A coalition of state security regulators is pushing to make it mandatory for financial advisors to report suspected exploitation of their elderly clients but some in the industry say the proposal could backfire, the Wall Street Journal writes.
The percentage of the population age 65 and over has risen steadily from 1950 and is projected to top 20% by 2030, while at the same time fraud complaints by those over 60 have increased from around 65,000 in 2010 to over 170,000 in 2014, according to Census Bureau and Federal Trade Commission data cited by the Journal — all while the cost of fraud by 2010 had already reached $2.9 billion, according to Metropolitan Life Insurance data the paper cites.
Elder fraud is only expected to get worse due to a one-two punch of rising life expectancy leading to more people living with dementia combined with more investors having to take care of their own retirement funds due to the eclipse of traditional pension plans, the Journal writes.
Exploitation of the elderly ranges from small scams and fraudulent schemes to people close to the person – including caregivers, family members and financial advisors – taking advantage by skimming savings or churning investment accounts, the paper reports.
Currently, only around half the states have mandatory reporting rules for when financial professionals suspect fraud on the elderly. But the rules usually don’t apply specifically to financial advisors and some regulators say this is leading to serious losses. In New York, for example, only one out of 44 cases of elder financial abuse was reported in 2008, according to a Cornell University study cited by the Journal.
The coalition of state regulators tried to legislate financial advisors into elderly fraud prevention in September with a bill granting advisors immunity from privacy violation clauses, allowing temporary holds on accounts advisors suspected of being manipulated, the Journal reports.
In addition, the bill would require advisors, their supervisors and the firms that employ them to alert state regulators and adult services groups when they suspect fraud, the paper writes. Now, some state lawmakers, such as Joseph Borg, Alabama’s securities commissioner, plan to make reporting mandatory, according to the Journal — a move some industry groups are fighting on the grounds that such legislation would expose advisors to liability when they miss fraud and, on the other hand, give too much work to state regulators, the paper writes.
According to an October letter from the industry group Sifma, 40% to 50% of all alerts about possible fraud are actually false, the Journal writes, and a voluntary system offers the advantage of firms investigating such claims internally, some of which already do so.
Other advisors, however, say that the proposals from the state regulators as well as Finra giving advisors more leeway in dealing with suspected fraud would in fact bring clarity where it’s needed, as current liability provisions prevent many advisors from putting holds on suspicious disbursements, the paper writes.