Coronavirus Impact on Arbitration & Mediation Hearings
Richard W. Berry
FINRA Executive Vice President and Director of Dispute Resolution Services
Holding In-Person Arbitration Hearings and Mediations Safely
Status: Effective August 2, 2021, all FINRA DRS hearing locations are open for in-person proceedings.
Vaccination Requirement for In-Person Participants
Effective October 4, 2021 through July 1, 20221, all in-person participants, including arbitrators, mediators, counsel, parties, paralegals, witnesses, and others must be fully vaccinated2 to attend FINRA Dispute Resolution Services arbitration hearings or mediation sessions (hearing).
- From October 4, 2021 through November 19, in-person attendees may, in lieu of being fully vaccinated, provide proof of a negative PCR test within 72 hours of the start of the hearing, and every 72 hours during the course of the hearing.
- In-person participants who attest that there are circumstances that prevent them from being vaccinated can attend the hearing virtually or provide proof of a negative PCR test within 72 hours of the start of the hearing, and every 72 hours during the course of the hearing. All costs associated with COVID testing or virtual attendance are the responsibility of the party with an in-person participant who has indicated that there are circumstances that prevent them from being vaccinated.
Safety Protocol for In-Person Hearings
FINRA DRS is committed to taking measures to ensure each hearing location is safe for the hearing participants. FINRA DRS is reviewing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance and consulting with public health experts to determine the appropriate safety protocols at each hearing venue. Details on the exact safety protocols that will be in place for hearings will be sent to parties and arbitrators in advance of scheduled hearing dates. These protocols may include:
- Hearings held in venues large enough to allow social distancing;
- Hand sanitizer provided in each room;
- Masks for all in-person participants and arrangements made to provide masks to participants who do not have them;
- Plexiglas dividers and face shields provided in the event that testifying witnesses must remove their masks; and
- In-person participants provided with information on best practices when traveling to and attending the hearing.
1 This date is subject to change as health and safety conditions warrant.
2 Counsel will file an attestation with their FINRA case administrator that they are fully vaccinated and that all of their parties, paralegals, witnesses, etc. are fully vaccinated. Arbitrators and mediators will also be required to file the attestation.