The Senior Safe Act Becomes Law

Client Alert

On May 24, 2018, President Trump signed into law the Senior Safe Act of 2018 (“Act”) as part of a larger bill that revises many of the provisions of Dodd Frank relating to credit unions, community banks, and small regional banks. The Act was modeled after a similarly named Maine statute and co-authored by Susan Collins (R-ME), the Chair of the Senate Special Committee on Aging and Clair McCaskell (D-MO). The purpose of the Act is to encourage a collaborative effort between regulators, financial firms, and legal organizations in order to prevent senior financial abuse by providing immunities for reporting under bank privacy laws. It also encourages the development of education and training at financial institutions by conditioning these grants of immunity on the requirement that financial institutions provide training programs regarding recognizing and dealing with elder financial exploitation. 

Specifically, the act provides that a “covered institution” and certain individuals therein will not be liable for disclosure of information made to “covered agencies” in connection with the suspected exploitation of a senior citizen if (i) the disclosing individual was employed by the covered financial institution at the time of the disclosure in a supervisory, compliance, or legal function; (ii) before the time of the disclosure, that individual received training in identifying and reporting senior exploitation (as described in Section 302 of the Act) and; (iii) the disclosure was made in good faith and with reasonable care. The language of the Act does not designate what the immunity is provided for, though the legislative history of the Act indicates this is an immunity for “bank privacy laws” in general. “Covered institutions” include credit unions, depository institutions, investment advisors, broker-dealers, insurance companies, insurance agencies, and transfer agents. “Covered agencies” include state and federal regulatory agencies, law enforcement agencies, and local agencies responsible for providing adult protective services. 

Notably, the law adopts a motivational rather than mandatory approach. It does not require reporting of financial abuse nor does it require the implementation of elder abuse training programs at financial institutions. Rather, it strongly encourages both by providing immunities and making the immunities contingent on this training. In some respects, this federal law is just catching up with laws enacted by individual states. In the past 10 years, many states have passed laws making reporting of financial abuse more commonplace. In fact, in some states, reporting suspected financial abuse is mandatory. Thus, although applicable nationwide, this new federal law brings protections to institutions and agencies in states where no reporting statutes have previously been adopted. 

The Act describes certain parameters for the “Section 302” senior issue training.  This includes instructing individuals on how to “identify and report the suspected exploitation of a senior citizen,” recognize common signs of financial exploitation, and handle reporting and disclosure considerations with appreciation of the need to protect the privacy and respect the integrity of the individual customer.  Section 302 also provides that institutions relying on immunity under the Act must keep training records and implement the programs “as soon as practicable.” For individuals who begin employment after the Act’s effective date, the training must be implemented no later than a year after the individual becomes employed. For the full text of the law, see Section 303 of “Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act.” https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/2155/text#toc-id45B692A3CB264F64BDE568E071AA2CFD