Finra will resume in-person arbitration proceedings across the country in August.
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc. announced Friday on its website that it would allow in-person hearings beginning Aug. 2 in Augusta, Georgia; Boca Raton, Florida; Buffalo; Detroit; Philadelphia; Providence, Rhode Island; and Wilmington, Delaware.
Those are the last seven jurisdictions where in-person proceedings had been suspended due to social distancing concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic. Last month, Finra announced that it would lift restrictions on in-person hearings as of July 5th in 62 of its 69 jurisdictions.
The broker-dealer self-regulator said at the time that it maintained the suspension in the seven jurisdictions due to public health conditions in each location. Those conditions have now improved to allow in-person arbitration. Over the last several weeks, the number of Americans who have become vaccinated against the coronavirus has increased, and the nation has begun to reopen.
Finra postponed in-person arbitration hearings when the pandemic began in March 2020. It continued to extend the suspension until it announced last month that it would ease restrictions.
The Public Investors Arbitration Bar Association, a group of lawyers who represent customers disputes with brokerages and registered representatives, sent a letter to Finra in late April asserting that the continued suspension of in-person hearings harmed investors.
In the letter, PIABA said its review of Finra’s 20 largest arbitration jurisdictions showed that courts in those areas were conducting in-person trials or would do so by July.
PIABA President David Meyer said he was pleased the seven remaining jurisdictions are now being reopened.
“The extended shutdown prevented injured investors from seeking justice,” Meyer, managing principal at Meyer Wilson Co., said in a statement. “I appreciate that Finra considered our analysis and made the right decision to restart hearings. Finra acted quickly after receiving our analysis and our membership appreciates the efforts Finra made to get us back in the hearing rooms.”
Finra operates the arbitration system that adjudicates disputes between customers and firms and registered representatives. During the pandemic, Finra offered arbitration parties the option of conducting remote hearings via a conference call or Zoom.
When it announced the initial reopening of in-person proceedings, Finra said arbitration parties can continue to request a remote hearing. Remote hearings have received mixed reviews from lawyers but could become part of a new normal in arbitration after the pandemic recedes.
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