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By Suzanne Barlyn and Jed Horowitz
Feb 26 The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority will appeal a ruling that allowed Charles Schwab Corp to require customers to waive their right to participate in class-action suits, a spokeswoman said on Tuesday.
"We are in the process of filing an appeal," a FINRA spokeswoman told Reuters in an emailed statement. The decision comes after a hearing panel decision last Thursday that upheld Schwab's late 2011 move to require clients to waive their class-action rights. Schwab's action violates FINRA's rules, but the rules themselves violate the National Arbitration Act, the panel found.
A Schwab spokesman did not immediately return a call requesting comment about the appeal. Earlier Tuesday the spokesman said Schwab will likely seek dismissal of pending class-action cases given its victory before the hearing panel.
FINRA, Wall Street's self-regulator, had 45 days to appeal to its National Adjudicatory Council, an appellate body for FINRA disciplinary decisions.
Class-action suits are the most common way for investors with small cases to try to recoup losses stemming from alleged wrongdoing by Wall Street brokerages, say lawyers. Brokerage agreements usually require investors to resolve legal disputes in FINRA's securities arbitration forum - an option that investors with small cases often find too costly to pursue, they say.
Schwab in 2010 agreed to pay $235 million to settle class- action litigation related to misleading marketing of its YieldPlus money-market fund between May 2006 and March 2008.
FINRA prevailed in one part of last week's hearing panel decision. It said Schwab could not bar arbitrators from combining individual arbitration claims into group hearings, and fined Schwab $500,000 for including the group ban in its customer agreements. The sanction will be stayed while the appeal is pending, the FINRA spokeswoman said. (Reporting by Suzanne Barlyn and Jed Horowitz; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)