What is Financial Elder Abuse: The Signs You Should Look Out For

Growing up, one of the lessons we’re all taught is to respect our elders. Unfortunately, many people fail to take this to heart. Unscrupulous family members and other bad actors often take advantage of senior citizens, especially when it comes to their finances. According to one study, financial elder abuse accounted for roughly 18% of elder abuse reports. However, the actual percentage is likely much higher; only about 1 in 44 financial abuse cases is ever reported. Because many elderly people live off of their investments, the consequences of this type of abuse can be particularly extreme. The best way to protect our elderly family members is to know the signs of financial elder abuse. By recognizing the abuse as soon as possible, we can hopefully prevent irreversible damage to their finances. What Is Elder Financial Abuse? Elder financial abuse is theft or mismanagement of an elderly person’s assets. These may include real estate, bank accounts, or other property that belongs to the elderly person. Because the abuser is often a close family member, or trusted financial advisor, elder financial abuse frequently goes unnoticed. Investment Losses? Let’s talk. or, give us a ring at 561-338-0037. Sign #1: Unusual Bank Account Activity As they get older, many people grant financial powers of attorney to their spouse or adult children or trusted financial advisors. While this is perfectly normal, it opens up the possibility that the designated person may abuse that power. If you suspect elder financial abuse, pay close attention to the elderly person’s bank accounts and investments in their brokerage accounts. Withdrawals, transfers, or other suspicious activity like new or inactive accounts suddenly becoming active are red flags. The elderly person may be making these transfers themself, but it’s always good to be sure, since it could be for the wrong reasons (like the internet scams discussed below). Keep an eye on their investments as well. An elderly person’s portfolio is typically structured to provide a livable income off interest alone through low-risk investments. Keep an eye out for restructuring of investments to riskier funds or unexplained “cash outs.” Sign #2: Suspicious Internet Activity Over the past few years, there has been a drastic increase in the number of online scams targeting elderly people. Because elderly people are more trusting and less able to distinguish a scam from a legitimate venture, scammers frequently target them with fake tech support calls and the like. One of the most common online scams involves the scammer posing as a lover, friend, or family member online. After contacting the elderly victim, the scammer then requests money for plane tickets or some kind of emergency. This sign may be impossible to notice without speaking to the potential victim. Be wary if they mention someone new they met online or if you notice suspicious financial activity initiated by the victim. Sign #3: Missing Food or Unpaid Bills Ordinarily, caregivers or family members will make sure that an eldery person’s home is stocked with food and that bills are paid on time. Especially in a world with automatic bill payments, aging parents shouldn’t have to worry about paying their bills on time. A lack of food in the house and unpaid bills are indicators that that money is going elsewhere. Sign #4: Frequent Requests for Money by Someone Close to the Victim If someone makes frequent demands for money, that could be an indicator of financial exploitation. Anyone from neighbors to adult children may try to make frequent requests for money because they know the victim may have a poor memory or may have difficulty saying no.  Keep in mind that elder financial abuse like this is often subtle. Demands may not always be for large amounts of cash; this sign also includes polite requests for small amounts here and there. Over time, however, those “small amounts” can become exploitative. Sign #5: Payment for Unnecessary Services Door-to-door salesmen and “cold callers” may try to a upsell your elderly family member on services they don’t want or need. One common example of door-to-door sales abuse is roof repair or landscaping work. Cold callers barrage elderly at home with the next best investment in gold, silver, diamonds, and the next supposed Apple, Amazon, or Nextflix investment opportunity  to get into before its too late! These scams can take many different forms and may be difficult to spot. Sign #6: Threats or Coercion It may be difficult to imagine, but people may threaten their elderly family members to obtain money. These threats usually do not involve force, but rather things like, “I will put you in a home” or “I will stop visiting you.” If you don’t buy this stock, I’ll never call you again with any investment opportunities.  The abuser may also instruct the victim not to tell anyone what is happening. As a result, you’ll often have to pay close attention to spot this sign of elder financial abuse. Watch for a change in the elderly person’s demeanor or mood, especially around a suspected abuser.  What to Do If You Suspect Elder Financial Abuse If you suspect your loved one is the victim of elder financial abuse, there are a couple things you can do. If there is a health emergency, call 911 immediately; calling state adult protective services may also be appropriate in some circumstances. In most cases, your next step should be contacting a financial elder abuse attorney. They can provide legal advice and support to help stop the abuse and may be able to help the victim recover lost assets. Elder Financial Abuse and Financial Fraud Attorneys At the Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A., we have the experience and resources necessary to properly handle your elder financial abuse claim. We’ve helped hundreds of clients with securities and investment fraud of all kinds and are prepared to give you the professional, dedicated representation you need. Contact us today through our website or by phone at 800-732-2889 for a free consultation.

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The Most Common Forms of Breach of Fiduciary Duty (And What to Do)

Breaches of fiduciary duty are unfortunately common. Since the fiduciary duty is the highest legal standard of care, however, there are severe consequences for a breach of fiduciary duty. With the help of an investment loss recovery attorney, you can hold the fiduciary accountable for his or her misconduct. What Is a Fiduciary Duty? A fiduciary is a person entrusted to act in the best interests of another (i.e. the principal). Once the fiduciary agrees to the relationship, the fiduciary is bound by a set of legal and ethical obligations, known as fiduciary duties.  In general, all fiduciaries owe a duty of loyalty and a duty of care. Some fiduciaries will owe additional duties based on the relationship and the industry in which they are in.  The duty of loyalty requires fiduciaries to act in the best interest of the principa, avoid any conflicts of interest, and refrain from self-dealing. The duty of care means the fiduciary must make informed decisions based on all information available.  Fiduciary Duties of Financial Advisors  While all financial advisors have a duty of care to their clients, only registered advisors have a fiduciary duty. It is important to know whether your financial advisor is registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or a state securities regulating agency. Financial advisors who are not registered can make investments that benefit them, as long as the investment is within your stated objectives. A registered financial advisor, on the other hand, can invest only if it is in your best interest. For registered financial advisors, the fiduciary duties owed vary by state. However, the following fiduciary duties apply to all registered financial advisors in all states Duty to Recommend Suitable Investments Prior to recommending an investment, the financial advisor must study and understand the investor’s objectives, tax status, and financial situation, among other things. Any investments that the financial advisor recommends must be suitable to the investor’s needs.  Duty to Inform Investor A financial advisor must fully inform the investor of the risks associated with the purchase or sale of a security. The advisor cannot misrepresent any material facts regarding the transaction. Duty to Act Promptly and with Authorization  All client orders must be performed promptly and with investor’s express consent. The advisor must obtain separate authorization for each investment unless the investor has a discretionary account.  Duty to Refrain from Self-Dealing  A financial advisor cannot initiate a transaction where he or she personally benefits. Duty to Avoid Conflicts of Interest For any recommendations made after June 30, 2020, financial advisors have a fiduciary duty to avoid any conflicts of interest. If unavoidable, the advisor must disclose the conflict to the investor.  What Constitutes a Breach of Fiduciary Duty? A breach of fiduciary duty occurs when the fiduciary fails to act in the best interest of the principal. This can happen through an intentional act or failure to act.  There are four elements to a valid breach of fiduciary duty claim. Duty A fiduciary relationship must exist for the fiduciary to owe a duty. You must show that the fiduciary knowingly accepted that role to hold them to the fiduciary standard of care. This is typically shown through a written agreement between the parties, such as a customer agreement. Breach The fiduciary must act contrary to your best interests. A breach of fiduciary duty can be shown through deliberate acts, such as making decisions on your behalf without consent. You can also prove a breach through the fiduciary’s failure to act—for example, not disclosing a conflict of interest.  Damages You must suffer actual harm or damages from the fiduciary’s breach. Proving there was a breach is not enough for a valid claim of breach of fiduciary duty. Damages can be either economic or non-economic, such as mental anguish.  Causation There must be a direct causal link between the fiduciary’s breach and harm to you. Despite your damages, if they are unrelated to the fiduciary’s misconduct or an unforeseeable result of the breach, you cannot recover your losses.  What Are Common Forms of Breach of Fiduciary Duty? Below are just a few examples of how a financial advisor can breach his or her fiduciary duty. In each instance, the fiduciary fails to act in the best interest of the investor. Misrepresentation or Failure to Disclose Information If a financial advisor does not present a client with all material information about an investment, this is a breach of fiduciary duty. Material information is what a reasonable investor would consider important when deciding whether to invest.  Sometimes financial advisors will mislead investors by omitting information, such as risk factors or any negative information about a stock.  Excessive Trading Excessive trading, also known as churning, in your account is a breach of fiduciary duty. Financial advisors will make large numbers of trades solely to generate more commissions for themselves.  Unsuitable Investments Financial advisors must “know their customer” before making investment recommendations. This includes understanding the client’s investment objectives, risk tolerance, time horizon, financial standing, and tax status. The advisor breaches their fiduciary duty if they make an unsuitable investment, even with the best intentions.  Failure to Diversify Your financial advisor must recommend a mix of investments so that your assets are properly allocated among various asset classes and industries. Failing to diversify your portfolio puts you in a position of great risk and is a breach of fiduciary duty. If your assets are over-concentrated in a particular stock or sector, you may experience significant losses if the company or industry does not perform well.  Failure to Follow Instructions When you give instructions to your financial advisor, they have the fiduciary duty to promptly perform your orders. If your advisor fails to follow your instructions in a timely manner and you suffer financial losses, you can recover.  What To Do If Your Financial Advisor Breached a Fiduciary Duty If you lost money at the hands of your financial advisor, there are several potential courses of action. An experienced investor loss recovery attorney can walk you through the different options and...

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FINRA Arbitration: What To Expect And Why You Should Choose Our Law Firm

If you are reading this article, you are probably an investor who has lost a substantial amount of money, Googled “FINRA Arbitration Lawyer,” clicked on a number of attorney websites, and maybe even spoken with a so-called “Securities Arbitration Lawyer” who told you after a five minute telephone call that “you have a great case;” “you need to sign a retainer agreement on a ‘contingency fee’ basis;” and “you need to act now because the statute of limitations is going to run.”

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Wells Fargo Advisors Ordered to Pay $2.8 Million to Limited Partnership

By Dow Jones Business News, July 09, 2013, 04:07:00 PM EDT By Corrie Driebusch NEW YORK–An arbitration panel has ordered Wells Fargo Advisors to pay $2.8 million to a family limited partnership that accused the firm of negligence in connection with alleged thefts from its investment account. The Miami , Fla.-based partnership had sued a former secretary, accusing her of forging signatures to transfer money out of its accounts, and won a $21 million judgment in a Florida district court in 2010. That suit alleged the secretary, Esther Spero, took the money for her personal use from accounts at Wachovia Securities and elsewhere between 2005 and 2008. Wachovia was later acquired by Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC ). In its separate arbitration claim against Wells Fargo, the partnership, called College Health and Investment Ltd., said the brokerage was negligent in failing to detect the alleged theft. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority arbitration panel found Wells Fargo to be liable and ordered that it pay $ 2.3 million in damages and prejudgment interest. Wells Fargo also must also pay $419,000 in margin interest and $35,000 in costs. College Health and Investment Ltd. had requested $4.4 million, according to the arbitration panel ruling. As is customary in the FINRA claims system, the written award did not explain the panel’s reasoning. Robert Wayne Pearce, lawyer for the partnership, said it showed the panel agreed with the negligence claim. A Wells Fargo spokesman said in a statement, “We’re disappointed in the panel’s decision and don’t believe it was warranted by the facts presented during the hearing.” Write to Corrie Driebusch at corrie.driebusch@dowjones.com. Dow Jones Newswires 07-09-131607ET Copyright (c) 2013 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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Arbitration panel orders Wells Fargo to pay investor $2.8 million

Tue, Jul 9 2013 By Suzanne Barlyn (Reuters) – A securities regulator ordered Wells Fargo Advisors LLC to pay $2.8 million to an investor who said the firm failed to detect fraudulent transactions and theft in its account, according to a securities arbitration ruling. College Health and Investment Ltd, a family limited partnership, filed the case in Boca Raton, Florida against the Wells Fargo & Co unit in 2010, according to a ruling posted on Tuesday on the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s securities arbitration database. The case stemmed from Wells’ failure to detect alleged theft and unauthorized transactions by an employee of the partnership between 2006 and early 2008, according to Robert Wayne Pearce, a lawyer in Boca Raton, Florida, who represented the partnership. A family limited partnership is an estate planning tool used mainly by wealthy families to preserve their assets and minimize certain tax liabilities. The three-person FINRA securities arbitration panel found Wells liable on July 3 and ordered it to pay $2.3 million in damages and interest to the partnership, College Health and Investment Ltd. Wells must also pay $419,000 in margin interest and $35,000 in costs. College Health had sought $4.4 million, according to the FINRA panel ruling. “We’re disappointed in the panel’s decision and don’t believe it was warranted by the facts presented during the hearing,” a Wells Fargo spokeswoman said in a statement. “We are looking into next steps,” she said. A 2010 lawsuit filed by College Health against a former secretary, Esther Spero, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida sheds light on the Miami-based partnership’s troubles. It said Spero forged names of College Health employees who were authorized to transfer funds from its accounts, but transferred the funds for her personal use. In October, 2010, U.S. District Court Judge K. Michael Moore of the Southern District of Florida, entered a $21 million judgment against Spero, who did not respond to the partnership’s complaint. Spero allegedly operated the scheme through Wells Fargo and other entities, according to the complaint. Spero could not be reached for comment. Wells tried to seek damages from Spero and another College Health employee in the FINRA arbitration case, but the panel ruled it lacked jurisdiction over them because they were not FINRA-licensed securities brokers. (Reporting by Suzanne Barlyn; Editing by Leslie Gevirtz)

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