In a recent Hollywood Reporter article, Jay Z and his representatives announced that they are “no longer demanding a halt to an arbitration with Iconix Brand Group because of a lack of available black arbitrators at the American Arbitration Association.” The reason for this is that AAA had made a newfound commitment to increase its diversity numbers for arbitrators.
For those not familiar, an arbitrator refers to an independent person or body officially appointed to settle a dispute. In Jay Z’s case, the music mogul was “fighting with Iconix over the scope of a $200 million deal signed a decade back governing the use of the “Roc Nation” trademark on baseball caps and other merchandise.”
The issue escalated when jay Z brought up diversity concerns to the New York Supreme Court identifying that only three of the twelve neutrals were African American, and one of which had a conflict. “Jay-Z’s motion for a temporary restraining order to halt the arbitration was granted, but it may have had as much — or even more — to do with the absence of the assigned judge than the merits of an argument that an arbitration process without African-Americans violated New York’s public policy on discrimination. (See the transcript of the Nov. 30 hearing.)”
Iconix attorney Samuel Levy at Blank Rome stated that “Jay-Z had no problem arbitrating other matters in the past without raising similar race objections, and also argued against the proposition that a lack of diversity could void an arbitration provision in a contract.”
According to the letter from Quinn Emanuel litigator Alex Spiro, who represents Jay-Z (Shawn Carter), “While the information AAA provided has confirmed that AAA lacks an appreciable number of minority (and particularly, African-American) arbitrators, AAA has indicated an openness both to an arbitrator selection process in this Arbitration that will allow for meaningful consideration of African-American arbitrators and to broader remedial measures intended to improve the diversity of the arbitrator roster for future arbitrations.”