As a result of a couple high profile awards that were overturned because of issues with the arbitrators, FINRA has vetted its pool of arbitrators and has instituted new procedures to review arbitrators. Should you feel any better that this has happened?
Having defended broker-dealers and registered representatives over 16 years, I have, at times, seen the underbelly of FINRA’s arbitrators. My hope is that FINRA’s routine Internet searches of its arbitrators and using social security numbers to verify information about arbitrators will reveal bias or other issues that may warrant FINRA removing the arbitrator from its pool.
FINRA’s goal of having a well-qualified and non-biased pool of arbitrators should appeal to both claimants and respondents, assuming the ultimate goal is to obtain a fair result. This, however, should not be the end of your analysis.
Arbitration practitioners should always do their own due diligence before selecting a panel. It is amazing what a simple Internet search can reveal.
For example, Internet searches may reveal prior litigation involving the arbitrator. You may also find articles written by the arbitrator or news stories quoting the arbitrators.
FINRA has taken the first step in ensuring that the parties have good panels. That due diligence is the floor; all practitioners must do their own independent research before selection a panel, or your clients may suffer the consequences for your failure to do so.
* photo from freedigitalphotos.net