Jay-Z Wins Bid to Halt Arbitration in Iconix Dispute on Racial Grounds

Rapper contends that he was unable to find sufficient African-American arbitrators to handle the case

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Jay-Z might have 99 problems, but an overly Caucasian pool of potential arbitrators ain’t one.

Rapper-mogul Jay-Z, whose given name is Shawn Carter, has prevailed in an effort to halt arbitration in a dispute that is currently pending before the American Arbitration Association based on the contention that, essentially, #AAASoWhite.

Court papers filed Wednesday state that the arbitration will be halted for 90 days in order to find more black arbitrators to choose from.

“ORDERED that sufficient reason having been shown therefore, pending the hearing and determination of this application, Respondents shall be temporarily restrained and enjoined from proceeding with their claims in the Arbitration for a period of 90 days to allow the parties to work with AAA to include sufficient African-American arbitrators from which the parties may choose in the roster of arbitrator candidates,” the papers read.

The order comes following a petition, also filed Wednesday, seeking a temporary restraining order to stay the arbitration.

The petition stated that Jay-Z “could not identify a single African-American arbitrator” with the experience to handle the case.

“When Mr. Carter began reviewing arbitrators on the AAA’s Search Platform, however, he was confronted with a stark reality: he could not identify a single African-American arbitrator on the ‘Large and Complex Cases’ roster, composed of hundreds of arbitrators, that had the background and experience to preside over the Arbitration,” the petition reads.

The petition continues, “This blatant failure of the AAA to ensure a diverse slate of arbitrators is particularly shocking given the prevalence of mandatory arbitration provisions in commercial contracts across nearly all industries. It would stand to reason that prospective litigants–which undoubtedly include minority owned and operated businesses–expect there to be the possibility that the person who stands in the shoes of both judge and jury reflects the diverse population.”

The petition goes on to call out the AAA for an overall perceived lack of diversity.

“The AAA states on its website that ‘[t]he AAA Roster is composed of 24% women and minorities, and this figure is increasing,’” the petition reads. “A further breakdown by area of dispute reveals even less diversity in certain areas: commercial cases have only 17 percent ‘diverse’ arbitrators–which refers to both women and minorities, without specifying the number of African-American arbitrators–while insurance and construction law ‘diversity’ falls to just 10 percent, which again includes both women and minorities.”

According to the papers, the controversy between the rapper and the company arose after Iconix purchased Jay-Z’s clothing brand Rocawear in 2007.

“Years later, certain disputes arose between the parties over a series of transactions,” the papers state.

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.