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FINRA Targeting Senior Investors

July 22, 2015

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”) appears to be targeting seniors – – or at least the brokers that provide financial services to them. This may very well create a new waive of enforcement actions as FINRA seeks the spotlight to inform the public it is out to protect this group of investors. Even if that means protect them from themselves.

FINRA member firms, supervisors and brokers should be proactive to ensure their work with senior investors aligns with suitability requirements, FINRA guidelines and various state statutory requirements. When an account for a senior investor is being opened by a broker, the broker must take note of the client’s age as the information is being included in the new account paperwork. Bells should go off with the broker the new client’s time horizon for investments is significantly shorter than most. What that means is the types of investments that are to be offered must be carefully selected. By way of example, a variable annuity that pays out in 20 years may not be the best of selections as an investment vehicle for an 80 year-old investor. Similarly, in-and-out short term trading most likely should not be the recommended strategy. There are, however, always exceptions.

From a supervisory standpoint, the person responsible for authorizing the opening of the account must take note not only of the new client’s age and corresponding trading strategy, but also should ensure the firm is taking steps to educate brokers on how best to deal with financial strategies involving seniors. FINRA has provided Notice to Members and many, if not all states in the country have statutes designed to protect seniors from predatory brokers. Both supervisors and the brokers should take the time to review FINRA’s writings on the topic and ensure that the recommendations to senior investors are in line not only with the investment objectives on the new account documentation, but also in line with the provisions of FINRA guidelines and state statutory guidelines.

If a broker finds himself working with a large group of senior aged clients, the broker must be very careful to not try to take advantage clientele and begin utilizing a self-created title, such as Advisor to Senior Investors. Again, guidelines are in place as to the titles utilized by brokers, and those representing investors in FINRA arbitrations will utilize the fancy, but unearned titled, to impale the broker’s defense of the case. Similarly, if a supervisor sees a broker’s clientele is growing with this group of investors, there should be an aggressive review of the broker’s work. There should not be an assumption of wrongdoing, but an understanding of the broker’s strategy with each senior client and review as to the suitability of the trading in the account.

The beginning and end of the work should be this for brokers and their employing firms: be smart and aggressive in terms of protecting yourself. That does not mean a broker should not provide the client with the investments sought. What it does mean is the broker, with the assistance of the supervisor, should work directly with the senior investor to ensure the investor has a complete understanding as to: (i) the type of investment being recommended; (ii) the risks associated with the investment; and (iii) the fees and/or commissions that will be generated by the investment.

The Law Offices of Barry M. Bordetsky represents customers and industry members and representatives in FINRA arbitrations as well as before state and federal courts. If you have questions regarding the process, please contact Barry Bordetsky by telephone at (800) 998-7705 or email barry@bordetskylaw.com. The information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.