Legislation lets funds delay redemptions if transfer involves senior abuse

Legislation that would help protect seniors from financial abuse whooshed through the House with unanimous approval Monday night on the fastest track possible.

Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Mo., last Thursday introduced the Financial Exploitation Prevention Act, which would allow mutual funds to delay the redemption of a security if financial exploitation of a senior or other vulnerable person is suspected. Just a few days later, the full House — on a 419-0 vote — sent it to the Senate.

The House approved the same measure by voice vote in 2021. But the Senate didn’t act before the end of last year, when the previous Congress concluded. That required Wagner to drop the bill in the hopper this year in the new Congress.

House leadership didn’t waste any time moving on it.

“Protecting senior investors is a high priority for Rep. Wagner and her colleagues, and since the bill had such strong support last Congress, it was ready to go for swift action this year,” Arthur Bryant, a spokesperson for Wagner, wrote in an email.

Wagner, who chairs the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Capital Markets, is pushing the Senate to act, citing a widely reported statistic that financial abuse costs seniors $2.9 billion annually.

“The Financial Exploitation Prevention Act will provide our vulnerable investors with an important layer of protection to help make sure that they receive the hard-earned savings that they have built up over the years,” Wagner said in a statement.  “I hope the Senate takes up this bill immediately so vulnerable investors have the protection they deserve.”

The bill would allow mutual funds delay redemptions initially for 15 days and then add another 10 days if senior exploitation is found to be the cause of the transfer. Enabling investment companies to make this move complements state-level — and Finra — rules that allow investment advisors and brokers to halt disbursements from investment accounts if they suspect senior abuse.

“It’s a very small piece of very big issue, but it’s necessary and overdue,” Michael Canning, principal at The LXR Group, a government relations consultancy, said of the Wagner bill.

He’s optimistic about Senate prospects.

“I think it’s generally favorable,” Canning said. “I’m surprised it didn’t pass in the last Congress.”

The bill has the support of a major financial industry trade association that represents mutual funds.

“Mutual funds are key to building financial security for the majority of households in the U.S., and around a third of those are seniors,” ICI CEO Eric Pan said in a statement. “The bipartisan Financial Exploitation Prevention Act is an important step to protecting seniors and vulnerable adults from manipulation and elder fraud by enhancing safeguards around redemptions.”

‘IN the Nasdaq’ with Colleen Jaconetti, senior manager at Vanguard Investment Advisory Research Center