the time, on December 12, 2008, Garcia’s assistant, Bill Douglas, issued a so-called “Decision of the Arbitrator” in favor of Guerrero, who immediately signed a promotional deal with Golden Boy Promotions.
When Goossen questioned why Mr. Garcia, as the sole arbitrator, did not issue and sign the decision himself, Deputy Attorney General Earl Plowman claimed the decision was reached by Mr. Garcia, who was not available to sign it.
However, Goossen Tutor was able to prove to the satisfaction of the Court, that the Decision was not Mr. Garcia’s but was procured through “fraud, corruption, or undue means.” As it turns out Mr. Plowman had actually authored the Decision, which was never issued by, reviewed by, approved by, or even seen by Mr. Garcia when CSAC issued it as a purportedly binding decision. In fact, Mr. Garcia was available to CSAC after he tendered his resignation, and was actually contacted twice after Goossen asked the Court to vacate the arbitration award, once by Mr. Plowman’s supervisor, Ms. Karen Chappelle, and once by a CSAC Commissioner. Both times, Mr. Garcia declined to support the Decision.
Before forcing Goossen Tutor to court to vacate the Decision, Goossen asked CSAC to order a new arbitration. CSAC deadlocked at 3-3, and tabled the motion, eventually refusing to vote. As Goossen’s counsel, Nomi Castle, of Castle and Associates in Century City, CA, explained:
“We lost the arbitration unfairly and we filed what would be the equivalent of an appeal because arbitration is done under the auspices of the State of California, and the California State Athletic Commission has a scheme for handling its cases through arbitration as opposed to a court,” Castle explained.
“This was the only way we have to challenge the award, other than appearing before the commissioners which Dan Goossen did, receiving 3 votes of 6 ruling to re-arbitrate. After the support from the commissioners for re-arbitration, the Commission backed off of that and said they don’t have jurisdiction and we would have to take them to court to pursue the issues we had. Which is exactly what we did. In essence we filed an appeal or a writ. We brought a petition to vacate the arbitration award and/or as an alternative to stay the enforcement of that arbitration award pending discovery as to who actually issues the decision on arbitration because Armando Garcia was the arbitrator, and yet he was not the person who made the decision or signed the award. And we brought our petition in front of a court on various legal grounds and the petition was granted.
“This was the correct decision,” Castle said. “It was the one we were after and the court recognized that there was corruption and fraud on the part of the Commission and the way they handled this matter in issuing the arbitration ruling in favor of Guerrero. As a practical matter, Goossen Tutor Promotions is still the promoter of Mr. Guerrero and I’ll leave it to my client to discuss his future promotional plans.”
Goossen’s counsel, Farzad Tabatabai of Castle & Associates added: “Justice was done. The Court’s ruling correctly recognizes what should be obvious to everyone: an arbitration decision that is drafted by someone other than the arbitrator and signed by an outsider to the arbitration, without ever being seen by, reviewed by, or approved by the arbitrator, may not be binding on the parties. The question that remains to be answered is how CSAC and the Attorney General’s office allowed this to happen in the first place.”