This blog post continues a series that we began in 2012 highlighting regulatory efforts to protect senior investors. (Some of our previous coverage of senior investors can be found here, here, and here.)
A recent article in Nature entitled “The Dementia Time Bomb” estimated that by 2050 over 130 million people worldwide could be affected by dementia. The article estimated the costs in the US alone to reach $1 trillion in today’s dollars.
However, a more immediate threat exists from dementia, that of financial exploitation. Investors 50 years of age and older hold 77 percent of all US financial assets. Of course, they are also the most at risk of dementia. This makes them an easy target for financial abuse.
Apparently, the criminally inclined have figured this out. Some statistics summarized by the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (“SIFMA”) are sobering:
Senior financial exploitation is a problem that costs senior investors an estimated $2.9 billion annually – funds that many were relying on to support them in retirement. Moreover, with 10,000 Americans turning 65 every day and an estimated 1 in 5 Americans aged 65 or older being victimized by financial fraud, this problem will continue to grow. Complicating these protection efforts is the fact that only an estimated 1 in 44 cases of financial elder abuse is reported and the fact that 55% of financial abuse in the United States is committed by family members, caregivers and friends.
Regulatory, Law Enforcement, and Government, Response
These facts have not gone unnoticed by financial regulators, law enforcement, and the government agencies, including:
- The Securities Exchange Commission (“SEC”);
- The Financial Industry Regulatory Association (“FINRA”);
- The Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (“OCIE”);
- The North American Securities Administrators Association;
- The Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”);
- The Government Accountability Office (“GAO”), and;
- The US Senate Special Committee on Aging.
These regulators and government agencies have been focused on financial fraud targeting seniors for at least the past 15 years. For instance, in a September 10, 2001 speech by Dennis M. Lormel, (then the FBI Financial Crimes Section Chief), he stated:
… the FBI has identified elder fraud and fraud against those suffering from serious illness as two of the most insidious of all white-collar crimes being perpetrated by today’s modern and high tech con-man.
The problem appears to have gotten worse. FINRA established a special hotline dedicated to seniors in April 2015 and it has fielded approximately 6,700 calls – about 353 calls per month. Callers to the hotline have recovered $2.4 million in voluntary reimbursements.
Since at least 2006 there has been a concerted effort from financial regulators to protect senior investors from financial fraud and abuse. The timeline below highlights some of those efforts.
(Higher resolution PDF.)
 Elie Dolgin, Nature, “The Dementia Time Bomb”; November 10, 2016; 156.
 Yuka Hayaski, The Wall Street Journal, “FINRA Proposes Steps to Prevent Abuse of Senior Investors”; October 20, 2016; Available at: http://www.wsj.com/articles/finra-proposes-protections-for-seniors-against-exploitation-1476977937. Accessed January 4, 2017.
 Lisa Bleier, SIFMA, Comments regarding FINRA Regulatory Notice 15-37, Financial Exploitation of Seniors and Other Vulnerable Adults; December 1, 2015. Notes omitted.
 Dennis M. Lormel; Chief, Financial Crimes Section, FBI; September 10, 2001; Available at: https://archives.fbi.gov/archives/news/testimony/fraud-against-the-elderly. Accessed January 6, 2017.
 Yuka Hayashi, The Wall Street Journal, “Finra Proposes Steps to Prevent Abuse of Senior Investors”; October 20, 2016. Available at: http://www.wsj.com/articles/finra-proposes-protections-for-seniors-against-exploitation-1476977937; Accessed January 6, 2017.
For information about securities expert Jack Duval, click here.