Mediation is an informal and flexible dispute resolution process. The mediator's role is to guide the parties toward their own resolution. Through joint sessions and separate caucuses with parties, the mediator helps both sides define the issues clearly, understand each other's position and move closer to resolution.
Most often, mediations start with a joint session used to set the ground rules and an agenda. The joint session also helps define the issues and determines the parties' positions.
Generally, during the process, parties move to separate caucuses. The mediator will carry messages—offers, counter offers, questions, demands, and proposals—between both sides to help the parties move closer to resolution.
FINRA mediators have subject-matter expertise, so that parties may select a mediator who is knowledgeable in the areas of controversy that are the subject of the dispute. Thus, mediators can often give each side an expert, yet unbiased, view of the strengths and weaknesses of the case overall. They may also discuss with the parties what might happen if the dispute does not settle.
The mediator has no authority to decide the settlement or even compel the parties to settle. Mediation is non-binding, until parties agree on a resolution. If the matter does not settle, the claimant has preserved the right to pursue arbitration.
A typical mediation progresses through the following stages: