Fighting to Protect Seniors – Chris Cox’s SEC

After becoming the Chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), former U.S. Representative Chris Cox prioritized the protection of senior investors, who are especially vulnerable to fraud. The SEC initiated several programs during his tenure designed specifically to help elderly investors, and concluded supervisory arrangements with regulators around the world who have been enlisted in what is now a global fight against this kind of predatory activity. These international law enforcement efforts included a crackdown on Internet-based financial frauds, which often targeted seniors. The SEC under Christopher Cox also sought out ways to directly engage seniors across the country on the subject of how fraudsters target them with fraudulent and abusive schemes often peddled by investment advisors and sales agents.

One of the most common ways con artists have attempted to influence seniors has been through “free lunch” seminars; while many are advertised as educational opportunities, the SEC initiated a nationwide sweep examination and found that 100% of the “seminars” were actually sales pitches, with nearly a quarter offering outright bad advice and 13% exhibiting outright fraud.

In addition to stepping up enforcement of laws and regulations prohibiting these activities, the SEC under Chris Cox also began offering an annual “Seniors Summit” in conjunction with AARP, the North American Securities Administrators Association, and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. The SEC also adopted a new rule specifically designed to protect seniors against abusive sales of equity-indexed annuities, a financial instrument often unsuited to the needs of senior investors. When the annuity industry sued to prevent the rule from taking effect, Congress stepped in to encourage states to adopt model suitability regulation for these kinds of annuities, thus heeding Cox’s warning about the unsavory sales practices while giving seniors valuable new protections.