March 24, 2014
I have been the Director of Pace Law School's Investor Rights Clinic since 1999, which represents investors of modest means in FINRA Dispute Resolution proceedings. I strongly support FINRA's proposal to require that parties redact certain personal, confidential information in documents filed with FINRA Dispute Resolution as it protects investors from the growing problem of identity theft.
However, I do not support the exception for claims administered under the Simplified Arbitration rules. FINRA's justification for this exception is the perceived difficulty pro se investors might have in handling redactions. First, if that is the underlying concern, then the exception should be for pro se parties, not for all Simplified Arbitration claims. Second, that concern is soundly outweighed by far greater concerns over identity theft. If anything, pro se investors need more protection from the possibility of identity theft, not less. Instead of exempting pro se investors from the rule, FINRA should be required to assist them with the redaction process, if needed.
If the SEC chooses to maintain an exception for pro se investors, then, at a bare minimum, pro so investors should be strongly encouraged -- if not required -- to redact identifying information from documents they file with FINRA. In addition, FINRA should be required to include in correspondence with pro se investors an explanation of the importance of protecting confidential information. Pro se investors can then decide if they want to and can take the time and effort to redact the information.
Thank you for considering these comments.
Jill I. Gross, James D. Hopkins Professor of Law
Director, Investor Rights Clinic
Director of Legal Skills
Pace Law School
78 N. Broadway
White Plains, NY 10603