Finra's head of arbitration to retire in November

Linda Fienberg departs the regulator after putting in place several modifications to its dispute resolution forum

Sep 3, 2014 @ 5:06 pm

By Mason Braswell

The head of Finra's arbitration forum, Linda Fienberg, plans to step down at the end of November, according to an announcement made by the regulator on Wednesday.

Ms. Fienberg, 72, has worked at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc. since 1996. She helped usher in a number of rule changes to the arbitration process during her tenure, including a number of highly publicized efforts to put more public arbitrators on the regulator's three-person arbitration panel.

"We have been fortunate to have Linda with us for the last 18 years,” said Richard Ketchum, Finra's chief executive. “Linda leaves us with a lasting legacy of excellence, and she has my sincerest appreciation for her years of service, dedication and leadership."

Ms. Fienberg made $921,032 in 2013, according to Finra's annual report. She was set to make at least $819,700 in 2014, not including the roughly $100,000 of deferred compensation and other benefits that were factored into the 2013 total.

Finra did not name a successor to lead the arbitration forum, which has around 6,300 arbitrators. However, a search is under way for a replacement, according to Finra spokeswoman Nancy Condon.

Some of the more recent reforms under Ms. Fienberg include a 13-member arbitration task force that Finra announced in July. The regulator said it had created a committee to audit the process and help improve transparency, impartiality and efficiency. She also led an effort to run a background check and put in place new procedures to vet panelists for possible biases.

George Friedman, who worked under Ms. Fienberg as director of Finra arbitration from 1998 to 2013, said that those efforts would probably not be affected by her resignation.

“My guess is the task force will serve to inform the new leadership,” Mr. Friedman said. “And I'm sure she'll be really active in her retirement.”

He said that whoever inherits the role of overseeing the forum will be stepping in at an important time with some key rule proposals awaiting SEC approval, including one that could limit Wall Street veterans' ability to serve on arbitration panels.

In addition, as part of Dodd-Frank, the SEC will also have the option of reviewing whether to do away with the mandatory arbitration clauses that require brokerage customers to arbitrate disputes rather than litigate them.

“Doing nothing is not an option” for the SEC, Mr. Friedman said. “I think eventually the commission wants to do something, whether it's a study or something beyond that.”

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