By George H. Friedman, SAA Publisher & Editor-in-Chief
FINRA Dispute Resolution Services (“DRS”) has posted case statistics through September, with recent trends persisting. We offer these headlines: 1) overall arbitration filings through the third quarter – 1,955 cases – are down 15% for the year (but up from -17% in August); 2) cumulative customer claims declined by 19% (also up two tics from August); and 3) industry arbitration filings are down 7% (-11% in August). That all three case filing figures are slightly better than the previous month indicates to us that – for the third month in a row – arbitration filing declines have stabilized.
Overall arbitration turnaround times were 17.7 months, with hearing cases now taking 19.6 months (both figures are slight increases from the past two months). There were 465 mediation cases in agreement, a 109% increase (but down from May’s torrid plus 137% pace). The mediation settlement rate remains very high at 89%. There are now 8,448 DRS arbitrators, 4,061 public and 4,387 non-public. Pending cases stand at 3,344, a decline of 101 from May.
A Down Year Still in the Offing?
At the half-way mark we said: “If the trend holds, the 1,260 arbitrations filed through June straight-lines to only about 2,500 yearly arbitration filings, a weak year by any measure. Ten years ago, the 2012 stats showed 4,299 yearly arbitration cases filings. The all-time high water mark was 2003, when that post tech-wreck figure was 8,945 cases.” Our thinking? “[A]rbitration case filings are countercyclical to the capital markets. Translation: people fight when they lose money; not so much when they make money. This subject was covered in a 2020 blog post jointly-authored by your publisher and Rick Ryder, Esq., What’s Past is Prologue – All Over Again. What’s Ahead for Arbitration Filings in the Wake of Recent Volatility. The Alert offered this updated chart as further proof; of course, this year’s market volatility may ultimately impact filings.”
Where do thing stand now? Straight lining the 1,955 cases filed through September projects to 2,606 yearly case filings. But if the recent monthly increases persist, one can assume over 2,700 case filings – still a down year but not a record low.
(ed: *As we said before, it seems to us the rebound in customer claims will continue. This stat is a trailing indicator of market performance. **Past year stats can be found here.)