Arbitrator's Briefing Sheet
The following is intended as a brief reminder of the duties and obligations of FINRA arbitrators. It is neither an exhaustive list nor is it a substitute for the Code of Arbitration Procedure.
As a FINRA Dispute Resolution arbitrator, you should:
- Decline to serve on cases unless you can be fair to the parties and available to conduct the arbitration promptly.
This includes your impartiality and neutrality to all parties throughout a proceeding. You must be impartial in both appearance and in fact.
A major goal of arbitration is the prompt resolution of disputes. At the time of appointment, arbitrators should be certain that they have the time required to hear and decide the controversy in a timely manner.
- Disclose any circumstances that might prevent you from making an impartial determination or might create an appearance of bias.
Your duty to disclose is ongoing. It relates to the subject matter in dispute, and to existing or past, direct or indirect, financial, personal, business, and professional relationships with any of the parties, representatives, witnesses, or your co-panelists. This duty requires that you make a reasonable effort to inform yourself of these relationships or interests. Accordingly, you must review carefully the filed pleadings and the witness lists.
Your ongoing duty to disclose includes changes in your employment, job functions, or clients since these facts can result in a change to your classification as a public or non-public arbitrator.
- Observe FINRA's guidelines with regard to reimbursement for expenses.
FINRA has strict guidelines with regard to reimbursement for your expenses as an arbitrator for our forum. These written guidelines can be obtained from the staff member assigned to your case and should be adhered to.
- Prepare for prehearing conferences and evidentiary hearings.
Proper preparation requires that you review the Code of Arbitration and procedural guidelines such as the FINRA Discovery Guide for customer cases, the Initial Prehearing Conference Script (IPHC)& IPHC Scheduling Order, and the Hearing Procedure Script before a prehearing conference or evidentiary hearing. These and other procedural tools will be included in your case packet. If any of these documents are missing, ask assigned staff to provide them to you. We also recommend that you re-review the Arbitrator's Guide.
Proper preparation requires that you review all filed claims, answers, specific motions, and responsive papers prior to all conferences and hearings.
- Conduct fair and impartial prehearing conferences and evidentiary hearings.
It is up to the arbitrators to set the tone for all conferences and hearings at the outset (i.e., presentation of evidence and witnesses, civility of participants, break times, etc.)
The prehearing and hearing scripts were designed and created to facilitate the process and should be used to the greatest extent possible.
It is important that all evidence is appropriately and clearly marked.
The Code requires that hearings be recorded. Arbitrators are responsible for tape recording the hearings and ascertaining – throughout the proceeding -- that the recorder is functioning properly. Appropriate arrangements must be made to have the tapes clearly marked and returned to the staff (together with the recorder) at the conclusion of each block of hearings.
All scheduling orders -- or orders of any kind – must be completed fully and accurately and returned to the assigned staff.
Your duty to conduct fair conferences and hearings requires that you permit all parties a full and fair opportunity to be heard on all procedural and substantive issues in dispute.
Arbitrators must avoid comments, questions, facial expressions, or other body language that might convey bias during conferences and hearings.
- Decide all important issues.
Arbitrators have a duty to participate in making final and binding decisions in regard to all important procedural issues, all properly submitted claims, and costs.
Arbitrators are authorized to refer the conduct of FINRA member firms, or individuals associated with those firms, for possible disciplinary action after the conclusion of any case.
- Maintain Proper Post-Hearing Conduct.
Such conduct includes rendering your award within 30 days after the hearings are closed.
Although FINRA awards are made publicly available, all matters relating to the arbitration (including the pleadings, motions, evidence, and panel deliberations) are confidential.
Arbitrators generally enjoy quasi-judicial privilege for their deliberations and thought processes. However, discussing the basis for the panel's award to an outside party, may waive this immunity for all arbitrators. If arbitrators are questioned about a case, or asked to testify or to sign an affidavit, the assigned staff should be contacted immediately.
Your service as a FINRA arbitrator is highly valued and appreciated. Thank you for your cooperation.