By George H. Friedman, SAA Publisher & Editor-in-Chief
FINRA Dispute Resolution Services (“DRS”) has posted case statistics through June, with most trends persisting. We offer these headlines: 1) overall arbitration filings through the year’s half-way point – 1,260 cases – are down 18% (had been down 16% last month); 2) cumulative customer claims declined by 23% (had been minus 22%); 3) industry arbitration filings are down 9% (had been down 6% through May); 4) mediation cases continue to run ahead of 2021, but have slowed down a bit; and 5) pending cases continue to decrease.
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 in the Offing?
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. The trend in recent years backs up our belief that arbitration 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 offers this updated chart as further proof; of course, this year’s market volatility may ultimately impact filings.
(ed: *Breach of Reg BI made it into “Top 15 Controversy Types in Customer Arbitrations” with 54 claims, ranking this category number 13. **Hearing processing times ticked up a bit again through June, after decreasing earlier this year. We will keep an eye on this one, since we continue to wonder if the resumption of in-person hearings almost a year ago in August 2021 is somehow linked to this stat. Common sense tells us it is easier to schedule and attend virtual hearings, than those conducted in-person. ***Past year stats can be found here. ****An Alert h/t to former DRS Neutral Roster chief Barbara Brady, for suggesting that we compare this year’s arbitration filings to past years.)