Deborah Masucci, head of the NASDR's arbitration system, has decided to resign her post sometime in 1998.
NASDR spokeswoman Nancy Condon says Masucci will be "leaving sometime over the next year."
Masucci was on vacation and not immediately available for comment by press time in early January.
As vice president and director of the NASDR's Office of Dispute Resolution, Masucci since 1983 has been responsible for running the NASDR's arbitration system. The NASDR hears the majority of securities industry claims involving customers, employees and firms.
One attorney who specializes in industry arbitration cases speculated that Masucci's power within the reorganized NASDR had declined, contributing to her departure. In May 1996, as part of its reorganization, the NASDR created a new Office of Adjudication into which the existing Arbitration Department was folded. Linda Fienberg, then a partner at the Washington, D.C., law firm of Covington & Burling, was brought in to head the new office. Fienberg was also a member of the Ruder commission, which recommended a series of arbitration-system reforms in January 1996. Masucci reports to Fienberg.
The NASDR's share of the arbitration caseload has been growing in recent years compared to the number of claims heard by the NYSE and other SRO panels. And the system also has come under increasing scrutiny.
Last August, for example, the NASD announced that it intended to make discrimination claims exempt from its mandatory arbitration requirement. Mandatory arbitration of such claims, which fall under Title VII ofthe federal code, had sparked criticism from several members of Congress as well as civil rights groups and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The NASDR also has recently struggled with the politically charged issues of caps on punitive damages and statutes of limitations for its arbitration system. The NASDR's proposals regarding these issues are now being considered by the SEC.