Investors alleging wrongdoing by their stockbrokers can choose to go to court or face an arbitration panel of three people, including one person from the brokerage industry and two from the public.
Some investors and their lawyers say the existence of an industry panelist on the arbitration panel is unfair.
For the next two years, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority will run a pilot program offering some investors the choice of having their cases heard by three people from the public, with no industry representative present.
Mary Schapiro, CEO of FINRA, said her agency will compare the results of the cases with those who have an industry representative.
We are going to try to measure it and understand what the differences are between all-public and nonpublic arbitrators, she said. We will survey the parties, look at how cases settle in the two different forums, and look at what customers opt for.
''A recent study released by the Securities Industry Conference on Arbitration found that most investors view the current securities arbitration forum as biased and unfair,'' Karen Tyler, president of the North American Securities Administrators Association, told The New York Times. ''Even without this pilot, we would hope that FINRA would agree that the immediate removal of the mandatory industry arbitrator is a critical step toward restoring investor confidence in the fairness of the securities arbitration process.''