July 24, 2007
Subject: File No. SR-NASD-2007-021
From: William S. Shepherd
July 24, 2007
I wish to voice my support for this and any rule change that would limit the definition of “public” arbitrators in securities arbitration to exclude persons connected with the securities industry. This change is certainly a step in the right direction. I am one who believes that securities arbitration can be a fair forum for investors – but only if their rights are protected in both the process and the execution of that process.
I agree with correspondence you have received from Messrs Caruso and Aidikoff and Professor Lipner. Rather than repeat their very valid comments I instead incorporate these herein.
My firm has represented investors in more than a thousand arbitration actions over the past 15 years. The majority of our clients are elderly retired persons who have lost a substantial portion of their life savings and are unable to replace such losses. Their lifestyles have often been greatly altered and, at times, their health has suffered because of their changed situation. Hundreds of other attorneys could relate their own knowledge of thousands more securities fraud victims with similar circumstances.
The role of the Commission and the NASD are both crucial if investors are to be treated fairly in securities arbitration. The voices of attorneys who represent investors can never match the influence of the billionaires of the securities industry. Investors must therefore trust the integrity and vigilance of you - our nation's securities regulators.
Regulating a trillion dollar securities industry, with billions of transactions, tens of millions of investors and hundreds of thousands of salespersons at thousands of firms, is a task far too great for any agency or association. This is why investors also need a "fair forum" - and one with the "appearance of fairness" - so they can have a fair opportunity for their claims to be decided.
Hopefully, you and those at the FINRA understand the importance of your roles and the need to be on investors’ side in their constant battle for justice.
William S. Shepherd
Founder of the Firm
Shepherd, Smith & Edwards, LLP