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]]> Home | Message Board Home Search Arbitration Investors Brokers Finance Law Compliance Archives NASD Files “Perino Report” Amendments

Changes in Arbitrator Classification Proposed

Responding to the Perino Report, NASD seeks revisions on arbitrator disclosure and removal standards, plus it is narrowing its “public” and “non-public” arbitrator classifications. The amendments NASD proposes to Rules 10308 and 10312 parallel those we described in last week’s report on NYSE’s rule changes (SAA 03-22), but include as well changes to the standards that define “public” and “nonpublic” arbitrators. ]]>

As we indicated in SAA 03-22, Prof. Michael Perino’s November 2002 Report recommended that the SROs:

  • (1) amend their arbitration rules to emphasize that all conflict disclosures are mandatory;
  • (2) re-examine the current definitions of public and non-public arbitrators;
  • (3) provide greater transparency with respect to challenges for cause by including the cause standard in their rules; and
  • (4) sponsor independent research to evaluate the fairness of SRO arbitrations.

The NYSE rule proposal deals with the first and third of those recommendations, as those recommendations had been addressed by SICA, while the other two Perino recommendations, as of the NYSE filing (May 12) “are currently under consideration by SICA.” We saw no mention of SICA in the NASD submission, but it may be that SICA has met and acted in the interim.

In any case, NASD will now change Rules 10308 and 10312 to reflect identical standards for “cause” challenges and to clarify that arbitrator disclosures and due diligence requirements in Rule 10312 (a) and (b) are mandatory. The classification changes NASD plans to adopt will broaden the definition of a “non-public” arbitrator in Rule 10308 to include associated persons who have been out of the securities or commodities industry for up to five years (from 3) and those who, not only retired from the industry, but “spent a substantial part of a career” so engaged (“substantial” is not defined and, logically, it would seem to change over time, as one’s career lengthens).

The “public arbitrator” definition will be narrower, excluding, as before, those defined as “non-public,” their spouses and immediate family, while adding some important new exclusions. Investment advisers, the “buy side” are out (since they are not within the “non-public” definition, they fall between the two circles of inclusion). “Investment adviser” is not defined, so it will probably be broadly construed to include financial planners and others (trustees? tax and estate planners?) who recommend securities, whether or not state- or federally-registered.

Public arbitrators who work for companies that are outside the securities business, but service it will want to review this proposal carefully. If your company derives 10% or more of its annual revenue in the past 2 years” from industry sources, you may be out, too. The exclusion relates to “attorney, accountant, or other professional” employees, but “professional” is not defined. Picture a reporter from Bloomberg (assume Bloomberg earns 10% of its revenues from the industry). That reporter would appear to be ineligible to sit as either a “public” or “non-public” arbitrator, under the proposal, assuming one views a member of the media as a “professional” (ed: Query whether the Mayor is ineligible.) The same might be true of an analyst for ValueLine (although her research would be deemed “independent”). If one is an employee, but not a “professional” within such a firm, service as a “public” arbitrator appears permissible (i.e., to serve, one must not be a “professional”).

Finally, the rule change eliminates from the “public” ranks more arbitrators who are in families of “non-public” arbitrators. The “immediate family members” exclusion be broadened to encompass a “parent, stepparent, child, or stepchild,” regardless of residence, or a “member of the household.”

The rule change was submitted to the SEC on June 12 under File No. SR-NASD-2003-95. Comments may be submitted under that file number, until the SEC sets a comment deadline through publication in the Federal Register. (SAC Ed: NASD does not estimate in the rule filing how many arbitrators will be eliminated from its rolls by this change, but we recall hearing officials say it will not be many. That’s good, because 8,500 arbitrators may need to deal with 12,000 cases over the next year.) (SAC Ref. No. 2003-23-02)

  

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Copyright 2003 Securities Arbitration Commentator, Inc. P.O. Box 112, Maplewood, NJ 07040; t: 973-761-5880 f: 973-761-1504. Materials denoted with a SAC Reference No. (e.g. SAC Ref. No. 99-01-001) are on hand at SAC and may be obtained by calling the Securities Arbitration Commentator, or by email to help@sacarbitration.com. The Securities Arbitration Commentator is the leading publication for securities arbitration news and information, and maintains the most complete database of arbitration awards availalble anywhere. For more information regarding their services, visit their website at www.sacarbitration.com


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