Opening Remarks to the Roundtable on Combating Elder Investor Fraud

Oct. 3, 2019

Good morning.

Thank you Charu.

Thank you all for being here this morning for the Roundtable on Combatting Elder Investor Fraud.

On behalf of the SEC, I want to say we are privileged to host such a dedicated group of experts and public servants.  Protecting older Americans from investor fraud is an important mission and its importance is growing. 

At the SEC, we are very concerned about financial exploitation and investment fraud against seniors.  But, I know that many of our panelists are also focused on a broad spectrum of risks elder Americans face, including physical and psychological abuse as well as other forms of neglect and exploitation.  I thank you for your commitment.

An important part of the SEC’s mission is to educate and empower investors so they can plan for a financially secure future.  Our Office of Investor Education and Advocacy recognizes that different people communicate and learn best through different media.  The office offers many tools and resources on to assist all investors in reaching their financial goals. And of course, our team at the SEC is always just a phone call away for those older Americans that don’t have access to or feel comfortable with the Internet.

Among the thing that keeps me up at night — and something that I know all of you care about deeply —  is the fact that every day, bad people are out there targeting the elder community.  I worry about the fraudsters who are constantly thinking of new ways to try to rob our parents, grandparents, anyone who has a 401(k) or some other kind of retirement plan, out of their hard-earned money.  These are people who have saved their entire lives with the hope and expectation that their retirement savings will carry them through.

Each of us may have a different person in mind.  For some, it’s their aunt, uncle, a friend.  For me, one that comes to mind is my grandmother.  I ended up having to take over her finances after my grandfather died.  They had a portfolio, not a huge amount of money.  But, I will tell you that the number of charlatans who approached her over time was substantial.  That said, if she had not been invested in our capital markets, her retirement would have been materially less comfortable and more stressful.  These are the types of considerations that inform my thinking, including when we discuss how to design our rules and deploy our enforcement resources.

Single metrics rarely tell a full or accurate story but I’m going to cite one anyway. The National Council on Aging states that “while likely underreported, elder financial abuse and fraud costs older Americans $36.5 billion per year.”  That is an astonishing figure.

While our Enforcement division is vigilant in pursuing bad actors and returning money to harmed investors – prevention is critical for this community.  Often, older Americans do not have other financial resources to turn to if they have lost a substantial portion of their savings through fraud or exploitation.  Today’s discussion about combatting and preventing these abuses is vital to our investor protection mission.

We are proud to be a part of the fight against financial elder abuse. 

Thank you for your dedication and the work you do every day in protecting the elder community. 

They have earned and deserve our support. 

Before I turn it over to Owen to moderate our first panel, I want to express my appreciation to the organizers of today’s event.  First, thank you to Commissioner Roisman and his counsel Nick Losurdo for spearheading the event.  My sincerest thanks to Mika Donlon and Charu Chandrasekhar from the Retail Strategy Task Force, and Suzanne McGovern from the Office of Investor Education and Advocacy for keeping everything on track and ensuring a successful discussion today. 

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