Securities Arbitration: FINRA arbitration, mediation, dispute resolution

This guide offers a comprehensive overview of securities arbitration and mediation, highlighting FINRA's procedures and regulations, and providing investors and financial professionals with efficient alternatives to traditional litigation in the financial industry.


Securities arbitration and mediation are critical components of the dispute resolution process in the financial industry. These mechanisms provide investors and financial professionals with alternatives to traditional litigation, offering more efficient and cost-effective means to resolve disputes. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) plays a central role in administering these processes. This guide provides a comprehensive overview of securities arbitration, mediation, and dispute resolution, focusing on FINRA's procedures and regulations.

What is Securities Arbitration?

Definition and Purpose

Securities arbitration is a method of resolving disputes between investors and brokerage firms or individual brokers. Unlike traditional court litigation, arbitration involves a neutral third party or panel that reviews the evidence and makes a binding decision. The primary purpose of securities arbitration is to provide a faster, less formal, and more cost-effective resolution to disputes.

The legal framework for securities arbitration is established by various federal laws and regulations, including:

  • Securities Exchange Act of 1934: This act provides the foundation for the regulation of securities transactions and the establishment of self-regulatory organizations (SROs) like FINRA.
  • Federal Arbitration Act (FAA): The FAA supports the enforceability of arbitration agreements and awards, ensuring that arbitration is a viable alternative to litigation.

For more information, refer to the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and the Federal Arbitration Act.

FINRA Arbitration

Overview of FINRA

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) is a self-regulatory organization that oversees brokerage firms and their registered representatives. FINRA's mission is to protect investors and ensure the integrity of the securities markets. One of FINRA's key functions is to administer the arbitration and mediation processes for resolving disputes in the securities industry.

Arbitration Process

Initiating Arbitration

The arbitration process begins when a party files a Statement of Claim with FINRA. The Statement of Claim outlines the nature of the dispute, the parties involved, and the relief sought. The claimant must also pay a filing fee, which varies based on the amount of the claim.

Selection of Arbitrators

Once the claim is filed, FINRA provides a list of potential arbitrators to the parties. The parties can strike and rank the arbitrators based on their preferences. FINRA then appoints a panel of arbitrators, typically consisting of one to three members, depending on the size and complexity of the case.

Pre-Hearing Procedures

Before the hearing, the parties engage in discovery, exchanging relevant documents and information. FINRA's Discovery Guide outlines the types of documents that parties are expected to produce. Pre-hearing conferences may also be held to address procedural issues and set a schedule for the case.

For more information on discovery, refer to FINRA's Discovery Guide.

The Hearing

The arbitration hearing is similar to a court trial but less formal. Both parties present their evidence and arguments to the arbitrators. Witnesses may be called to testify, and cross-examination is allowed. The arbitrators may ask questions and request additional information as needed.

The Award

After the hearing, the arbitrators deliberate and issue a written decision, known as an award. The award is binding on the parties and can include monetary damages, interest, and other forms of relief. The arbitrators are not required to provide a rationale for their decision unless both parties request an explained decision.

For more information on the arbitration process, visit FINRA's Arbitration Overview.


Definition and Purpose

Mediation is a voluntary process in which a neutral mediator helps the parties negotiate a mutually acceptable resolution to their dispute. Unlike arbitration, mediation is non-binding, meaning the mediator does not have the authority to impose a decision. The primary purpose of mediation is to facilitate communication and settlement between the parties.

Mediation Process

Initiating Mediation

Mediation can be initiated by mutual agreement of the parties or suggested by FINRA as an alternative to arbitration. To begin the process, the parties must submit a Mediation Submission Agreement to FINRA.

Selection of Mediator

FINRA provides a list of qualified mediators from which the parties can choose. The mediator is selected based on the parties' preferences and the nature of the dispute. The mediator's role is to facilitate discussions and help the parties explore settlement options.

Mediation Sessions

Mediation sessions are informal and confidential. The mediator meets with the parties jointly and separately to understand their positions and interests. The mediator may suggest potential solutions and help the parties negotiate a settlement. The goal is to reach a mutually acceptable agreement without the need for arbitration or litigation.

Settlement Agreement

If the parties reach a settlement, they draft a written agreement outlining the terms. The settlement agreement is binding and enforceable in court. If mediation is unsuccessful, the parties can proceed to arbitration or litigation.

For more information on the mediation process, visit FINRA's Mediation Overview.

Dispute Resolution Mechanisms

Comparison of Arbitration and Mediation

Binding vs. Non-Binding

One of the key differences between arbitration and mediation is that arbitration results in a binding decision, while mediation is non-binding. In arbitration, the arbitrators' award is final and enforceable, whereas in mediation, the parties must voluntarily agree to the settlement terms.

Formality and Flexibility

Arbitration is more formal than mediation, with structured procedures and rules. Mediation is more flexible, allowing the parties to control the process and explore creative solutions. The informality of mediation can make it a more attractive option for parties seeking a collaborative resolution.

Time and Cost

Both arbitration and mediation are generally faster and less expensive than traditional litigation. However, mediation can be quicker and more cost-effective than arbitration, as it involves fewer procedural steps and does not require a formal hearing.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Advantages of Arbitration

  • Binding Decision: Provides a final resolution to the dispute.
  • Expert Arbitrators: Arbitrators with industry expertise can better understand complex securities issues.
  • Confidentiality: Arbitration proceedings are private, protecting sensitive information.

Disadvantages of Arbitration

  • Limited Appeal Rights: The grounds for appealing an arbitration award are very narrow.
  • Costs: While generally less expensive than litigation, arbitration can still be costly, especially for complex cases.

Advantages of Mediation

  • Voluntary and Collaborative: Encourages cooperation and mutual agreement.
  • Flexibility: Allows for creative and customized solutions.
  • Cost-Effective: Typically less expensive than arbitration and litigation.

Disadvantages of Mediation

  • Non-Binding: If no agreement is reached, the dispute remains unresolved.
  • No Guarantee of Settlement: Success depends on the willingness of the parties to compromise.

FINRA Rules and Regulations

FINRA's arbitration and mediation processes are governed by a set of rules and regulations designed to ensure fairness and transparency. Key rules include:

  • FINRA Code of Arbitration Procedure: This code outlines the procedures for initiating and conducting arbitration, including rules on filing claims, selecting arbitrators, and conducting hearings.
  • FINRA Code of Mediation Procedure: This code provides guidelines for the mediation process, including the selection of mediators and the conduct of mediation sessions.

For more information, refer to the FINRA Code of Arbitration Procedure and the FINRA Code of Mediation Procedure.

Federal and State Laws

In addition to FINRA's rules, securities arbitration and mediation are subject to federal and state laws. Key federal laws include the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and the Federal Arbitration Act. State laws may also impact the enforceability of arbitration agreements and the conduct of mediation.

Recent Developments

Recent legislative and regulatory developments have focused on enhancing investor protections and addressing issues related to mandatory arbitration clauses. For example, there have been proposals to limit or repeal mandatory arbitration clauses in brokerage agreements, allowing investors more choice in how they resolve disputes.

For more information on recent developments, refer to the Order Approving a Proposed Rule Change To Amend the FINRA.


Securities arbitration and mediation are essential tools for resolving disputes in the financial industry. FINRA's arbitration and mediation processes provide investors and financial professionals with efficient and effective alternatives to traditional litigation. Understanding the procedures, advantages, and regulatory considerations of these dispute resolution mechanisms is crucial for navigating the complexities of the securities market.

For further information and resources, visit the following official links:

This guide aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of securities arbitration, mediation, and dispute resolution, empowering investors and financial professionals to make informed decisions and effectively navigate the dispute resolution process.

About the author
Von Wooding, Esq.

Von Wooding, Esq.

Lawyer and Founder

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