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Coronavirus Impact on Disciplinary Hearings

OHO currently offers an option for hearings by videoconferencing, which enables all parties and witnesses to see, hear, and communicate with the Hearing Panel while safely participating in the hearing from their homes or offices. OHO provides technical support to all parties and has prepared a Virtual Hearing Guide for All Parties and three FINRA Office of Hearing Officers instructional videos on:

Zoom Basics for Disciplinary Hearings

How to Set Up Your Environment for Virtual Disciplinary Hearings

Effective Zoom Practices for Disciplinary Hearings

Parties that are interested in exploring this option are encouraged to contact the OHO Case Administrator assigned to their proceedings for details.

One Location for Safe In-Person Hearings

Until further notice, OHO will conduct all in-person hearings in one location in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. As OHO considers when to allow in-person hearings to resume, it has partnered with public health experts to develop criteria to help inform where the public health conditions are conducive to safe participation for all. In addition, OHO is monitoring the impact of state and local government restrictions on parties and activities within their jurisdictions. Consolidating hearings in a single location enables OHO to ensure that the resumption of in-person hearings is consistent with local public health conditions and state and local government requirements and provide a venue that can support the appropriate health and safety protocols.

Safety Protocols for In-Person Hearings

Approximately six weeks prior to the commencement of each hearing, in consultation with public health experts, OHO will assess the public health conditions in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area and communicate with hearing participants about whether the location’s conditions could enable the hearing to proceed in person. For in-person hearings that could proceed, this timeline will provide hearing participants with adequate notice to manage travel arrangements and prepare for the hearing accordingly.

Following OHO’s initial communication with hearing participants, OHO will continue to consult with its public health experts to review the public health conditions for the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. 

OHO will communicate regularly with hearing participants regarding the status of their hearings and any change in the public health conditions in the hearing location. In all cases, the availability of a location for an in-person hearing does not preclude OHO from conducting the hearing by videoconference.

OHO is committed to taking measures at each hearing to ensure that the venue is safe for the hearing participants. In consultation with public health experts, OHO is implementing safety protocols at its hearing venue. These protocols will be communicated to the hearing participants when an in-person hearing is scheduled, and include the following:

  • Hearings will be held in venues large enough to allow social distancing;
  • Cleaning and sanitizing stations will be provided in each room, and each room will be equipped with adequate trash receptacles and tissues;
  • Masks will be required for all participants and arrangements will be made to provide masks to participants who do not have them;
  • Plexiglas dividers will be in place for testifying witnesses so they can remove their masks;
  • A safety officer will be designated for each hearing to ensure that participants are adhering to safety protocols;
  • Each hearing room will be equipped with microphones to ensure that all hearing participants can hear each other;
  • The Hearing Officers will allow parties who are not testifying to communicate with their counsel by electronic means during the questioning of other witnesses;
  • OHO will ensure that lunch options are available to hearing participants in the vicinity of the hearing room; and
  • Each participant will be required daily to complete a written health questionnaire certifying that they have not tested positive for COVID-19 and do not have symptoms related to COVID-19, and to the best of their knowledge, they have not been exposed to someone who has tested positive for or shown any symptoms of COVID-19 within the two weeks preceding the hearing.