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Clause - not Santa - in IRA agreement has investor concerned

The account requires that disputes be settled by arbitration, with no right to go to court.

DEAR HARRY: I am considering changing my IRA to another broker. In reading the Master Advisory Account Agreement, I came across a Pre-dispute Arbitration Clause that has me deeply concerned. It requires that all disputes be settled by arbitration with some industry organization, and that I give up my right to go to court.

My financial planner said this is a standard type of clause that virtually all brokers use. However, we know of people who have been hurt by financial institutions. I am reluctant to sign this agreement. I don't remember having to sign one for any previous associations. Am I right?

WHAT HARRY SAYS: Your planner is correct that such clauses are boilerplate for most brokers. You can cross out that clause and initial it, but I have strong doubts that they will accept that change.

However, my experience with such arbitration has been good. In the cases I was involved in, I felt that they reached a fair result. If you do run into a problem, arbitration will be less costly to you than a case going to court. I have no difficulty in suggesting that you sign without attempting to change the clause. That's what I have done.