7th Circuit Discusses Equitable Tolling


Seeking regulatory relief from even an exotic statute like the the Commodity Exchange Act requires adherence to the relevant provisions of the law. Failure to comply with, for example, a provision governing timely pursuing a claim may be cause for denial of relief even for otherwise meritorious claims.

On May 25, a matter that was argued on May 18, was decided by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in The Conway Family Trust v. Commodity Futures Trading Commission. This is another statute of limitations case involving on this occasion the Commodity Exchange Act. The Court of Appeals, which affirmed the CFTC’s ruling, and in doing so also held that the Trust failed to establish that the two-year statute of limitations should be equitably tolled.

The Conway Family Trust lost $3.6M trading in futures contracts, and contended that errors committed by a futures commission merchant caused some of these losses. It asked the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to order the commission merchant to make reparation. However, because the Trust did not seek relief within two years of the accrual of its claim, the CFTC held that the claim was untimely.

While the Trust did seek relief from the National Futures Association, it did not obtain all of the relief it sought from the Association’s arbitration procedures.

A litigant who proposes that a statute of limitations be equitably tolled must establish two elements: ‘(1) that he has been pursuing his rights diligently, and (2) that some extraordinary circumstance stood in his way and prevented timely filing.’

The Court of Appeals confirmed that simply being unsuccessful in one forum did not establish the case for equitable tolling.