"BSAAML Enforcement Things Are Getting Personal" by Brian Malcom Alabama Bankers Association Board Briefs JulyAugust 2017 Newsletter
The financial exploitation of elders is a hot topic in state legislatures, with the federal government, and in the media. In the first few months of 2017 alone, media reports from Gadsden, Fairhope and Dothan chronicle four cases of financial exploitation, with losses in each case ranging from $20,000 to $100,000 over short periods of time. The perpetrator in each case was a family member of the victim. One had a power of attorney which he used to gain access to the victim''s accounts. Each case ended in criminal charges but, as is sadly common, prosecutions occurred only after large sums of money were taken and recovery was unlikely.
In June 2016, Corey Carlisle, executive director of the American Bankers Association Foundation noted: "Americans 50 years and older control more than 70 percent of our nation''s wealth, making them prime targets for exploitation." According to the GAO, "financial fraud targeting older Americans is a growing epidemic that costs seniors an estimated $2.9 billion annually…."
To combat this growing problem, new federal and state elder abuse prevention laws are being passed at a rapid pace. Since 2013, Alabama has passed three new elder abuse prevention acts, including the recent Elder Abuse Protection Order and Enforcement Act, enacted near the end of the 2017 regular legislative session. A principal aim of this movement has been to broaden the group of individuals and professionals who are legally required to report suspected cases of abuse. To encourage reporting, many of these laws provide qualified legal immunity for those who report suspected abuse of vulnerable elders.
The sponsor of the pending federal Senior$afe Act bill, Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), gave one example of the type of fraud targeted by the bill:
Last year, an attorney in the small coastal city of Belfast, Maine, was sentenced to 30 months in prison for bilking two elderly female clients out of nearly a half a million dollars over the course of several years. The lawyer''s brazen theft was uncovered when a teller at a local bank noticed that he was writing large checks to himself on his clients'' accounts. Meanwhile, he submitted bills for ''services,'' sometimes totaling $20,000 a month, including charging $250 per hour for six to seven hours to check on her house, even though his office was just a one-minute drive down the road.
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