Latest Neutral Corner from FINRA’s Office of Dispute Resolution Hits the Electronic Newsstand. Lead Article Describes Tips for Effective Mediation
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FINRA’s Office of Dispute Resolution (“ODR”) has once again posted the latest issue of its newsletter for arbitrators and mediators, The Neutral Corner (“TNC”), and as usual it is a link-rich resource for arbitrators, mediators and any parties and counsel participating in FINRA arbitrations.

Of special note in this issue, given the upcoming retirement of mediation program founder Ken Andrichik, is the feature article, “Ten Tips for an Effective Securities Mediation,” which is excerpted from the materials for the New York State Bar Association’s program, Securities Arbitration and Mediation 2018: Evolution (see SAA 2018-47 (Dec. 12)). In fact, the article’s sidebar features coverage of Mr. Andrichik’s retirement, which we reported in SAA 2018-38 (Oct 10). Another sidebar reports that Southeast Regional Director Manly Ray will assume the additional role of Director of Mediation effective January 9th.

Improving the Mediation Process

Authors attorneys James D. Yellen and Edward W. Larkin observe that “Securities mediation 30 years ago was an informal way to resolve disputes and save the expenses and unknowns of a hearing. The process evolved over time and has become more contentious and litigious, where both sides want to win. It does not have to be that way.” They offer these tips: 1) Mediate early. 2) Involve clients. 3) Prepare to mediate. 4) Mediation is not war. 5) When to mediate. 6) Mediator style and level of experience. 7) Parties control the process. 8) Mediation is less costly than arbitration. 9) Management support is essential. 10) Mediation without mediators (parties should also roll up their sleeves with their adversary and try to resolve the case on their own).

Reminders, Answers and Other News

This issue of the TNC also provides a number of news items, tips, and reminders (ed: excerpted verbatim): DR Portal Enhancements: Arbitrators can now submit the Initial Prehearing Conference Order directly through the DR Portal; if you need assistance updating your profile or submitting the Oath of Arbitrator in the DR Portal, the new how-to videos are here to help. FINRA Arbitrator Travel Policy: Among other changes, please note that arbitrators who stay with friends or relatives may be reimbursed up to $100 per stay for a token host gift (receipts required); however, gift cards and/or cash are not reimbursable. FINRA to Close Miami Hearing Location: FINRA [closed] the Miami hearing location as of January 1, 2019. Given the relatively short distance between Boca Raton and Miami and the underutilization of the hearing rooms in Boca Raton, FINRA decided to close its Miami hearing location. Current Miami cases will continue to conclusion in Miami, but all new cases will be assigned to Boca Raton. Results of the Tenth Annual Securities Dispute Resolution Triathlon (see SAA 2018-41 (Oct. 31)). Neutral Roster Demographic Survey Thank You: We look forward to publishing the 2018 results early next year. Diversity Symposium at New York Law School: On January 31, 2019, New York Law School and the American Arbitration Association will present a symposium on ADR and Diversity. NYCLA Program: 20th Annual FINRA Listens…and Speaks: On February 11 the New York County Lawyers’ Association will present the “20th Annual FINRA Listens…and Speaks” program.

Rule Change Status and Q&A

This TNC issue closes as usual with rulemaking and statistical updates, and arbitrator tips. Apropos of that, the TNC asks: “During an arbitration, parties representing themselves (pro se parties) will sometimes seek legal advice from the panel. While I understand that neither the panel nor FINRA staff can provide legal advice to any party," an arbitrator asks, "is there a legal resource available to pro se parties?” The answer is to refer them to a law school securities arbitration clinic. The Q&A section also describes the process for executing waivers of postponement fees and last-minute postponement fees. Finally, the TNC reminds arbitrators about the importance of disclosures: “arbitrators should review their disclosure reports regularly to ensure that all information is accurate and current. Even if arbitrators are not currently assigned to cases, their disclosure reports may be sent to parties in their hearing locations during arbitrator selection. Parties should have the most current and complete information about an arbitrator to make an informed decision when selecting arbitrators.”

(ed: *Wonder how constituents are taking news of the Miami hearing location closure? The cities are about 50 miles apart, and the trip on I-95 takes about an hour in favorable traffic conditions. **As we have said many times before (and, indeed, above), the TNC is a wonderful resource, not only for arbitrators and mediators, but for parties as well. Past issues may be found at http://www.finra.org/arbitration-and-mediation/previous-editions-neutral-corner.) (SAC Ref. No. 2019-01-01)

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