Except in cases of simple promissory notes, for which a summary judgment proceeding is likely to remain the preferred enforcement option, the use of mediation to resolve disputes in financial transactions can mean the difference between an uncertain outcome following years of costly litigation and a controllable resolution achieved in a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the cost.
Litigating a complex financial dispute is a legendarily long and expensive process even against a backdrop where, as indicated in the most recent statistics, the median time interval from filing to disposition at trial in Federal civil cases is an already lengthy 24.1 months (jumping to 31.3 months in the Southern District of New York and to 36 months in the Eastern District of New York). In state court, complex financial cases that continue for four or five years before trial are common.
The general benefits of mediation over litigation — faster, cheaper and more capable of responding to important interests not neatly reflected in court proceedings (e.g., ongoing business relationships) — are by now widely known. However, mediation is particularly well-suited to helping settle disputes in complex financial matters:
- The mediator can be selected for particular expertise in the field in addition to his/her general mediation skills.
- In a universe characterized by a relatively small number of actors and a multiplicity of interconnections, mediation can effectively address economically relevant — but legally unrelated — issues between parties with other, and/or ongoing, relationships or disputes.
- Mediation can yield complex resolutions that reflect the complexity of the financial landscape (where, for example, the resolution of one or more related transactions is the key to settling the transaction being mediated.)
- With its flexible tools of joint sessions and separate party caucuses, mediation can accommodate the multiple parties often involved in such disputes — including, through mutual consent, bringing parties into the process who are non-parties to the litigation.
- As a private process, it can help avoid unwanted public attention.
- As a confidential process, it can help to:
- avoid precedent-setting case law in an area where repetitive transactions are common; and
- can itself serve as a mechanism for cost-effective discovery.
- Mediation uses the typically considerable resources of the parties to a financial dispute (including the work of highly paid counsel) directly in service of a solution to a complex problem rather than expending them on adversarial, and too often procedural, matters.
In sum, mediation is a option that should be taken very seriously by clients and counsel seeking timely and cost-effective resolution of financial disputes.