Financial Advisor (October 24, 2017) - Attorney Andrew Stoltmann is roaring into the top spot at the Public Investors Arbitration Bar Association with an aggressive agenda that includes reforming arbitration, improving awards collection and preventing the Securities and Exchange Commission from watering down the Department of Labor (DOL) fiduciary rule.

“This is a tipping point because literally every single material protection for investors is at issue and is in peril right now,” new PIABA President Stoltmann told Financial Advisor magazine. “We have a watchdog out there (the SEC) that might gut the most important rule for investors in decades so it’s going to be an extraordinarily important year,” says Stoltmann.

The veteran investor attorney and founder of Chicago-based Stoltmann Law Offices P.C. has taken on leading Wall Street and brokerage firms including Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, LPL Financial and UBS during the 1,000 plus arbitration cases he has handled for investors.

Top priorities on Stoltmann’s agenda for 2017-2018 include:

• Establishing an unpaid arbitration award pool for investors who go through the Finra arbitration process and don't collect. A 2016 PIABA study found that 25 percent of the awards to investors issued in 2013 went unpaid. Finra has not made substantive progress implementing any of the possible solutions PIABA outlined and millions of dollars go unpaid to investors every year.

• Preventing the SEC from watering down the fiduciary duty rule for investors. The Department of Labor fiduciary duty rule is in peril of being weakened or gutted and this is an unacceptable outcome given the retirement crisis facing millions of investors. Protecting the current rule is of utmost importance.

• Solving the CRD expungement issue. Prior to hiring a broker, Finra encourages investors to use BrokerCheck to try to learn about a broker’s background. Unfortunately, brokers whose misconduct forms the basis of other investors’ Finra arbitration claims often have publicly available disclosures about their misconduct removed from their background in the CRD database. The expungements then give the appearance that those brokers have a "clean" history, when in fact they may have dozens of customer complaints.

• Expanding the pool of Finra arbitrators by allowing more people to be arbitrators. Right now, Finra restrictively only allows people with five years of relevant work experience and two years of college attendance to become Finra arbitrators. This requirement prevents millions of qualified people from being arbitrators, thereby making it more difficult for investors to have a true "jury of their peers" deciding their case.

• Banning non-attorney representation at Finra. Unfortunately, Finra's Arbitration Code allows for non-attorneys to argue cases on behalf of investors. A simple code change by Finra could preclude these unqualified entities from operating in its forum and often taking advantage of investors a second time.

• Ensuring Finra is accountable as a self-regulatory organization. Finra operates in a somewhat unique position of a private entity which is functionally a governmental regulator. There must be adequate oversight to ensure Finra does not fail in its delegated duties and investors have confidence in its ability to fully and fairly fulfill its obligations.