The opinion of the court was delivered by: GERALD L. GOETTEL
Plaintiffs Prudential Securities and Prudential-Bache Properties (referred to collectively as "Prudential") provide securities brokerage services. During 1982, Prudential sold to its customers, the defendants in this suit, limited partnership interests in Archives New York Limited Partnership ("ANY"), which was established to finance the renovation of a New York City warehouse. Prudential allegedly informed these customers that ANY could secure the total amount for the warehouse project with the assistance of a $ 40 million bank loan.
However, ANY did not obtain the bank loan, and the value of the partnership interests decreased significantly. The customers contend that Prudential intentionally failed to disclose that ANY had not met determinative conditions precedent to the bank loan commitments, and that ANY's managing general partner had served a prison term for embezzlement in 1967. The customers claim that they were unable to discover the alleged omissions until at least March 4, 1991, when Business Week published an article entitled "The Mess at Pru-Bache". As Prudential was a member of the National Association of Securities Dealers Incorporated ("NASD"), which provides arbitration of customer disputes, the customers who had invested in ANY sought arbitration before the NASD in May 1992, claiming that Prudential violated RICO and the federal securities laws by alleged omissions, misrepresentations, and fraud.
On June 1, 1992, Prudential filed a petition to stay arbitration in Supreme court, Westchester County, arguing that the six year statute of limitations provided by Section 15 of the NASD Code of Arbitration Procedure barred the claims raised by their customers. The customers removed the state action to this court on June 26, 1992, asserting as grounds for removal that:
the District Court has original jurisdiction of the instant action in accordance with 28 U.S.C. Section 1331, pursuant to the claims asserted under the 'Federal Securities Laws' (including the Federal RICO Act, 18 U.S.C. Sections 1961-1968) and the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. Section 1, et seq.
Notice of Removal, at 2. The customers also petitioned this court to compel arbitration.
Before us now is Prudential's motion to remand on the grounds that this court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, and for costs and expenses, including attorneys' fees, incurred in contesting the removal.
A defendant may remove to federal court only if the matter properly could have been brought by the plaintiff in federal court. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). Where there is no diversity, as here,
an action may be removed only if the district court had original jurisdiction founded on a claim or right arising under the Constitution, treaties or laws of the united States. 28 U.S.C. § 1331; 28 U.S.C. § 1441(b). In order for a claim to arise under federal law, "a right or immunity created by the Constitution or laws of the United States must be an element, and an essential one, of the plaintiff's cause of action". Gully v. First National Bank, 299 U.S. 109, 112, 81 L. Ed. 70 , 57 S. Ct. 96 (1936). In addition, federal question jurisdiction under § 1331 is established when "the plaintiff's right to relief necessarily depends on resolution of a substantial question of federal law." Franchise Tax Board v. Construction Laborers Vacation Trust 463 U.S. 1, 27-28, 77 L. Ed. 2d 420 , 103 S. Ct. 2841 (1983). It is well settled law that any federal question must be disclosed on the face of the complaint, unaided by the answer. Phillips Petroleum Co. v. Texaco Inc., 415 U.S. 125, 127-28, 39 L. Ed. 2d 209 , 94 S. Ct. 1002 (1974).
Applying these principles to the present case, we see from the face of the petition to stay arbitration that Prudential's purported right, i.e. the right to stay arbitration, is created by a private agreement, the NASD contract, not federal law. NASD rules are established and enforced by a private association and do not give rise to federal question jurisdiction. See Lange v. H. Hentz & Co., 418 F. Supp. 1376, 1380 (N.D. Tex. 1976) (finding from the historical and structural relationship of the NASD and the Securities Exchange Commission that the breach of NASD rules is simply a breach of a private agreement that does not confer jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331). Indeed, at oral argument, the customers conceded as much. In addition, Prudential's right to relief does not necessarily depend on the resolution of any question of federal law because Prudential may succeed in staying the arbitration solely upon an interpretation of the NASD rules concerning statutes of limitations.
Finally, although the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. § 1 et seq., establishes and regulates the duty to honor an agreement to arbitrate, the Act does not confer independent federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Southland Corp. v. Keating, 465 U.S. 1, 15, 79 L. Ed. 2d 1 , 104 S. Ct. 852 n.9 (1984); Moses H. Cone Memorial Hosp. v. Mercury Constr. Corp., 460 U.S. 1, 25, 74 L. Ed. 2d 765 , 103 S. Ct. 927 n.32 (1983); In re Harry Hoffman Printing, Inc. v. Graphic Communications International Union, Local 261, 912 F.2d 608, 611 (2d Cir. 1990); Blumenthal v. Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Inc., 910 F.2d 1049, 1051 n.1 (2d Cir. 1990); Metro Industrial Painting Corp. v. Terminal Constr. Co., 287 F.2d 382, 384 (2d Cir. 1961), cert. denied, 368 U.S. 817, 7 L. Ed. 2d 24 , 82 S. Ct. 31 (1961); Drexel Burnham Lambert, Inc. v. Valenzuela Bock, 696 F. Supp. 957, 960 (S.D.N.Y. 1988). Before a district court may entertain petitions under the Federal Arbitration Act, there must exist an "independent basis of jurisdiction". In re Harry Hoffman Printing Inc., 912 F.2d at 611.
The customers argue that this case provides an independent basis of federal court jurisdiction because the original claims asserted in their demand for arbitration arise under the federal RICO statute.
They present two arguments in support of this position. First, the customers contend that, although the petition to stay arbitration does not explicitly raise a federal question, the Supreme Court has expressly ruled that § 4 of the Federal Arbitration Act provides for a federal forum whenever the dispute in arbitration involves a federal question. See Moses H. Cone Memorial Hosp. v. Mercury Constr. Corp., 460 U.S. 1, 74 L. Ed. 2d 765 , 103 S. Ct. 927 (1983). Second, they argue that this court should take jurisdiction over a dispute concerning the NASD rules because a number of federal judges, including Second Circuit panels, decided issues regarding the rules of the American Stock Exchange ("AMEX"). We find both arguments unpersuasive.
The issue before the Supreme Court in Moses Cone concerned a federal court's ability to decline jurisdiction because of parallel state-court litigation. Moses H. Cone, 460 U.S. at 5. The customers find the authority for their assertion that a federal forum is available to consider issues arising out of an arbitration involving federal claims in the following statement made in a footnote:
Section 4 [of the Arbitration Act] provides for an order compelling arbitration only when the federal district court would have jurisdiction over a suit on the underlying dispute; hence there must be diversity of citizenship or some other independent basis for federal jurisdiction before the order can issue. E.g., Commercial ...