The SEC recently approved FINRA’s proposed new rule changes to the definitions of public arbitrator (FINRA Rules 12100(u) and 13100(u)) and non-public arbitrator (FINRA Rules 12100(p) and 13100(p)), after receiving over 300 comment letters in addition to two letters from FINRA responding to the comment letters. The new rule significantly limits the pool of potential public arbitrators by, chiefly, permanently disqualifying any person who worked in the financial industry from being a public arbitrator. FINRA believes that this and other changes to the definitions of public and non-public arbitrators, as discussed below, address both investor and industry concerns about perceived bias and arbitrator neutrality.
In the recent decision, Goldman Sachs & Co. v. Golden Empire Sch. Fin. Auth., 764 F.3d 210 (2d Cir. 2014), the Second Circuit held that nearly-identical forum selection clauses in broker-dealer agreements between the broker-dealers/underwriters of auction rate securities (“ARS”) and the public financing authorities who issued the ARS superseded the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc. (“FINRA”) rule mandating arbitration between a customer and member. In so holding, the Second Circuit potentially has opened an avenue for firms seeking to litigate – rather than arbitrate – customer disputes subject to FINRA’s mandatory arbitration rule.