We study the role of attorneys as arbitrators in securities arbitration conducted by the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD, n/k/a FINRA), using a dataset of 422 randomly selected arbitrators and their 6724 arbitration awards from 1992 to 2006. We find that arbitrators who also represent brokerage firms or brokers in other arbitrations award significantly less compensation to investor-claimants than other arbitrators. We find no significant effect for attorney-arbitrators who represent investors or both investors and brokerage firms. The relation between representing brokerage firms and arbitration awards remains significant even when we control for political outlook. We report that ideology correlates significantly with arbitration awards – arbitrators who donate money to Democratic political candidates award greater compensation than arbitrators who donate to Republican candidates.

Because the arbitration award is the product of the panel, not a single arbitrator, we also study the dynamics of panel interaction. We find that the position of chair is an important factor in assessing the arbitrator’s influence, although the financial relationships of other arbitrators may also affect arbitration awards. Coalitions with the other arbitrators are also important. If the chair and another panelist possess a common attribute, the effect on the arbitration award increases.

Finally, we provide evidence that the 1998 reforms to the arbitration process – which introduced party control over the composition of panels – ameliorated, but did not eliminate, the effect that attorneys who represent brokers have on outcomes. We find no significant effect from the NASD’s 2004 reforms.


Securities Law

Date of this Version

January 2009