PIABA: SEC Should Reject "Radical" Finra Plan To Shift Attorneys For Investors Into Industry Arbitrator Pool
Further Drop in Already Weak Investor Confidence in FINRA Arbitration Feared If Step Moves Ahead; "Non-Public Arbitrator" Category Should Encompass All With Direct and Indirect Ties to Securities Industry
WASHINGTON, D.C. - September 3, 2014 (www.investorideas.com newswire) A proposed Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) rule change to shift attorneys and other professionals without ties to the securities industry into the "non-public" arbitrator pool makes no sense and will "harm the integrity of the arbitration process," according to the Public Investors Arbitration Bar Association (PIABA).
In order to promote already shaken investor confidence in arbitration, PIABA also urges that FINRA take steps to eliminate from the "public" pool of arbitrators all individuals with ties to the industry.
Available online at https://piaba.org, the PIABA comment letter submitted to the SEC regarding the rule change proposed by FINRA states: "While PIABA supports much of the proposed rule changes, it takes issue with proposed [changes] under which attorneys and other professionals who service investors in securities disputes would be prevented from serving as 'public' arbitrators. Such change would mark a radical departure from the historical logic of designating arbitrators as 'non-public' and 'public.'"
The PIABA letter to the SEC continues: "The categorization of a proposed arbitrator as 'public' or 'non-public' has always focused on the nature and extent of the individual's ties to the financial industry. The need to create the public and non-public pools was borne solely out of perceived bias on the part of the industry, and in the interest of protecting the investing public."
Attorney Jason R. Doss, president, PIABA, said: "We object to the proposed removal of certain attorneys, accountants and other professionals from the 'public arbitrator' classification. FINRA has not produced a single shred of evidence to support the notion that attorneys and other professionals who serve the investing public are biased either for or against the securities industry."
As the PIABA comment letter explains: "In short, placing arbitrators with no ties to the securities industry into the non-public pool makes no logical sense and would harm the integrity of the arbitration process because parties would not have accurate disclosure information to rely on in selecting arbitration panels. For example, in many cases parties prefer to include non-public arbitrators on arbitration panels because of their experience in the securities industry. Under FINRA's proposed rule change, arbitrators with no ties to or experience in the securities industry would be included in the non-public pool based on the mistaken belief that they have ties to the securities industry. Indeed, according to FINRA, arbitrator neutrality is the cornerstone of arbitration, and full and accurate disclosure of an arbitrator's background and potential conflicts is the only way to ensure arbitrator neutrality. This portion of FINRA's proposed rule would undermine its own stated goal."
The PIABA letter also states: "Investor confidence in the neutrality and fairness of the FINRA arbitration forum has always been the key motivation behind separating potential arbitrators into the 'public' and 'non-public' profiles. . The perception of industry bias - and the efforts necessary to dispel that perception - is even stronger of FINRA's arbitration services than of our judicial system. . PIABA applauds all efforts by FINRA to enforce its own goals of a neutral dispute resolution service and to combat both perceived and real bias within that service."
Public Investors Arbitration Bar Association is an international, not-for-profit, voluntary bar association of lawyers who represent claimants in securities and commodities arbitration proceedings and securities litigation. The mission of PIABA is to promote the interests of the public investor in securities and commodities arbitration, by seeking to protect such investors from abuses in the arbitration process, by seeking to make securities arbitration as just and fair as systemically possible, and by educating investors concerning their rights. For more information, go to www.piaba.org.
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