Monday, May 07, 2007

SEC's Senior Investor Protection Seminar on May 18

Yesterday afternoon, I came across a posting on repeating a Press Release, issued May 4, 2007, by the Chairman of the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission, who announced a "Senior Investor Protection Symposium", to be presented on May 18, 2007, in Chicago.

The presentation also will be made available
online -- live, on that date -- through the SEC's website.

These are some excerpts from the public press release (I added the links):

Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Christopher Cox today announced the SEC will partner with the Elder Law Journal of the University of Illinois College of Law and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago to present the Senior Investor Protection Symposium in Chicago on May 18.

The Symposium will feature a discussion panel including distinguished representatives from the business, law, regulatory and academic communities who have significant experience tackling the issues facing seniors as they prepare for and enjoy their retirement. The panelists will discuss how older Americans can protect themselves from investment fraud while financially preparing for the future.

"This symposium comes at an important time, as many unscrupulous individuals have targeted older Americans for investment fraud. And this problem is growing as the Baby Boomer generation retires, people are living longer, and defined benefit plans are giving way to people managing their own retirement funds," said Chairman Cox. "At the symposium, we will discuss ways that seniors can protect their nest eggs so that they can enjoy a comfortable retirement."

"Investor education is important for people of all ages, but older investors are often singled out as targets for micro-cap fraud, affinity fraud, identity theft, and other scams," said SEC Commissioner Paul S. Atkins. "They need to be armed with tools that will enable them to make sound investment decisions and to ask the right questions of those helping them to invest." * * *

The U.S. Senate held hearings in March, 2006, as reported by the Senior Journal, in an article dated March 28, 2006, entitled "How Senior Citizens Avoid Investment Fraud is Topic for Wednesday Hearing: Senate Special Committee on Aging hearing will be webcast".

After the hearing, Senator Herb Kohl, of Wisconsin, issued a press release, dated March 29, 2006, that summarized the findings and some policy recommendations.
See: "Kohl Highlights Senior Investment Scams at Aging Committee Hearing", which indicated where attention should be focused:
  • Promote consumer education to help seniors spot common scams and report questionable investments to the appropriate agencies and authorities. Kohl distributed a "tip sheet" at the hearing and will make it available in his offices in Wisconsin.
  • Work on legislation to tighten rules that require sellers of securities to disclose their credentials and training, as well as any hidden fees or high risk investments they sell, and increase penalties for those who run investment scams.
  • Increase training and resourcesfor Federal and State law enforcement officials to investigate and prosecute senior investment fraud. Kohl also urged passage of the Elder Justice Act (S. 2010), which includes key research and training provisions to combat investment fraud.

An article dated July 18, 2006, entitled "Senior Investment Fraud Increases as Population Ages", highlighted the problem as demonstrated by survey results derived from state securities regulators:

With the first 'Baby Boomers' turning 60 this year, state securities regulators warn that investment fraud among seniors, which already accounts for nearly half of all investor complaints received by state securities regulators, could grow significantly.

"The current landscape facing senior investors is littered with slick schemes and broken dreams," said Patricia D. Struck, Wisconsin Securities Administrator and President of the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA).

"While our cases of senior investment fraud may not make national headlines, they are devastating in their impact to the victims and their families," Struck told the Seniors Summit hosted by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. [See: Full Text of Patricia Struck's Seniors Summit Remarks, July 17, 2006]

Struck released a survey which found that an estimated 44 percent of all investor complaints received by state securities regulators are made by seniors. In addition, the survey found that 31 percent of all enforcement actions taken by state securities regulators involve senior investment fraud. * * *

Information regarding NASAA's survey is summarized in its posted article, "NASAA Survey Shows Senior Investment Fraud Accounts for Nearly Half of all Complaints Received by State Securities Regulators", dated July 16, 2006. It notes that unregistered securities, variable annuities, and equity-indexed annuities "present the most pervasive financial products involved in Senior Investment Fraud."

NASAA now offers an excellent "Senior Investor Resource Center" online for public education on this topic. That website includes a self-assessment quiz, a discussion forum, consumer tips, educational resources, organizational links, and much more.

The SEC's educational effort in Chicago, with the promised simulcast over the Internet, demonstrates how far a reach the SEC seeks. This is the agenda:

9:00-9:15: Opening Remarks and Introductions by SEC Chicago Regional Director Merri Jo Gillette
9:15-11:30: Panel Discussion: Moderated by SEC Chairman Christopher Cox

  • Paul S. Atkins, SEC Commissioner
  • Professor Richard Kaplan, Peer and Sarah Pedersen Professor of Law, University of Illinois College of Law
  • Louise Renne, Partner, Attorney at Law, Renne Sloan Holtzman Sakai LLP
  • Patricia Struck, Wisconsin Securities Administrator, Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions
  • Elisse B. Walter, Senior Executive Vice President, Regulatory Policy & Programs, National Association of Securities Dealers
11:30-12:00: Question and Answer Period and Closing Remarks by Merri Jo Gillette

To receive the live audio & video webcast of the event on your computer (with a fast internet connection, using either Real Player or Windows Media Player software), go to the SEC's home page on that date (May 18th) around 9 am, and look for a link, or see the posted listing of SEC webcasts here.