WASHINGTON -- Linda Fienberg, the head of FINRA's contentious dispute resolution division, will step down from the organization at the end of November, the self-regulatory organization announced on Wednesday.

Fienberg concludes her nearly two-decade career as FINRA's president of dispute resolution and chief hearing officer, having presided over a number of reform efforts to help improve the mechanisms for mediating conflicts between investors and their brokers.

In that role, Fienberg helped steer the National Arbitration and Mediation Committee (NAMC), an advisory board that makes recommendations on the procedures for resolving disputes and the training and evaluation of arbitrators and mediators.

In a statement, FINRA CEO Richard Ketchum credited Fienberg with leaving "a lasting legacy of excellence," and the organization cited her work at the dispute resolution division, which it says "has made tremendous advances in delivering fair, expeditious and affordable service to investors and other parties who use FINRA's forum."

Critics of the arbitration and mediation process have charged that the proceedings are tilted toward the brokerage industry, and have pressed for greater disclosure around the arbitrators who handle disputes between investors and advisors. In one case, for instance, an arbitrator who falsely claimed he was an attorney was dismissed after having mediated more than 30 cases involving millions in disputed claims.

In July, FINRA announced the formation of a task force comprised of industry representatives, consumer advocates, regulators and others to formulate recommendations for improving the efficiency and transparency of the arbitration process.

At the time, Jason Doss, the head of one of the most vocal critics of FINRA's dispute process, the Public Investors Arbitration Bar Association, an investor advocacy group, praised the composition of the task force, but expressed concern that it would overlap with the mission of FINRA's NAMC.

While at FINRA, Fienberg also established the Office of Hearing Officers, and helped draft a code of procedures for FINRA's disciplinary process.

Prior to joining FINRA, Fienberg worked as an attorney in private practice and held several positions at the SEC, including stints as executive assistant to two chairmen and as associate general counsel.

Kenneth Corbin is a Financial Planning contributing writer in Washington.

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