House passes safe harbor bill for reporting senior abuse

July 7, 2016 -- A bill protecting “good faith reporters” at financial services institutions who properly disclose suspected financial abuse of elders was passed by the House by voice vote Wednesday.

H.R. 4538, the “Senior$afe Act of 2016,” is aimed at protecting seniors from financial fraud, but also at providing legal cover for financial services employees properly reporting suspicions of such abuse. It was sponsored by Reps. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Bruce Poliquin (R-Maine).

Under the measure’s provisions, a supervisor, compliance officer, or legal advisor for a covered financial institution (credit union, bank, investment advisor or broker-dealer) who has received training regarding the identification and reporting of the suspected exploitation of a senior citizen (somebody at least 65 years old) would not be liable for disclosing such exploitation if disclosure were made to a state financial regulatory agency or any of the federal financial institutions regulatory agencies, law enforcement agency, or adult protective services agency. Additionally, the disclosure would have to be made “in good faith and with reasonable care.”

The provision also frees a covered financial institution from liability for such a disclosure by an individual employed by the institution at the time of the disclosure and when the institution had provided training.

“Training,” under the measure, amounts to how to identify and report the suspected exploitation of a senior citizen, and discussion of the need to protect the privacy and respect the integrity of each individual customer of a covered financial institution. Training would have to be “appropriate to the job responsibilities of the individual attending the training.”

A similar measure is pending in the Senate.