Maine Securities Regulator Testifies Before U.S. Senate Committee on Aging; Touts Success of Maine Program to Combat Senior Financial Exploitation

Thursday, February 26, 2015

As the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) reports, on February 4, 2015 Maine Securities Administrator Judith Shaw testified before the U.S. Special Committee on Aging. Shaw emphasized the difficulty in addressing senior financial exploitation, noting that many elderly individuals are vulnerable, socially isolated and distant from family and other supportive networks. According to Shaw, financial exploitation is one of the most serious issues facing seniors.

Of note, Shaw discussed the approach Maine is taking to address this growing issue. In particular, Shaw noted the success of Maine’s “Senior$afe” program (a partnership between the Maine Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Aging and Disability Services, the Maine Department of Professional and Financial Regulation, the Maine Bankers Association, the Maine Credit Union League, Maine’s Legal Services for the Elderly, and Maine’s five Area Agencies on Aging). The “Senior$afe” program is a training and outreach effort intended to increase identification and reporting of elder financial exploitation by financial institutions. It provides training for tellers, other front-line staff and managers on the red flags of elder abuse and financial exploitation.

According to Shaw, over 200 bank and credit union employees in Maine have received Senior$afe training. The program has been so successful that Senior$afe program materials have been shared with NASAA for revision and co-branding so that it can be made available to NASAA members in the United States, Canada and Mexico. According to one source, Shaw “strongly believe[s]” the program could be a model for other states.

According to U.S. Senator Susan Collins, “Maine is on the cutting edge of helping to combat financial abuse of seniors though programs like the innovative Senior$afe program, which is the first of its kind in the nation.”

Shaw’s testimony can be viewed by video by clicking here.

Arbitration versus Litigation: Factors to Consider

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

How do they compare?   What factors might you consider if you have a choice whether to go to U.S. state or federal court or pursue arbitration? 

High.  Litigation is the most expensive dispute resolution process as a result of extensive pre-trial discovery, motion practice, and formal process.
Moderate.  Arbitration is generally less expensive than litigation, although unlike litigation, the arbitrator’s fees are paid by the parties (Judges are paid by taxpayers).  
Expansive. Ability to uncover vast amounts of information.
Limited.  Most arbitration rules favor limited discovery, so opportunities for depositions and subpoenas to third-parties are limited.
Dispositive Motions
Allowed.  Courts often dismiss claims prior to trial.
Limited.  Many arbitration rules limit or disfavor dispositive motions.
Slow.  Timing of resolution based on court’s schedule, cases may be set for hearing on short notice.
Faster.  Arbitration is usually faster, and a date certain for hearing is standard; greater  scheduling flexibility.
Unpredictable.  Juries can be unpredictable.   The parties cannot select the judge and have limited ability to select the jury. 
More predictable. Arbitrator is agreed upon by both parties and can be an expert in the subject matter.
Appeal Rights
Yes.  Full rights of appeal. Decisions by judges are explained.
Very limited.  Arbitration awards are subject to appeal only on very narrow grounds.  Decisions may not be explained, making it even more difficult to appeal.
Formal.  Rules of evidence apply.
Informal.  Rules of evidence do not apply.  Evidence can be introduced in arbitration that would be prohibited by a court. 
Public.  The Courts are public; information obtained through litigation is often public too.
Private.  Information disclosed and outcome can be confidential if agreed upon by both parties.
Forum Selection
Limited.  Limited by the events giving rise to the dispute and where the parties are located.
Flexible.  Parties can select where to hold the arbitration regardless of where they live or where the events giving rise to the action took place.

Largest One-Time Settlement in Maine History Involving Alleged Unfair Credit Rating Practices

Friday, February 6, 2015

The Maine Attorney General announced earlier this week that its $21.5 million share of the multi-state settlement with Standard & Poor's over credit rating practices is the "largest ever one-time settlement in Maine history."  The settlement received substantial press attention nationwide following Attorney General Eric Holder's press conference and in Maine following the Attorney General Janet Mills' February 4 press conference at the Kennebec County Courthouse.

According to the Maine Attorney General's press release, "Attorney General Mills said her office has aggressively litigated and negotiated the case for two years. Initially S&P removed the case from Kennebec County to federal court in Maine. The case was then consolidated with cases in other states and transferred to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. The Attorneys General then litigated the case in New York for eight months until the federal court remanded Maine’s lawsuit back to Kennebec County, where S&P then tried unsuccessfully to have the case dismissed on jurisdictional grounds."

Attorney General Mills singled out Assistant Attorney General Linda Conti, head of the Consumer Protection Division, for praise.  AAG Conti "traveled to New York City a number of times and . . . spent hundreds of hours litigating the case in state and federal courts on behalf of the State of Maine."