November 29, 2010
I am a lawyer whose practice primarily consists of representing investors in disputes with brokerage firms. I have served as an NASD arbitrator, as a public member of FINRA's National Arbitration and Mediation Committee, and was the president of the Public Investors Arbitration Bar Association (PIABA). As President of PIABA, I submitted a rule-making proposal to the SEC to eliminate the requirement that all three person arbitration panels include an industry arbitrator. I am pleased to write that FINRA's proposed amendment has my unqualified support.
There are certainly many highly qualified, fair-minded industry arbitrators and nothing in FINRA's proposed rule will prevent them from being selected to hear cases. What the rule will end is the current requirement that an industry member serve on panels in all three arbitrator cases, no matter what the issue. That requirement is manifestly unfair, and makes it virtually impossible for customers to successfully challenge forms of deceptive conduct that are pervasive throughout the securities industry. Moreover, while the current rule requires an industry member to serve on panels, there is no counterbalancing requirement that an investor advocate also be selected.
FINRA's rule proposal eliminating the mandatory industry arbitrator should be adopted as quickly as possible. Public investors want and deserve this change.