If you arbitration case is going down in flames, at least make sure to take your parachute
In a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority ("FINRA") Arbitration Statement of Claim filed in May 2011, Claimant Ameriprise sought to recover the balance due on a promissory note of $74,335.99 plus $549.41 in accrued interest, ongoing interest, attorneys' fees, costs, and expenses. At the close of the hearing, Claimant requested $93,123.37 in compensatory damages. In the Matter of the FINRA Arbitration Between Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc., Claimant, vs. Peter John Oristian, Respondent (FINRA Arbitration 11-01928, April 24, 2012).
Respondent Oristian, who represented himself pro se, generally denied the allegations and asserted various affirmative defenses. Although Respondent attempted to file a Counterclaim, the Arbitrator rejected it upon making a determination that the pleading was deficient as a result of Respondent's failure to pay the filing fee.
On or about March 27, 2012, Claimant Ameriprise filed a Motion for Dismissal of Defenses, to Bar Witnesses and Exhibits and for Entry of Judgment on the Pleadings asserting, among other things, that Respondent had not:
- provided the documents he was ordered to produce pursuant to the Arbitrator's February 23, 2012, Order; and,
- exchanged witness or exhibit lists in violation of FINRA Rule 13514.
The Arbitrator determined to award monetary sanctions to Claimant for the discovery issues but deemed the Motion moot.
Respondent Oristian was found liable and ordered to pay to Claimant Ameriprise $74,668.44 in compensatory damages plus 7% per annum interest following 30 days after the service of the Award. The FINRA Arbitrator also imposed $2,500 in discovery abuse sanctions upon Respondent.
Bill Singer's Comment
You know, seriously, if you're broke - and that's not an uncommon problem these days - and you find yourself compelled to represent yourself in a five-figure arbitration against a lawyer, do yourself a really big favor: Don't antagonize the arbitrator hearing your case.
For starters, when you fail to voluntarily produce discovery documents and things get to the point where an Arbitrator is ordering you to hand over materials to your adversary, at least make the production on time. Moreover, if you didn't manage to comply with the discovery order, don't compound the mess by failing to timely exchange witness and evidence lists with your adversary.
Sure, there are times when your best efforts to defend yourself are inevitably going to end with you going down in flames. We've all been there at some point in our lives. Many former employees from Merrill Lynch, Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, and JP Morgan find themselves in similar straits. However, when it comes time to jump from the burning plane, how about you at least make sure to take your parachute along? In this case, assuming that Respondent Oristian was going to get hit with the repayment of the promissory note balance, there was no point in antagonizing the arbitrator with the shenanigans that resulted in an extra $2,500 penalty.