CFPB Updates Recommendations for Reporting Elder Financial Exploitation

Inside Subprime: August 27, 2019

By Aubrey Sitler

In late July 2019, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued an advisory report updating the 2016 Advisory and Recommendations for financial institutions on preventing and responding to suspected elder financial exploitation.

The original 2016 guidance included six categories of voluntary best practices for financial institutions to use upon suspicion of elder financial abuse:

  1. Developing and implementing internal protocols and procedures for protecting account holders from elder financial exploitation;
  2. Training management and staff to prevent, detect, and respond to suspicious events
  3. Detecting elder financial exploitation by harnessing technology;
  4. Reporting all cases of suspected exploitation to relevant federal, state and local authorities;
  5. Protecting older account holders by complying with the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA) and Regulation E and by offering age-friendly services that can enhance protections against financial exploitation;
  6. Collaborating with other stakeholders such as law enforcement, adult protective services, and service organizations.

This update focuses specifically on clarifying and reiterating the fourth point above — the expectation that banks and credit unions’ will report suspected elder financial exploitation to appropriate local, state, or federal first responders — because there have been issues with financial institutions being uncertain of whether to report suspected financial abuse due to privacy concerns.

This CFPB notice clarifies that reporting suspected elder financial exploitation does not generally violate federal privacy laws, as directed in the Interagency Guidance on Privacy Laws and Reporting Financial Abuse of Older Adults issued by all eight federal regulatory agencies authorized to implement the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act’s privacy provisions.

The new advisory is also contextualized in specific legislative changes that have occurred at federal and state levels since the 2016 guidance on reporting was originally issued. For example, it covers the Senior Safe Act, which was passed in 2018 and safeguards both financial institutions and individuals working in those institutions from legal liability for reporting suspected elder financial abuse, as long as employees are trained on such reporting.

In addition to alerting local, state, or federal authorities to suspected elder financial exploitation, the notice recommends that financial institutions file Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). Although data indicate that fewer than 30% of all SARs are reported to law enforcement or adult protective services, they still provide a valuable amount of insight into how widespread and damaging elder financial exploitation is.

Finally, to support timely responses to suspected abuse, the CFPB guidance encourages financial institutions to expedite their provision of requested documentation to back up claims of elder financial exploitation from adult protective services, law enforcement, FinCEN, and other entities.

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