Bill aims to curb financial abuse of seniors

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Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ)
Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ)

A bill designed to make it easier for financial institution employees to report financial elder abuse has passed the U.S. House of Representatives and has been sent to the Senate.

Under the Senior$afe Act (H.R. 4538), banks, credit unions, investment advisers and broker-dealers can train supervisors, compliance officers and legal advisors who work for them to identify and report suspected exploitation of anyone aged 65 or more years to federal or state financial regulatory agencies, law enforcement or adult protective services agencies. Those who report their suspicions will not be held liable if they made the disclosures “in good faith and with reasonable care.” Their employers will not be held liable either, as long as they had provided training.

The bill had been introduced by Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) with Reps. Bruce Poliquin (R-ME), Patrick E. Murphy (D-FL) and Mick Mulvaney (R-SC).

“Americans lose billions of dollars each year to financial fraud, and seniors are a top target,” Sinema said. Current laws lack the necessary flexibility to allow financial institutions to report suspected abuse to authorities, she added.

Dale Brown, president and CEO of the Financial Services Institute, which advocates on behalf of independent financial advisers and financial services firms, cheered the bill's passage. “By providing civil and administrative immunity to financial services firms and advisers, the legislation would allow financial professionals to report potential abuse to government organizations without violating privacy laws,” he said. “It also standardizes training to help identify and report instances of suspected abuse.”

Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO), chairwoman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, had introduced a similar bill in the Senate this past fall.

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