House advances bill to create SEC task force to protect seniors from financial fraud

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The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill this week that would create a Senior Investor Task Force at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to help stop financial predators from targeting seniors.

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The Senior Security Act, sponsored by Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Trey Hollingsworth (R-IN), was approved by a vote of 392 to 20.

“Millions of seniors across the country, including my own mother, have been the victims of financial scams and they have been cheated out of their rightful retirement,” Gottheimer said. “This bipartisan legislation takes senior fraud and scams head on and will help the Security Exchange Commission and federal prosecutors crack down on these senior-preying crooks like never before.”

Banks reported a record 24,454 suspected cases of elder financial abuse last year, according to the Treasury Department. That’s more than double the amount five years earlier. Older Americans lose approximately $3 billion each year to financial scams and abuse, a recent report from the Senate Special Committee on Aging found. Further, a survey from the Investor Protection Trust found that approximately 7 million Americans have reported being victims of exploitation, but only one in every 24 cases of elder exploitation is reported correctly.

The proposed Senior Investor Task Force at the SEC would be composed of staff from the Division of Enforcement, Office of Compliance, Inspections and Examinations, and Office of Investor Education and Advocacy. They would be charged with examining and challenges facing senior investors and identifying opportunities to help them. The task force would report its findings to Congress and recommend any regulatory or statutory changes. Additionally, the U.S. Government Accountability Office will study and report on the economic costs and frequency of the financial exploitation of senior citizens.

“Our county’s senior citizens have spent years working and saving for retirement. As financial abuse of seniors has hit a record high, this legislation is an important step in fighting for our seniors and helping them protect their hard-earned, life-long savings,” Hollingsworth said.

The North American Securities Administrators Association supports this legislation.

“The Senior Security Act will significantly enhance our understanding of the unique challenges facing senior investors by establishing a Senior Investor Taskforce within the SEC and mandating a comprehensive Government Accountability Office (GAO) study of the costs, causes, and barriers to reporting the financial exploitation of seniors,” Michael Pieciak, president of the North American Securities Administrators Association and Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation, said.

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