CFPB testifies on elder financial abuse initiatives

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The CFPB’s initiatives to address elder financial abuse were the focus of testimony last week by Hubert H. “Skip” Humphrey III, the CFPB’s Assistant Director for the Office of Older Americans, to the Senate’s Special Committee on Aging. As we have previously commented, we consider helping consumers aged 62 and older to protect themselves from financial abuse and make sound financial decisions to be one of the CFPB’s most worthwhile Dodd-Frank mandates.

Highlights of  Mr. Humphrey’s testimony include the following:

  • The CFPB has been participating in a working group with the Financial Services Roundtable that addresses issues such as enhancing the capacity of financial institutions to report suspected elder financial abuse.
  • The CFPB is a member of the Elder Justice Coordinating Council, an
    11-agency body convened by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in partnership with the Attorney General. The Council held its inaugural meeting in October of this year, at which national experts from law enforcement, social services, academia, medicine, law, the judiciary, and financial institutions spoke about various themes that included the
    (1) need to develop strategies to deal with the myriad of perpetrators who victimize older Americans, (2) need for collaboration on the federal, state and local levels, as well as public-private partnerships, (3) challenge presented by diminished capacity’s impact on an older adult’s ability to detect a fraud or scam, and (4) need for a broad-scale public education campaign to raise awareness of elder financial abuse and what to do about it in light of the aging population.
  • The CFPB has various initiatives underway that address the themes discussed at the Council meeting. Those initiatives include
    (1) development of generic and state-specific “how-to” guides (expected to be published in 2013) for family members who serve as “lay fiduciaries” and often have no experience handling someone else’s money, (2) production of a national guide to help operators of senior housing, assisted living, and skilled nursing facilities identify and intervene in exploitation cases, (3) development in collaboration with the FDIC of a “Money Smart for Older Adults” community education and awareness  program that will focus on preventing, recognizing, and reporting elder financial exploitation, and (4) working with stakeholders on the state and local levels to help create and sustain “Older American Protection Networks” that will develop multi-disciplinary teams to provide community education, raise public awareness, enhance response to reports of abuse, and increase prosecution.
  • In addition, to address concerns of financial institutions as to whether it is permissible under federal law for them to share personal account holder information when reporting elder financial exploitation, the CFPB is developing strategies (including in cooperation with other federal agencies) for communicating to financial institutions that the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act generally does not prohibit them from reporting suspected abuse to, or respond to requests for personal information from, law enforcement, Adult Protective Services agencies, and other relevant entities.