August 8, 2007
I am a securities practitioner who has represented public customers against broker-dealers in federal and state courts and in NYSE and NASD arbitration for over ten years.
It strikes me as patently unfair to compel investors into industry sponsored arbitrations, and then allow the industry to have one or more representatives on the tribunal. In reality under the current rules, often a majority of the panelists have significant current and/or past economic ties to the brokerage industry.
Though the proposed rule is a step in the right direction, it does not go far enough. Panels should consist of truly neutral, and only neutral arbitrators. With that said, any arbitrator who currently or in the past has received compensation from the securities industry can only properly be characterized as an "industry" arbitrator. Allowing "neutral" arbitrators to have any past or present economic ties to the securities industry at best gives the appearance of impropiety, and more realistically has claimants facing a stacked panel with a majority of the arbitrators inherently biased and beholden towards the industry.
If the Commission refuses to ban mandatory arbitration in favor of voluntary arbitration, and if the Commission refuses to do away with the "industry" arbitrator who obviously is biased, at least make the "neutral" arbitrators truly neutral and unbiased.