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FINRA Broker Arbitration Task Force Suggests 51 Changes

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After 14 months and 57 meetings, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Dispute Resolution Task Force has made 51 recommendations to change FINRA’s arbitration and mediation procedures.

The recommendations were meant to “enhance the transparency, impartiality and efficiency” of the self-regulator’s broker dispute forum, according to FINRA. The report filed by the task force said it was the group’s “unanimous, strongly held opinion” that the “most important investment in the future of the FINRA forum is in the arbitrators” themselves.

In releasing the report, FINRA CEO Richard Ketchum stressed that the task force was pulled “from a diverse group — representing a broad range of viewpoints — to look at all aspects of dispute resolution.”

Among the task force’s 51 recommendations were that FINRA:

  • increase arbitrators’ honorariums from $300 to $500 per session, and from $600 to $1000 a day; the task force said in its report that the previous “below-market-rate” compensation acted as a disincentive in recruiting arbitrators and in their “commitment of substantial time in executing their responsibilities.” This was the group’s top recommendation.
  • make ‘explained decisions’ the default, though with a single party opt-out provision. As its second top recommendation, the task force said the availability of explained decisions would “improve the transparency of the forum.” Explained decisions are “fact-based awards stating the general reasons for the arbitrators’ decision,” as opposed to lengthy written opinions, according to a FINRA arbitrator training presentation.
  • create a “pool of trained, experienced arbitrators to conduct expungement hearings in settled cases and in cases brought solely for the purpose of seeking expungement.”
  • implement an automatic mediation process for cases filed in arbitration, subject to an opt-out provision.

The recommendations will be reviewed by the National Arbitration and Mediation Committee (NAMC), FINRA’s Standing Board Advisory Committee, which will make the final decisions to either implement the recommendations, seek more discussion or choose not to implement.

Among the 13 members of the task force, which was formed in June 2014 and began deliberating in October 2014, were several FINRA arbitrators; Joe Borg of the Alabama Secruities Commission; Kevin Miller of the IBD Securities America; and Barbara Roper of the Consumer Federation of America.

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