Legislation would require financial advisers to report suspected abuse

LANSING, Mich. – Today a group of Democratic and Republican senators and representatives announced their efforts to protect Michigan’s seniors, and other vulnerable adults, from financial abuse by mandating financial advisers to report suspected abuse.

Seniors’ investment advisers are often the first to recognize when financial abuse is happening, and, under this legislation, they would have the authority to flag problematic situations for law enforcement and Adult Protective Services.

“As Michigan residents age into their golden years, the last thing they should have to worry about is their finances,” Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D–Flint) said. “We can help give them peace of mind by establishing safeguards, and allowing those who see abuse to step in and put a stop to the situation.”

According to the National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA), financial abuse of seniors is on the rise, with one in 20 older adults experiencing some form of financial mistreatment. The problem is widely underreported — it is estimated that only one in 44 cases are brought to authorities’ attention due to embarrassment, fear of loss of independence, intimidation and lack of awareness.

“Seniors sometimes unfortunately fall prey to financial abuse, and our goal is to provide immunity to those reporting this type of abuse to government agencies,” state Sen. Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge) said. “Senior abuse is a growing problem and we need to do all we can to help protect this vulnerable population.”

Key provisions of the legislation include:

  • Mandatory reporting: Requires qualified individuals who reasonably believe that financial exploitation of an eligible adult may have occurred, been attempted, or is being attempted, to promptly notify Adult Protective Services and law enforcement

  • Notification: Authorizes disclosure to third parties in certain circumstances

  • Training: Develop and make available training resources for financial professionals to help spot instances of fraud

  • Delayed disbursements: Permits broker-dealers and investment advisers to delay disbursing funds from vulnerable adults’ accounts

  • Immunity: Protects those who report suspected financial abuse to governmental agencies, disclose information to designated third parties, and decide to delay disbursements if they are acting in good faith and exercising reasonable care

  • Records compliance: Requires broker-dealers and investment advisers to comply with requests for information from law enforcement

“These bills provide much needed tools to financial advisers and set them on firm legal footing when they spot signs of fraud,” state Rep. Winnie Brinks (D–Grand Rapids) said. “Seniors deserve the reassurance that we are making it a priority to protect them and their savings from exploitation.”

Michigan already has mandatory reporting requirements for health care workers and law enforcement, but financial advisors are not currently obligated to step forward. By including them as mandatory reporters, and providing training and immunity, crimes can be detected and reported much earlier.

“Financial abuse of senior citizens is a growing problem,” said state Rep. Joe Graves (R–Argentine Twp.) “Senior citizens should not be victims of elder financial abuse and, as a Legislature, we have the ability to help. We are committed to protecting the most vulnerable in our communities.”