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Schapiro should be good for seniors

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President Obama’s pick to head the Securities and Exchange Commission is Mary L. Schapiro, Esq. — the first woman to serve as the agency’s permanent chairman. The appointment comes at a tumultuous time in the financial world and Schapiro will have her hands full.

What exactly is on her plate? To begin with, investor confidence is at an all-time low, the markets are in turmoil, and from events raging over the last six months it seems as if those who run the large companies keep getting away with financial “murder” at our expense.

So, what does Schapiro need to do to move quickly to re-energize the SEC? Her immediate challenge appears to be in the area of enforcement. She will be looking at ways to address the heavy caseload and understaffing by lawyers at the enforcement division. On February 9, the SEC announced the resignation of Linda Chatman Thomsen, Director of Enforcement.

This would not be the first time Schapiro has been tasked with reviving a struggling regulatory agency. In 1996, she joined the NASD, now known as FINRA, after it was accused of failing to effectively oversee brokerage firms. Schapiro revamped the NASD.

What about her attitude toward protecting seniors? Earlier in her career, one of the many issues she took on was abusive sales practices aimed at seniors. Schapiro was instrumental in holding several Senior Summits, wherein FINRA specifically looked at issues that were unique to seniors, including inappropriate products, churning, “free lunch” seminars and a host of others. Readers who are interested in seeing what this was all about should go to FINRA’s Web site and look at its publications which are “senior-centric.” Particularly helpful is the Joint Report on Protecting Senior Investors, put together by FINRA staff, NASAA, the SEC, firms of all sizes and representatives from senior advocacy groups.

Protecting senior investors is important to Schapiro. Through several of her public statements and accomplishments, it is evident that she is cognizant of the age and life stage complications that affect seniors. References have been made to identifying signs of diminished capacity, elder financial abuse by caretakers and/or family members and independence issues. She has demanded that firms implement procedures that take such considerations into account when dealing with seniors.

We can expect a continued regulatory focus on protecting senior investors.


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