The First Department, reversing Supreme Court, over an extensive dissent, determined respondent was a customer of petitioner (LekUS) and therefore could compel FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) arbitration. Petitioner had been sued by FINRA in connection with shares of Cannibis Science, Inc. (CBIS) purchased by respondent and held by petitioner for trading:
The record establishes that respondent was a customer of nonparty Lek Securities UK, Ltd. (LekUK), where he had his account, and was also a client of petitioner Lek Securities Corp. (LekUS), with which he had a series of direct agreements. Under those agreements, LekUS conditioned its provision of depository and execution services for certain trades on respondent’s providing certain representations and an indemnity … .
Specifically, respondent purchased shares of Cannabis Science, Inc. (CBIS) in a series of transactions in 2015 and 2016 that required that the shares be held and sold in the United States. For each transaction, respondent executed an agreement (Deposit Agreement) directly with LekUS pursuant to which LekUS deposited the shares in its account at the Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation (DTCC). In each Deposit Agreement, (1) respondent represented that his answers to certain questions were true and acknowledged that LekUS would rely on those representations; (2) LekUS agreed to act as the “Processing Broker” to provide the services of depositing and reselling the shares; and (3) LekUS accepted respondent’s “Deposit Securities Request” on certain conditions, including that any claims by respondent or disputes arising from respondent’s representations in the Deposit Agreement “shall be governed by New York law and subject to the exclusive venue and jurisdiction of the courts and arbitration forums in the City and State of New York,” and that respondent would indemnify LekUS in connection with claims arising from respondent’s representations in the Deposit Agreement or from “the deposit process or the subsequent sale of the securities.”
When respondent sought to trade the CBIS shares deposited with LekUS, he communicated with Michael Mainwald, who was located at the office of LekUS, had a LekUS phone number and email address, and was registered with FINRA as the “principal operating officer” of LekUS.
… LekUS notified respondent that it had been sued by FINRA in connection with CBIS transactions and that LekUS sought indemnification by defendant pursuant to the Deposit Agreements. …
… [R]espondent was a “customer” of LekUS within the meaning of FINRA Rule 12200, and was therefore entitled to demand arbitration. Matter of LEK Sec. Corp. v Elek, 2020 NY Slip Op 01134, First Dept 2-18-20