After the complaining party, or claimant, files a Statement of Claim and pays the required fees, the opposing party, or respondent, is served with the Statement of Claim, and a cover letter explaining the arbitration process and setting a time for reply to the claim. The respondent must file an appropriate response with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) within forty-five days (45) of receipt of the Statement of Claim. The response will include a signed and dated Uniform Submission Agreement and an answer specifying the relevant facts and any defenses to the Statement of Claim. Additionally, the respondent may include additional documents supporting the answer to the Statement of Claim. Parties that fail to answer in the time provided may be subject to default proceedings. Copies of the answer and submission agreement must also be served to every party.
The response may also allege counterclaims against the claimant. In such a case, additional facts and damages requested will be included. The claimant must, in turn, directly serve any answer to a counterclaim on the other party within twenty days of receipt of the counterclaim. At the same time, the claimant must file an answer to the counterclaim including any relevant facts and available defenses to the counterclaim. The claimant should include any additional documents supporting the answer to the counterclaim.
Any of the parties may amend their original submissions in order to respond to new evidence, new claims, or information provided by the other party as a response to the documents. According to FINRA, amendments may be made before a panel of arbitrators is chosen. Once a panel is appointed, the party seeking to amend their submissions must seek approval from the panel.
Generally, any party may file a response to an amended pleading, provided the response is filed and served within twenty (20) days of receipt of the amended pleading, unless the panel determines otherwise. The specific deadlines for answering an amendment vary depending on whether the amendment was made before or after an answer was filed, and before or after a panel was appointed.
While amendments are not uncommon, it is extremely important that neither party attempt to keep information out of the proceedings in the hopes of amending the documents at a later point. Special precaution should be paid to timelines as these are very specific and may determine whether new, special information can be submitted to the panel or not.