Among the FSI Advocacy Team’s crucial responsibilities, one of the most important is monitoring bills that are making their way through Congress or statehouses around the country, and spotlighting potentially troublesome measures that could harm our members’ businesses. In such cases, their job is to either combat such measures or win improvements that will mitigate their impact.
Just as often, though, the Advocacy Team finds itself in the position of advocating in favor of bills that will help our members and their clients. An excellent example of this came earlier this year when Congress passed, and the president then signed, the Senior Safe Act.
The Senior Safe Act boosted protections for vulnerable seniors and provided necessary safeguards to financial advisors concerned about the fallout from reporting suspected financial abuse of their elderly clients. The passage marked the culmination of a years-long advocacy effort by FSI on the issue and also highlighted our commitment to following through on an initiative that over the years had become not only a key focus of our advocacy efforts but a core promise to our members.
As large numbers of baby boomer investors grow older, elder financial abuse has become a rapidly expanding problem nationwide. At the same time, when we began focusing on this issue in our advocacy efforts, there were not enough safeguards in place to provide financial advisors the assurances they needed to fight it effectively. Realizing this dilemma, FSI sprang into action on behalf of our members.
“For years, financial advisors were in a tough spot,” said FSI Director of Legislative Affairs J. Maurice Jackson, speaking about the conundrum that many advisors faced when it came to combatting elder financial abuse. “On the one hand, they wanted to shelter their clients from harm and report potential abuse to the proper authorities. However, on the other hand, they knew that by doing that they could open themselves up to civil or administrative penalties for disclosing private information.”
Our initial strategy included engaging a bipartisan slate of lawmakers, beginning with Republican Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who is chairwoman of the Senate Aging Committee. Ms. Collins was committed to helping us get a bill to the floor, and Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., was also passionate about the cause. For a variety of reasons, however, the legislation stalled, thanks mostly to the complications of trying to pass constructive new measures in Washington, D.C.
While we believe there was always general Congressional support across party lines for the measure, the reality was that it was never a headline-grabbing issue that would capture the nation’s attention, even as it was critical to our industry and Main Street American investors. As a result, it was difficult to get key legislators to focus on it, Jackson said.
“Getting legislation across the finish line is often a tough slog even in the best of circumstances,” he said. “There are a number of things that can cause the process to get untracked, whether it’s the legislative calendar, political considerations or the news cycle. Our job is to be mindful of those things without letting them become a distraction and cause us to lose sight of our ultimate goal of getting this legislation passed.”
Over time, FSI leveraged our existing relationship with Sen. Tim Scott, R—S.C., who serves on the Senate Banking, Finance and Aging committees, and made inroads with Rep. Krysten Sinema, D—Ariz., a member of the House Financial Services Committee. We let both lawmakers know how vital the Senior Safe Act was, not only to our members but to millions of investors nationwide.
Eventually, the bill was passed by the Senate in March of this year, and then the House followed suit in May. Two days later it was on President Trump’s desk for his signature, providing protections for seniors and peace of mind for our members, as well as standardizing training so that the entire industry can get on the same page when it comes to reporting suspicious activity.
Thankfully, the Senior Safe Act is now the law of the land, and while many people played an essential part in making this a reality, we are pleased to note that the dogged determination and persistence of the FSI Advocacy Team—along with the steadfast support of our members—were central factors in its success, as well.