After hearings are concluded, the arbitrator or panel of arbitrators retires to deliberate and issue a decision in the form of a written document called an “award.” The length of deliberations depends on a number of factors, including the number of arbitrators and the complexity of the case. According to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), arbitrators should make a final decision within thirty (30) days after they close the record. Decisions are based on the pleadings, the evidence, and the testimony admitted at the hearing. The arbitrators may also request additional facts and/or briefs from the parties before making their award. Awards are generally final, and an arbitrator’s decision can only be overturned by a court under very limited circumstances.
Usually, awards are brief, and only include very basic information, including which party prevailed, and the payment of damages, if any. It is unusual for arbitrators to explain the rationale behind their awards, as this could create grounds for the award to be overturned on appeal. FINRA provides each panel with a form for the arbitrators to use when delivering awards. The form includes information such as the nature of the initial claim, representation of the parties, motions made, hearing information, amount of damages if any, attorneys’ fees and costs awarded, and determination of counterclaims.
The arbitrators can provide much of the same relief as could be obtained in court. The panel can order payment of compensatory or punitive damages, order specific performance by ordering any party to do or refrain from doing any action, and even issue injunctive relief.