Nearly one out of three investor awards in arbitration cases overseen by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority go unpaid, alleges a new report by the Public Investors Arbitration Bar Association last week.
The group—a not-for-profit association of lawyers representing claimants in securities and commodities arbitration proceedings and litigation—claims that “nearly $1 of every $4 awarded to investors in arbitration hearings goes unpaid.”
“There’s a reason why the self-regulatory organization FINRA does not publish data about investors hit with unpaid arbitration awards,” a statement by the group says. “Allowing one in three awards to go unpaid is unconscionable. FINRA’s cures: barring from the industry those who fail to pay awards, and notifying claimants that they can pursue actions in court against former FINRA members, have failed to cure, or put a meaningful dent in, the problem.”
The PIABA report analyzes several possible remedies, suggesting an industry-financed “National Recovery Pool” as a meaningful consideration. Such a pool, it claims, would cost less than $100 per registered representative in the U.S. and less than fifty cents per investor. “Not only could a substantial portion of the pool be funded by FINRA’s annual net income (profit), but it should be noted that FINRA’s net worth is staggering,” the report says. “FINRA’s 2014 Annual Financial Report revealed that the regulator maintains a net worth of $1.474 billion. While PIABA recognizes that a portion of FINRA’s operating expenses are defrayed thanks to the earnings on that portfolio, it bears repeating that a non-profit regulator bears a net worth of nearly $1.5 billion, yet dedicates none of the principal or interest to ensuring that aggrieved investors collect the awards due them as a result of the wrongful conduct of its members.”
Other suggested remedies include: expanding Securities Investor Protection Corporation coverage, increasing net capital requirements, and imposing insurance requirements.
For the report, PIABA researchers pulled every arbitration award issued in 2013. Awards issued in industry-only disputes were removed, leaving 836 awards issued in customer cases. Narrowing the results to awards issued in favor of investors, PIABA found 225 awards in which some amount of damages was awarded. The FINRA task force report stated that there were 75 awards issued in 2013 that went unpaid.