U.S. securities regulators are looking to empower broker dealers so that they can act to prevent suspected exploitation of vulnerable clients, especially seniors.
The U.S. Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) announced on Thursday that its board of governors has approved a rulemaking proposal that would allow a brokerage firm to place a temporary hold on a disbursement of funds or securities in cases where the firm reasonably believes that financial exploitation may be occurring.
FINRA plans to issue a notice seeking comment on the proposal within the next few weeks. The rule is intended to help firms better protect seniors and other vulnerable adults from possible financial exploitation, FINRA said in statement.
In cases where firms suspect that a client is being exploited, the new rule would permit them to place temporary holds on disbursements. The proposed rule would apply to the accounts of investors aged 65 or older, and to the accounts of investors 18 and older that have mental or physical impairments that render them unable to protect their own interests, FINRA says.
The new rule would not create a duty to place temporary holds on disbursements, FINRA notes. Instead, it would give firms a “safe harbour” when they exercise their discretion to impose a temporary hold on an account.
In addition, the proposal would amend FINRA’s customer account information rule to require firms to obtain the name and contact information for a “trusted contact person” when opening a customer account. Firms could then notify this person when they suspect exploitation.
“Each day for the next 15 years, an average of 10,000 Americans will turn 65. Seniors are at risk, and FINRA is committed to helping protect seniors and other vulnerable adults from financial exploitation. This proposal is an important step forward that would benefit both investors and firms,” said Richard Ketchum, chairman and CEO of FINRA, in a statement.