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December 12, 2018

Lawyers for Jay-Z charge American Arbitration Association is beyond the pale when it comes to minorities

November 28, 2018
Rapper Jay-Z attends the game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Los Angeles Rams at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on November 19, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images)

Jay-Z says it’s still a hard-knock life — when it comes to finding an African-American arbitrator.

The chart-topping Brooklynite alleged in court papers Wednesday that his efforts to find minority candidates to settle a bitter business dispute led to his discovery of the American Arbitration Association’s “apparent lack” of qualified black arbitrators.




The plethora of white candidates put the black rap star at a discriminatory disadvantage since he anticipated access to candidates of color in resolving the three-year legal battle, lawyers for Jay-Z said in a 13-page Manhattan court filing where they assigned AAA a grade of F.

“The AAA’s arbitration procedures … deprive Mr. Carter and his companies of the equal protection of the laws, equal access to public accommodations, and mislead customers into believing that they will receive a fair and impartial adjudication,” court papers charged.

The dispute pits the platinum-selling global star against Iconix Brand Group, Inc., and Icon DE Holding over Jay-Z’s clothing line RocaWear. Iconix purchased the Rocawear brand in March 2007, with Jay-Z also agreeing to sell them a piece of his Marcy Holdings Inc. company.

After a 2015 falling out, the case eventually headed to arbitration – where Jay-Z would find that AAA provided just three African-American arbitrators qualified to handle “Large and Complex Cases.” One of the trio was actually a partner at the law firm representing Iconix, knocking the actual number of possible black arbitrators down to just two.

The two sides were supposed to choose from a pool of a dozen candidates. And AAA threatened to simply select an arbitrator if the legal combatants failed to strike four of the candidates by Friday.

“This blatant failure of the AAA to ensure a diverse slate of arbitrators is particularly shocking … 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 court papers said.

“The AAA … discriminates against litigants based on their race by failing to provide diverse and representative arbitrators.”

Jay-Z seeks a temporary restraining order in the case, along with a preliminary 90-day injunction to allow time to include sufficient African-American candidates.

“It is the American Arbitration Association’s policy not to comment on any arbitrations that may have been administered by the association,” the AAA said in a statement.

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