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FINRA sees flurry of arbitration, seeks REIT-related info.

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Things are getting hectic at FINRA. The regulator’s statistics show arbitration claims jumped 90 percent through February versus the same month in 2008. According to data, there were 1,065 new case filings last month and 561 in February of last year.

“We don’t have official projections for 2009, but if the trend continues, we’re probably looking at a high that will match what we saw in ’03 and ’04,” a FINRA spokesman tells The National Law Journal.

The publication says lawyers representing customers and industry members generally believe FINRA will be able to handle the workload, but “they are divided on whether its arbitration panels – charged with industry bias in the past – now provide a level playing field to those using the process.”

Sources tell Dow Jones Newswires FINRA is also now conducting a sweep of broker/dealers sales and promotion practices related to REITs – real estate investment trusts. A March 20 letter from FINRA explains nontraded REITs include those registered with the SEC but not on an exchange or over-the-counter market. They also include REITs that are sold using an exemption to registration, otherwise known as private REITs.

The letter was sent to an unknown number of broker/dealers and requests specifics on sales as well as cash and noncash incentives.

“Finra is also seeking payout schedules for registered representatives, blank customer applications, and risk-monitoring reports used to track activity in nontraded REITs,” according to Dow Jones Newswires.

The information, requested for the period of Jan. 1 to Feb. 28, 2009, is due no later than April 13.


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