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Notice

Self-Regulatory Organizations; Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc.; Notice of Filing of Proposed Rule Change To Amend the Codes of Arbitration Procedure To Provide for Attorney Representation of Non-Party Witnesses in Arbitration

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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Start Preamble February 16, 2010.

Pursuant to Section 19(b)(1) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Act”) [1] and Rule 19b-4 thereunder,[2] notice is hereby given that on January 22, 2010, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc. (“FINRA”) (f/k/a National Association of Securities Dealers, Inc. (“NASD”)) filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC” or “Commission”) the proposed rule change as described in Items I, II, and III below, which Items have been substantially prepared by FINRA. The Commission is publishing this notice to solicit comments on the proposed rule change from interested persons.

I. Self-Regulatory Organization's Statement of the Terms of Substance of the Proposed Rule Change

FINRA is proposing to amend Rule 12602 of the Code of Arbitration Procedure for Customer Disputes (“Customer Code”) and Rule 13602 of the Code of Arbitration Procedure for Industry Disputes (“Industry Code”) (together, “Codes”) to provide that a non-party witness may be represented by an attorney at an arbitration hearing while the witness is testifying.

The text of the proposed rule change is available on FINRA's Web site at http://www.finra.org, at the principal office of FINRA and at the Commission's Public Reference Room.

II. Self-Regulatory Organization's Statement of the Purpose of, and Statutory Basis for, the Proposed Rule Change

In its filing with the Commission, FINRA included statements concerning Start Printed Page 8170the purpose of and basis for the proposed rule change and discussed any comments it received on the proposed rule change. The text of these statements may be examined at the places specified in Item IV below. FINRA has prepared summaries, set forth in sections A, B, and C below, of the most significant aspects of such statements.

A. Self-Regulatory Organization's Statement of the Purpose of, and Statutory Basis for, the Proposed Rule Change

1. Purpose

FINRA is proposing to amend Rules 12602 and 13602 of the Codes to provide that a non-party witness has the right to be represented by an attorney at an arbitration proceeding held in a United States hearing location while the witness is testifying. The attorney would have to be in good standing and admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States or the highest court of any State of the United States, the District of Columbia, or any commonwealth, territory, or possession of the United States, unless State law prohibits such representation. Under the proposed rule change, the panel would determine the extent to which the attorney could participate at the hearing.

The Codes expressly allow a party to be represented at any stage in an arbitration proceeding.[3] They do not address representation of a non-party witness. FINRA believes that a non-party witness should be entitled to be represented by an attorney while he or she is testifying. Currently, under the Codes, the arbitration panel determines if a non-party witness' attorney may attend a hearing.[4] A non-party witness may testify at a hearing: (1) Voluntarily; (2) pursuant to a subpoena; [5] or (3) in compliance with an arbitrator's order for an associated person to appear and give testimony.[6]

While the proposed rule change would apply to all non-party witnesses, in many instances when a non-party is testifying at a FINRA arbitration hearing, the non-party witness is an associated person who handled the customer claimant's account, but was not named as a respondent in the case. Under the current Codes, the arbitrators determine whether an associated person can bring an attorney to a hearing. FINRA does not believe that arbitrators have been denying requests by non-party witnesses to be represented by counsel while testifying; nevertheless, to assure due process in its dispute resolution forum, FINRA believes that the Codes should expressly provide that a non-party witness is entitled to be represented by an attorney while testifying.

2. Statutory Basis

FINRA believes that the proposed rule change is consistent with the provisions of Section 15A(b)(6) of the Act,[7] which requires, among other things, that FINRA rules must be designed to prevent fraudulent and manipulative acts and practices, to promote just and equitable principles of trade, and, in general, to protect investors and the public interest. The proposed rule change is consistent with FINRA's statutory obligations under the Act to protect investors and the public interest because the proposal would enhance fairness in the arbitration process by ensuring that a non-party witness may be represented by counsel during his or her testimony.

B. Self-Regulatory Organization's Statement on Burden on Competition

FINRA does not believe that the proposed rule change will result in any burden on competition that is not necessary or appropriate in furtherance of the purposes of the Act.

C. Self-Regulatory Organization's Statement on Comments on the Proposed Rule Change Received From Members, Participants, or Others

Written comments were neither solicited nor received.

III. Date of Effectiveness of the Proposed Rule Change and Timing for Commission Action

Within 35 days of the date of publication of this notice in the Federal Register or within such longer period (i) as the Commission may designate up to 90 days of such date if it finds such longer period to be appropriate and publishes its reasons for so finding or (ii) as to which the self-regulatory organization consents, the Commission will:

(A) By order approve such proposed rule change, or

(B) Institute proceedings to determine whether the proposed rule change should be disapproved.

IV. Solicitation of Comments

Interested persons are invited to submit written data, views and arguments concerning the foregoing, including whether the proposed rule change is consistent with the Act. Comments may be submitted by any of the following methods:

Electronic Comments

Paper Comments

  • Send paper comments in triplicate to Elizabeth M. Murphy, Secretary, Securities and Exchange Commission, 100 F Street, NE., Washington, DC 20549-1090.

All submissions should refer to File Number SR-FINRA-2010-006. This file number should be included on the subject line if e-mail is used. To help the Commission process and review your comments more efficiently, please use only one method. The Commission will post all comments on the Commission's Internet Web site (http://www.sec.gov/​rules/​sro.shtml). Copies of the submission, all subsequent amendments, all written statements with respect to the proposed rule change that are filed with the Commission, and all written communications relating to the proposed rule change between the Commission and any person, other than those that may be withheld from the public in accordance with the provisions of 5 U.S.C. 552, will be available for Web site viewing and printing in the Commission's Public Reference Room, 100 F Street, NE., Washington, DC 20549, on official business days between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Copies of such filing also will be available for inspection and copying at the principal office of FINRA. All comments received will be posted without change; the Commission does not edit personal identifying information from submissions. You Start Printed Page 8171should submit only information that you wish to make available publicly. All submissions should refer to File Number SR-FINRA-2010-006 and should be submitted on or before March 16, 2010.

Start Signature

For the Commission, by the Division of Trading and Markets, pursuant to delegated authority.[8]

Florence E. Harmon,

Deputy Secretary.

End Signature End Preamble

Footnotes

3.  Rules 12208 and 13208 (Representation of Parties) provide that parties have the right to be represented by an attorney at any stage in an arbitration proceeding. They also allow parties to be represented by a person who is not an attorney subject to certain limitations.

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4.  Rules 12602 and 13602 (Attendance at Hearings) provide that parties and their representatives are entitled to attend all hearings and that, absent persuasive reasons to the contrary, expert witnesses should also be permitted to attend all hearings. The panel determines who else may attend any or all hearings.

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5.  Rules 12512 and 13512 (Subpoenas) provide that arbitrators have the authority to issue subpoenas for the production of documents or the appearance of witnesses. The rules permit a party to make a written motion requesting that an arbitrator issue a subpoena to a party or a non-party.

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6.  Rules 12513 and 13513 (Authority of Panel to Direct Appearances of Associated Person Witnesses and Production of Documents Without Subpoenas) provide that the panel may order the appearance of any employee or associated person of a FINRA member.

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[FR Doc. 2010-3393 Filed 2-22-10; 8:45 am]

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