This blog post continues a series I began in 2012 highlighting regulatory efforts to protect senior investors. (My previous blog posts on protecting senior investors can be found here.)
On February 22, 2018, the Justice Department announced a nationwide sweep that resulted in over 200 criminal charges for financial crimes targeting the elderly.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions was quoted, saying:
The Justice Department and its partners are taking unprecedented, coordinated action to protect elderly Americans from financial threats, both foreign and domestic... Today's actions send a clear message: we will hold perpetrators of elder fraud schemes accountable wherever they are. When criminals steal the hard-earned life savings of older Americans, we will respond with all the tools at the Department's disposal - criminal prosecutions to punish offenders, civil injunctions to shut the schemes down, and asset forfeiture to take back ill-gotten gains.
Today is only the beginning. I have directed Department prosecutors to coordinate with both domestic law enforcement partners and foreign counterparts to stop these criminals from exploiting our seniors.
As I have written about before, many of the perpetrators were known to the victims. The DOJ press release gave this description:
The actions charged a variety of fraud schemes, ranging from mass mailing, telemarketing and investment frauds to individual incidences of identity theft and theft by guardians. A number of cases involved transnational criminal organizations that defrauded hundreds of thousands of elderly victims, while others involved a single relative or fiduciary who took advantage of an individual victim. (Emphasis added)
While few crimes could be more heinous than those targeting senior investors, those perpetrated by guardians, relatives, or fiduciaries would qualify.
The financial abuse of senior investors is not an isolated problem. The DOJ press release stated that the schemes undertaken by the alleged criminals caused more than $500 million in losses to over a million victims.
These sweep results should be a call to action to broker-dealers, RIA firms, and banks across the country to raise their supervisory oversight of senior investors accounts.
In the past, there has rightfully been significant focus on cases that involve senior investors with Alzheimer's or dementia. However, unsophisticated and wholly trusting senior investors, who do not have the wherewithal to question recommendations, can also be subject to abuse by unscrupulous advisors.
Compliance and supervisory personnel at all financial firms need to be aware of the potential for abuse and should have special policies and procedures in place to monitor the activity in the accounts of senior investors. At a minimum, these policies and procedures should detect financial fraud such as: unnecessary trading, unsuitable investments, and suspicious withdrawals.
For information about securities expert Jack Duval, click here.