United States District Court, D. Maryland
L. Hollander, United States District Judge
Meghan Stone filed suit in the Circuit Court for Baltimore
City against defendant Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. (“Wells
Fargo, ” or the “Bank”). ECF 1-3 (the
“Complaint”). She alleges, inter alia,
that defendant improperly took funds from her account, in
violation of the terms of the service agreement (ECF 5-2, the
“Agreement”) for her account. ECF 1-3. Wells
Fargo removed the case to this Court, based on diversity
jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. ECF 1
(“Notice of Removal”).
Complaint contains ten claims: “Unjust
Enrichment” (Count I); “Conversion” (Count
II); “Breach of Fiduciary Duty” (Count III);
“Accounting” (Count IV); “Aiding and
Abetting” (Count V); “Civil Conspiracy”
(Count VI.A); “Breach of Contract” (Count VI.B);
“Negligence” (Count VII); “Respondeat
Superior” (Count VIII); and “Malicious
Prosecution” (Count IX). Id. at 3-13. Stone seeks
compensatory and punitive damages, in addition to
attorney's fees and costs. Id. at 13.
Fargo has filed a “Motion to Compel Arbitration and
Dismiss Action, ” pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1).
ECF 5. It is supported by a memorandum of law (ECF 5-1)
(collectively, the “Motion”) and an exhibit. ECF
5-2. According to Wells Fargo, the Agreement's
arbitration provision requires arbitration of plaintiff's
claims, and therefore the Complaint should be dismissed. ECF
5-1 at 3.
filed an opposition to the Motion (ECF 8) (the
“Opposition”), along with exhibits. See
ECF 8-2 (list of Stone's accounts with Wells Fargo); ECF
8-3 at 2 (“Arrest Warrant” for Stone); ECF 8-3 at
3-5 (“Statement of Charges” against Stone); ECF
8-4 (“Application for Statement of Charges”
against Stone). Notably, Stone concedes that Counts I through
VI.B are subject to arbitration. ECF 8, ¶¶ 1-2.
However, she maintains that Counts VII through IX are not
governed by the Agreement. Id. ¶ 3. Wells Fargo
has replied. ECF 9 (the “Reply”).
Motion is fully briefed, and no hearing is necessary to
resolve it. See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons
set forth above, I shall grant Wells Fargo's Motion.
2014, Stone was a Wells Fargo customer with two checking
accounts (accounts 1984747996 and 5549168515), a savings
account (account 5549491651), and a secure line of credit
(account 6031400929) with the Bank. ECF 1-3, ¶ 9. The
Agreement governed her use of these Wells Fargo accounts.
Among other things, the Agreement included an expansive
arbitration provision, stating that any “dispute”
that cannot be resolved informally “will be resolved
through the arbitration process as set forth in this
part.” ECF 5-2 at 8.
Agreement defines a “‘dispute'” as
“any unresolved disagreement” between the
parties. Id. “It includes any disagreement
relating in any way to services, accounts or matters; to
[Stone's] use of any of the Bank's banking locations
or facilities; or to any means [she] may use to access [her]
accounts.” Id. Of import here,
“dispute” also includes “claims based on
broken promises, contracts, torts, or other wrongful
actions” as well as “statutory, common law and
equitable claims.” Id. The arbitration
provision also applies to “disputes” about the
“meaning, application or enforceability of this
arbitration agreement.” Id. “As the sole
exception to the Agreement's arbitration provision,
[Stone] and the Bank retain the right to pursue in small
claims court any dispute that is within that court's
Agreement also incorporates the American Arbitration
Association (“AAA”) Rules, id.:
Each arbitration, including the selection of the
arbitrator(s) shall be administered by the American
Arbitration Association (AAA), or such other administrator as
you and the Bank may mutually agree to (the AAA or such other
mutually agreeable administrator to be referred to
hereinafter as the “Arbitration Administrator”),
according to the Commercial Arbitration Rules and the
Supplemental Procedures for Consumer Related Disputes
extension, the Agreement incorporates AAA Rule R-7(a).
See ECF 9-1 (AAA Rules) at 14. It provides:
“The arbitrator shall have the power to rule on his or
her own jurisdiction, including any objections with respect
to the existence, scope or validity of the arbitration
agreement or to the arbitrability of any claim or
alleges that “[s]ometime after December 17, 2014,
” Wells Fargo removed approximately $45, 000 from her
accounts without her knowledge or consent. Id.
¶ 11. It also denied her use of her secure line of
credit. Id. She alleges that upon learning of the
withdrawal, she notified Wells Fargo of the “improper
taking of approximately $45, 000.00” from her accounts
and demanded that Wells Fargo return the funds. Id.
¶¶ 11-12. But, it has allegedly refused to do so.
Id. ¶ 13.
contends that Wells Fargo employees were “improperly
taking/converting money” from her accounts and
“otherwise improperly using” her accounts and
personal information “for improper purposes.” ECF
1-3, ¶ 32. She also alleges that a Bank employee
“improperly accepted] and receive[d] debit cards
approved for the Plaintiff and improperly approve[d] large
cash withdrawals.” Id. ¶ 45.
to Stone, Wells Fargo knew that she “had not committed
any crime, ” but nonetheless caused Anne Arundel County
Police Department to investigate her. ECF 1-3,
¶¶ 14, 61. The investigation, she
maintains, resulted in the police wrongfully charging her
with fifteen felony counts and two misdemeanor counts
relating to theft, fraud, and identity theft. Id.
¶ 15; see also ECF 8-3; ECF 8-4. Further, she
“was booked, fingerprinted, photographed and detained
[by the police] for approximately twenty-four (24) hours all
while pregnant.” ECF 1-3, ¶ 59. According to
Stone, the case against her was terminated on February 15,
2015. Id. ¶ 60.
Fargo tells a different story. It claims that Stone entered a
“Wells Fargo branch in Severna Park, Maryland, in April
of 2014 and met with a bank employee.” ECF 9 at 2.
During this meeting, plaintiff falsely presented herself as a
Wells Fargo customer from California, who was also named
Meghan Stone. Plaintiff allegedly told the Wells Fargo
employee that she had just moved from California to Maryland
and needed help changing the basic information on her
California accounts. Id. In so doing, the
“Wells Fargo bank accounts belonging to a different
person [also] named Meghan Stone in California were modified
so that the other customer's contact phone numbers and
date of birth were changed to that of the Plaintiff in
Maryland.” Id. Plaintiff also allegedly
ordered new debit cards tied to the California accounts,
allowing her to access the funds of the other Meghan Stone.
Id. Further, the Bank alleges that plaintiff used
these cards to make purchase and cash withdrawals against the
other Meghan Stone's accounts. Id. After the
Meghan Stone in California discovered over $10, 000 had been
withdrawn from her accounts, she notified Wells Fargo, which
restored her funds and conducted a fraud investigation.
contests defendant's recitation of these events, claiming
that a Wells Fargo employee negligently initiated the changes
and she engaged in no wrongdoing. ECF 1-3, ¶¶
31-32, 44-45. Nevertheless, as Wells Fargo correctly notes,
“[i]t is not necessary for the Court to resolve any
part of this dispute in order to rule on the pending Motion
to Compel Arbitration.” ECF 9 at 2 n.1.
facts are included in the Discussion.
The Federal Arbitration Act
the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”), 9 U.S.C.
§ 1 et seq., Wells Fargo moves to compel
arbitration and to dismiss this action. The FAA, which was
enacted in 1925, “provides for the enforceability of
arbitration agreements and specifies procedures for
conducting arbitrations and enforcing arbitration awards . .
. .” McCormick v. Am. Online, Inc., 909 F.3d
677, 679 (4th Cir. 2018). Under § 2 of the FAA, an
arbitration contract is “valid, irrevocable, and
enforceable, save upon such grounds as exist at law or in
equity for the revocation of any contract.” Thus,
“the FAA elevates the arbitration of claims as a
favored alternative to litigation when the parties agree in
writing to arbitration.” McCormick, 909 F.3d
at 680 (citing Moses H. Cone Mem'l Hosp. v. Mercury
Constr. Corp., 460 U.S. 1, 24 (1983)).
Adkins v. Labor Ready, Inc., 303 F.3d 496, 500-01
(4th Cir. 2002) (quoting Whiteside v. Teltech Corp.,
940 F.2d 99, 102 (4th Cir. 1991)), the Fourth Circuit
In the Fourth Circuit, a litigant can compel arbitration
under the FAA if he can demonstrate “(1) the existence
of a dispute between the parties, (2) a written agreement
that includes an arbitration provision which purports to
cover the dispute, (3) the relationship of the transaction,
which is evidenced by the agreement, to interstate or foreign
commerce, and (4) the failure, neglect or refusal of the
defendant to arbitrate the dispute.”
Adkins, the Court also said, 303 F.3d at 500:
“A district court . . . has no choice but to grant a
motion to compel arbitration where a valid arbitration
agreement exists and the issues in a case fall within its
purview.” Accordingly, a court must “engage in a
limited review to ensure that the dispute is
arbitrable-i.e., that a valid agreement exists
between the parties and that the specific dispute falls
within the substantive scope of that agreement.”
Murray v. United Food and Commercial Workers Int'l
Union, 289 F.3d 297, 302 (4th Cir. 2002).
there must be an “independent jurisdictional
basis” for suit in federal court. Hall St. Assocs.,
LLC v. Mattel, Inc., 552 U.S. 576, 581-82
(2008). Of significance here, “diversity jurisdiction
would authorize a federal court to resolve disputes
concerning the arbitration process. . . .”
McCormick, 909 F.3d at 681.
3 of the FAA is also relevant. It provides, 9 U.S.C. §
If any suit or proceeding be brought in any of the courts of
the United States upon any issue referable to arbitration
under an agreement in writing for such arbitration, the court
in which such suit is pending, upon being satisfied that the
issue involved in such suit or proceeding is referable to
arbitration under such an agreement, shall on application of
one of the parties stay the trial of the action until such
arbitration has been had in accordance with the ...