Arbitration is an alternative dispute resolution method that is designed to be faster and less expensive than court litigation. Mediation is not binding where arbitration is binding and cannot be appealed, except under very limited circumstances.
Arbitration is a way for both sides to present their case before a single arbitrator, but more likely three arbitrators who consist of business men and at least one industry participant. There are normally highly education and experienced individuals where juries at times have no idea what they are being told. Each side is given a list of potential arbitrators, including bios, conflicts of interest etc. Each side may eliminate arbitrators they do not want and in the end agree on three.
Arbitration differs from litigation in many ways, but by far the most significant is discovery. In the case of FINRA arbitration, there are no depositions so there is no way to determine what a witness is going to say or knows ahead of time. There are no interrogatories either. The primary discovery tool is document exchange. If one side resists a request, an arbitrator will decide whether to force the resisting party to produce what was requested. In addition there is a presumptive list of things you must produce without being asked.
This site is not an arbitration treatise. The rules are hundreds of pages long. Most attorneys have no experience with FINRA arbitration which is very different from other forums like the American Arbitration Association. One final note. The actual hearing must be the closest hearing location to the plaintiff, called the Complainant, the defendant is called the respondent.