Urges Congress to Consider Legislation to Protect Seniors and Provide Restitution for Pandemic-related Securities Fraud
- DOWNLOAD: Testimony
WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 16, 2020) – The North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) today told Congress that state securities regulators are undertaking decisive action aimed at rooting out and shutting down frauds related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of these schemes are targeting vulnerable senior investors who are experiencing unprecedented quarantines to protect against the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“State securities regulators are standing on the front lines in the fight against the criminals and opportunists looking to abuse America’s investing public. The pandemic has sadly heightened their vigor, as bad actors attempt to exploit a pandemic and the present economic disruption,” said Amanda Senn, Chief Deputy Director of the Alabama Securities Commission and Chair of NASAA’s Cybersecurity Committee.
Senn’s testimony on behalf of NASAA came during a hearing convened by the House Subcommittee on National Security, International Development and Monetary Policy to examine how cybercriminals and fraudsters are exploiting the financial system during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The egregious character of financial crime is enhanced by technology and our growing dependence on online services. As a result, cyber criminals are on the rise and the financial sector remains a top target,” Senn testified.
To counter this threat, Senn described how state and provincial securities regulators use various technologies to gather intelligence and conduct online investigations, including an ongoing international enforcement initiative of NASAA’s COVID-19 Enforcement Task Force to crack down on fraudsters seeking to profit from the pandemic.
“The pandemic coupled with dramatic volatility in the markets has brought loneliness due to social isolation and concerns for financial security,” Senn testified. “This is likely the reason that my colleagues and I have seen a significant uptick in the number of financial exploitation cases over the past two months.”
Senn urged Congress to move forward with draft legislation entitled, “Senior Investor Pandemic and Fraud Protection Act” (also known as the “Empowering States to Protect Seniors from Bad Actors Act”), and draft legislation entitled “COVID-19 Restitution Assistance Fund for Victims of Securities Violations Act.”
The Senior Investor Pandemic and Fraud Protection Act would implement the Senior Investor Protection Grant Program, originally established and authorized by Section 989(A) of the Dodd-Frank Act, but never put into effect. The bill would also expand the scope of the grants to explicitly include fraud related to COVID-19.
The COVID-19 Restitution Assistance Fund for Victims of Securities Violations Act would create a fund at the Securities and Exchange Commission to provide restitution payments for individuals in connection with securities fraud related to coronavirus if they do not otherwise receive full payment of restitution.
“Congress has repeatedly recognized that seniors are especially susceptible to fraud and agreed on a bipartisan basis regarding the importance of supplementing state resources to educate and protect senior investors,” Senn testified. “Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress should assist state regulators in securing resources to combat financial exploitation against those most vulnerable in this crisis.”
Chief Deputy Director Senn’s testimony is available on the NASAA website (www.nasaa.org).
NASAA is the membership organization of state and provincial securities regulators in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.