NEW YORK, April 14 (Reuters) - Wall Street watchdog FINRA said on Monday it is lifting the hold it had put on some cases involving investors who lost money in closed-end Puerto Rico bond funds after expanding its pool of arbitrators available to hear the cases roughly 10-fold from last month.
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority said in a note posted on its web site on Monday that there are currently 600 eligible arbitrators on its roster who have agreed to serve in Puerto Rico, where FINRA expects the majority of the roughly 209 cases it has received as of April 7 to be heard.
"We are really confident that we will have enough arbitrators to handle all the cases that go to hearing," said Linda Fienberg, president of FINRA dispute resolution, in an interview Monday. Fienberg said a letter was sent out on Monday to all parties involved in the cases informing them that the hearings will move forward.
Last month, FINRA placed a hold on cases with no arbitration panel after struggling to find sufficient arbitrators to handle the mounting number of cases it had received. At that time, the pool of arbitrators was around 60.
Since then, the self regulatory authority has been actively seeking arbitrators able to serve on the cases and recruiting in Puerto Rico, where only 10 of the 600 arbitrators currently reside.
"We're continuing our campaign to find additional arbitrators," Fienberg said. "We will have staff in Puerto Rico this month talking with a series of professional groups who have expressed an interest" in serving as an arbitrator.
FINRA is also looking to expand its ranks of arbitrators from within the southeast region of the United States, including Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, as well as Texas, to serve as arbitrators in San Juan. FINRA said it plans to pay for those arbitrators' travel expenses. (Reporting by Ashley Lau in New York; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)