Investment Executive - - FRONT PAGE -

Pol­icy-mak­ers must do more to pro­tect se­nior in­vestors.

Cana­di­ans are used to com­par­ing our­selves favourably against our neigh­bours to the south on is­sues such as health care, gun con­trol and cli­mate change. But one mat­ter in which Canada is fall­ing short of the U.S. is the pro­tec­tion of se­niors. Cana­dian pol­icy-mak­ers should be look­ing to the U.S. for in­spi­ra­tion.

That Canada’s pop­u­la­tion is ag­ing is no se­cret. And, in­evitably, get­ting older is ac­com­pa­nied by some mea­sure of cog­ni­tive de­cline. Of course, many older Cana­di­ans func­tion just fine. But a grow­ing group with di­min­ish­ing cog­ni­tive skills, not to men­tion a life­time of ac­cu­mu­lated wealth, rep­re­sents an ever more at­trac­tive tar­get for fraud­sters and op­por­tunists.

The fi­nan­cial ser­vices sec­tor is well po­si­tioned to help com­bat this prob­lem, yet it’s ham­strung in a few sig­nif­i­cant ways. For one, there’s a cer­tain amount of le­gal un­cer­tainty if fi­nan­cial ser­vices firms and fi­nan­cial ad­vi­sors wish to in­ter­vene in cases of sus­pected abuse. The risk of civil li­a­bil­ity and the fear of vi­o­lat­ing pri­vacy rights are de­ter­rents to tak­ing ac­tion to try to pro­tect a client who may be ex­ploited.

At the same time, where to turn for help of­ten isn’t clear. Al­though cer­tain cases may be suit­able for po­lice in­volve­ment, many are not. Se­cu­ri­ties reg­u­la­tors may be help­ful in some in­stances; but, again, there are sig­nif­i­cant lim­its to their ca­pa­bil­i­ties and re­sources. In Canada, there’s no clear equiv­a­lent to the Adult Pro­tec­tive Ser­vices agen­cies that ex­ist in the U.S. to han­dle these cases.

This is one mat­ter in which Cana­dian pol­icy-mak­ers should be look­ing to im­i­tate the U.S. At the very least, there should be a cen­tral point of con­tact that Cana­dian firms and ad­vi­sors can turn to when they sus­pect that a vul­ner­a­ble client is be­ing abused so that proper help can be sought.

At the same time, sev­eral U.S. states have en­acted leg­is­la­tion that pro­vides le­gal sup­port for firms and in­di­vid­u­als to re­port sus­pected abuse and to in­ter­vene to pre­vent po­ten­tially abu­sive trans­ac­tions with­out fear of le­gal reper­cus­sions. This leads to an­other mat­ter in which Cana­dian pol­icy-mak­ers should take a cue from their U.S. coun­ter­parts: em­pow­er­ing fi­nan­cial ser­vices firms to take ac­tion in de­fence of vul­ner­a­ble clients.

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