I just returned from the Public Investors Arbitration Bar Association Annual Meeting in Carlsbad, CA, which featured four days of lively and informative panels and breakout sessions for securities arbitration practitioners. At the opening plenary session, representatives from PIABA, FINRA and NASAA (North American Securities Administrators Association) debated the relative merits of the only securities arbitration forum remaining – FINRA Dispute Resolution. While FINRA’s Director of Arbitration defended his forum as far more investor-friendly than any other arbitration forum, PIABA and NASAA speakers persisted in their demand that FINRA eliminate the requirement that investors accept the presence of a non-public (i.e. industry-affiliated) arbitrator on every three-person panel (except for those claims that are eligible for the Public Arbitrator Pilot Program, now entering its second year). I continue to hear the same arguments from both sides as to why the industry arbitrator should and should not remain a requirement, respectively. I have yet to hear a valid reason why the industry arbitrator – a vestige from an outdated arbitration model who no one has shown adds any value to the process — should be forced down the throats of unwilling investors who perceive their mere presence to violate their fundamental right to an arbitration panel free of bias.