Former American Arbitration Association chief Robert “Bob” Coulson passed away on September 9th at age 93.
Mr. Coulson led the AAA for many years, first as Executive Vice President and then for two decades as President and CEO before retiring in 1994. Under his leadership, the alternative dispute resolution field and the Association enjoyed tremendous growth both here and abroad. The World War II veteran and Harvard Law graduate was a prolific author and accomplished speaker.
Influence on Securities Arbitration
The AAA during his tenure filed several influential Amicus Briefs, including one in Shearson/American Express v. McMahon, 482 U.S. 220 (1987), that the Court cited several times. As we reported in SAA 2017-22, Mr. Coulson correctly predicted the Supreme Court’s pro-securities arbitration decision in McMahon, and had the AAA begin developing specialized rules before the Court ruled. AAA eventually formed a task force that developed the Association’s Securities Arbitration Rules.
A Busy Retirement
Mr. Coulson was active in retirement, serving as a commercial and labor arbitrator and continuing to write and serve on dispute resolution programs faculty. An avid sailor, he didn’t slow down in retirement. In fact, his son, Cromwell Coulson, said that Mr. Coulson’s death resulted from a stroke he suffered just a week before while sailing. He’s a member of the College Sailing Hall of Fame.
Bob Coulson will be missed. He was a visionary leader who helped to put ADR on the map. The AAA issued a statement saying: “A tireless advocate for more efficient and equitable alternatives to litigation, Mr. Coulson was an integral force for alternative dispute resolution (ADR) in general and within the AAA® in particular. He authored several books on the subject as well as novels based on his experiences in sailboat racing.” SAC Contributing Legal Editor and Board Member George Friedman said, “I was saddened to learn of Bob Coulson's passing. We were colleagues at the American Arbitration Association for many years. He was my boss, mentor, and friend, and I will miss him. His type doesn’t come along that often.”
(ed: We agree! The September 12th New York Law Journal has a nice article about his life and career.)