In an effort to avoid overcrowding the courts, judges and lawyers alike are recommending arbitration as a viable alternative to mediation or litigation. While any case can enter arbitration, this option is more successful if the case is fairly straightforward and the plaintiff and defendant are willing to talk things out. Instead of judges, arbitration hearings have panels that are typically composed of one-to-three arbitrators who are chosen by both sides.
The panel peruses the pleadings that were filed by the plaintiff and defendant before the arbitrators listen to any arguments. Documents can be submitted by either side's attorney, and a testimony can be given. Although the process is quite similar to a traditional trial, it is far less formal. For example, witnesses are not subject to perjury laws and related offenses since they do not have to swear an oath.
What Are The Advantages?
On average, arbitration cases are more expeditious than traditional trials, which can languish in the courts for years as cases are delayed and appeals are heard. From the time the initial claim is filed until the panel renders a decision, the average case takes a little over a year. The award issued by the panel is binding on all parties.
The main advantage of the process for plaintiffs is the speed, which generally results in much smaller legal fees. For the defendant, the fact that the decision is often confidential is imperative, since many of the defendants in these cases are companies that don't want their dirty laundry aired in public.
What Are The Disadvantages?
As we mentioned, the ruling or award of the panel is final. There are also fees associated with the process, which are determined by the size of the award and the number of hearings required to reach a decision.
Which Cases Are Eligible?
Any case that involves an individual investor and a person or entity that is registered with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) is eligible. Arbitration may also be an option for disputes that involve businesses. In most cases, however, the dispute is between an individual and his or her investor or brokerage house. The reason for this is simple: most investment firms now insist that their new clients settle any dispute they might have with them in arbitration, rather than in court. This clause is included in most contracts between investors and investment firms. Although the process is not necessarily less expensive for investment firms, they prefer it because it helps them avoid bad press.
Should The Plaintiff Hire An Attorney?
Just as with a regular trial, although it is possible to represent yourself in an arbitration hearing, it is not recommended. The company you'll be arguing against will almost certainly have an experienced attorney who knows the process on their side. Therefore, we strongly suggest you contact a securities arbitration attorney before you file your case.