September 23, 2019
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Wall St. watchdog’s board approves plan to protect seniors from scams

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s board has approved a plan aimed at helping Wall Street brokerages bolster protection from scams for seniors and other vulnerable adults.

FINRA’s board, in a meeting on Thursday, authorized the regulator to request input from the securities industry and public about the plan. The proposal would allow firms to temporarily hold off on disbursing funds or securities when they suspect potential financial abuse, the Wall Street industry-funded watchdog said.

Firms would also have to make reasonable efforts to get the name and contact details for a trusted contact person when opening a customers’ account, FINRA said.

FINRA is unveiling the plan as some U.S. states are either adopting or considering similar measures. Missouri on June 12 became the third state to enact a law to protect senior citizens from scams and other types of financial exploitation, following similar efforts in Washington and Delaware.

More than five million Americans over the age of 65 have Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, according to the Chicago-based Alzheimer’s Association. That represents about 1.5 percent of the U.S. population, and could balloon to 7.1 million by 2025.

These victims can become easy targets. U.S. seniors lose as much as $2.6 billion per year to financial exploitation, according to the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, a brokerage trade group.

FINRA’s proposal would also apply to investors ages 18 and older who have mental or physical impairments that make them unable to protect their own interests, provided that brokerages reasonably believe those clients are being exploited, FINRA said.

The regulator’s request for input is an initial step in FINRA’s process for changing its rules and developing new measures. It allows the industry and public to share views about whether such plans are workable or can be improved, among other things. FINRA rules are not final until the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission ultimately reviews and approves them.

FINRA plans to publish more details about the proposal in a regulatory notice within the next several weeks, the regulator said.

 



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