Citywire (April 29, 2021) - David Meyer voiced strong opposition to FINRA's in-person hearing ban in a letter to Dispute Resolution Services director Richard Berry.

Public Investors Advocate Bar Association president David Meyer is fed up with FINRA’s ongoing ban on in-person arbitration hearings.

The attorney sent a letter earlier this week to FINRA executive vice president and director of Dispute Resolution Services Richard Berry pushing him to allow face-to-face hearings to resume, arguing that plaintiff investors are unfairly victimized by the moratorium, which the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority recently extended through July 1.

By delaying adjudication, he wrote, claimants like those represented by PIABA’s members are unable to ‘seek justice.’ They also stand unable to recover any funds they’ve allegedly lost.

Meyer took particular issue with the lack of transparency regarding what data criteria FINRA and its health consultant used to determine that in-person hearings still aren’t safe. He wrote that PIABA conducted its own analysis of court activity in 20 of FINRA’s largest hearing locations, finding ‘every single jurisdiction either is currently conducting in-person trials or will be doing so by July.’

If courts can safely conduct civil jury trials, he argued, FINRA can facilitate in-person hearings. He also pointed out that other dispute resolution forums have begun stirring back to life. JAMS, a private arbitration company, has been operating in-person in 22 of its 24 locations since June 2020 (it’s worth noting JAMS, as a private entity, had a financial incentive to reopen). The American Arbitration Association plans to resume in-person hearings this May.

Meyer also said that if in-person hearings don’t return, FINRA’s arbitration panels should approve 100 percent of claimants’ requests to arbitrate the case over Zoom or other video conferencing software. Currently, more than a third of such requests are denied.

‘Investors must be provided with a full and fair opportunity to present their cases,’ he wrote.

In a statement provided to InvestmentNews, Berry said: ‘With the increasing availability of COVID vaccines, FINRA Dispute Resolution Services is actively reviewing conditions in its hearing locations and expects to resume in-person hearings in at least some locations in the near future… The safety and well-being of parties, arbitrators, witnesses and other participants remains of paramount importance to us.”