CFPB and SEC Jointly Issue a Consumer Advisory and Investor Bulletin on Diminished Capacity

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Office for Older Americans and the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Office of Investor Education recently issued a bulletin to help investors and consumers understand the potential impact of diminished capacity on their ability to make financial decisions and to encourage investors and consumers to plan for possible diminished financial capacity well before it happens.

The advisory bulletin makes the following recommendations to help avoid or minimize problems: (1) organize your important documents (this includes bank and brokerage statements and account information, mortgage and credit information, insurance policies, pension and other retirement benefit summaries, Social Security payment information and contact information for financial and medical professionals); (2) provide your financial professionals with trusted emergency contacts; (3) consider creating a durable financial power of attorney; (4) think about involving a trusted relative, friend, or professional; (5) keep things up to date; and (6) speak up if something goes wrong (i.e. if you ever think someone is taking advantage of you, or that you’ve been the victim of a fraud)

With regard to helping others who may have diminished capacity, the CFPB and SEC make the following recommendations: (1) have an open conversation about investments and other financial matters sooner rather than later; (2) help your relative or friend with managing finances; (3) if your family member or friend has named you to manage money or property, understand your responsibilities and how you can protect your loved one from financial exploitation. 

Finally, if you are someone who has been asked by a loved one or friend to help out with his or her finances, the CFBP and SEC notes you can do the following to help: (1) help with ongoing financial responsibilities (you may need to take on immediate tasks, such as helping to pay bills, arranging for benefit claims, preparing tax returns, or helping with investment decisions); (2) review their investment portfolio; (3) assess the riskiness of their investment portfolio; (4) contact their investment professional.

How Do I Find a Lawyer for a Securities Litigation or Arbitration?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

According to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), "You should consider hiring an attorney to represent you during the arbitration or mediation proceedings to provide direction and advice. Even if you do not choose to hire an attorney, brokerage firms are generally represented by an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, some law schools provide legal representation through securities arbitration clinics."

I agree.  At the very least "consider" hiring a lawyer if you have a securities or brokerage firm, insurance, or similar dispute!

How do you find a suitable lawyer?  For customers and brokerage firm employees, a great place to start is the Public Investors Arbitration Bar Association (PIABA).  PIABA's website includes a "FIND AN ATTORNEY" search tool that allows searches by state or zip code. 

Other options, suggested by FINRA on its website include:

  • Consult with your lawyer, if you have one, about your options and whether you need a lawyer who specializes in securities arbitration or litigation.
  • Call several bar associations to obtain a varied listing of lawyers in your area. Many lawyers will offer to consult with you initially for free or for a minimal fee.
  • Broaden your list of potential securities lawyers by consulting directories of attorneys. The Martindale-Hubbell® Law Directory can be found at many libraries or at at its website. It lists lawyers by state and jurisdictions. Some state and local bar associations also compile directories and may list attorneys according to specialty.
Other selective law directories include Chambers USA, Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers, and Avvo.  Attorneys are listed by location and practice area.

For customers with small claims and who are unable to afford a lawyer a number of law schools host securities law clinics.  Many of the law school clinics will only accept claims demanding less than $100,000 for claimants with a household income below $100,000, or where the customer has been unable to find counsel.  It never hurts to ask, however, since clinics offer pro bono (free) representation -- customers who may qualify and have a claim should consider representation through a clinic.  FINRA lists all the law school clinics here.