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How Financial Firms Help to Prevent Financial Exploitation

Crackdown aimed at protecting nest eggs of clients age 65 and older.

Regulators are adding new tools to help investment firms protect older clients against fraud. Starting in February 2018, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority will require brokerages to ask clients for the name and contact information of a trusted individual who can be reached if the client appears to be a victim of financial exploitation.

Brokerages will also be able to delay disbursing money or securities from accounts of clients age 65 and older (or younger vulnerable adults) for up to 15 business days if financial exploitation is suspected, giving firms time to investigate and contact the client, a trusted person and, if necessary, law enforcement or adult protective services. Under current Finra rules, brokerages must maintain client privacy and execute orders promptly—regulations that, firms say, tie their hands when they suspect a client has been a victim of fraud or suffers from diminished capacity.

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Similarly, the North American Securities Administrators Association has created a model law that permits firms to place a temporary hold on disbursements if financial exploitation of an older customer is suspected, but it requires them to notify adult protective services and state regulators. So far, 13 states have adopted some form of this law, including Texas, Oregon and Arkansas.

Firms, too, have launched senior protection programs. Wells Fargo set up an elder initiatives team three years ago that their advisers can contact for guidance on how to handle suspected senior fraud. In 2014, Wells Fargo handled about 100 such cases per month, and now, as the population ages and awareness of the problem grows, it’s as many as 225, says Ron Long, Wells Fargo’s director of regulatory affairs and elder client initiatives.

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