FINRA amends hearing location rules.

Sometimes I wonder. FINRA is the organization responsible for administering the vast majority of the securities arbitrations in this country. One of the items FINRA decides is the location of the hearing. When I was a younger lawyer in New York (I’m still young), there were hearing venues in only a handful of locations, although we were grateful for Fort Lauderdale in the winter.

FINRA started adding venues within the last few years, in part as a reaction to some court decisions relating to the unenforceability of an arbitration agreement where there was no hearing venue within the state. FINRA now has hearing venues in all 50 states. I am currently scheduled for two hearings in Honolulu, Hawaii. It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it.

The weirdness comes, as the Hawaii cases show, when the customer lives outside the United States. The claimants in the Hawaii cases live in Australia, so Hawaii is the closest venue. I had a case where my client lived in Belgium. His broker was in Florida. He chose me, a lawyer in Florida, for that reason. FINRA set the case in New York City, the closest hearing venue to Belgium (I guess we’re lucky they didn’t set it for Portland, Maine, which I think is closer.)

FINRA, in announcing the recent amendment, used another example. If a customer lives in Hoboken, New Jersey, the hearing would have been set for New York City, because NYC is closer to Hoboken than Newark, the next closest venue. Of course, Newark is usually easier to get to than NYC if you’re trying a case. So FINRA has amended its rules to provide for the primary choice for venue to be in your own state instead of being a slave to Google maps.

At least I’ll always have Hawaii.

That’s the view of one lawyer from Jupiter, Palm Beach County, Florida. I’m Marc Dobin.

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