From the Regulators

Proposed changes aim to make the program work better for investors

By James Langton |

The U.S. Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) on Wednesday announced proposed changes to its arbitration program designed to make it work a bit better for investors.

FINRA issued two regulatory notices related to its arbitration program: a proposal to expand the options available to investors when filing a claim in arbitration against an inactive firm or associated person, and a second proposal related to non-attorney representatives that provide public investors an alternative to representation by lawyers in disputes between investors and firms.

The first proposal would allow customers to withdraw an arbitration claim, amend pleadings, postpone hearings, and receive a refund of filing fees, in cases where a firm is going out of business.

The proposals "… would allow customers to evaluate the likelihood of collecting on an award and make an informed decision about whether to proceed in arbitration, to file the claim in court or to amend his or her claim to add other respondents from whom the customer may be able to collect should the claim go to award," FINRA says in its announcement.

"The proposed amendment is intended to help further address the issue of unpaid customer arbitration awards by expanding the options available to customers," says Richard Berry, executive vice president, FINRA Office of Dispute Resolution, in a statement.

In the second proposal, FINRA is reviewing whether to continue to allow non-attorneys to represent customers in arbitration. While these firms may help clients with relatively small claims, "… some of the alleged inappropriate business practices reported to FINRA raise serious concerns," the FINRA announcement says.

"FINRA is committed to continuously reviewing its arbitration program to improve the quality of arbitration and ensure the integrity of the arbitration process," adds Berry.