The North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) reported that senior investors continue to be a primary target for fraudulent investment pitches. In its 2015 Enforcement Report on 2014 Data, released Sept. 22, NASAA, based in Washington, D.C., reported that affinity fraud and unregistered securities scams disproportionately affect seniors. More than half of all reported enforcement actions that involved a senior victim featured unregistered securities, the report found.
“Seniors remain a top target of investment fraud and protecting seniors from investment fraud and abuse is a key priority of NASAA and its members,” said William Beatty, NASAA President and Washington Securities Director.
The report, which includes responses from 49 jurisdictions throughout the United States, indicated that seniors were targeted in one-quarter of the enforcement actions taken in 2014 by states that track victims by age.
“This number is conservative, in part, because of reluctance by victims to approach authorities,” Beatty said, noting senior-related cases typically involved an average of three senior victims per case. Unregistered securities, in the form of promissory notes, private offerings or investment contracts continue to be the most common product involved in senior abuse cases.
NASAA’s membership consists of the securities administrators in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Canada and Mexico.
Since 2008, when NASAA began collecting data from state securities agencies that track victims by age, one-third of all enforcement actions taken by state securities regulators involved senior victims.
The NASAA report also said state securities regulators conducted 4,853 investigations in 2014 and took 2,042 enforcement actions. These actions led to $405 million in restitution ordered returned to investors, fines of $174 million and prison sentences of 1,629 years.
“Investors continue to rely upon their state securities agencies to provide frontline enforcement resources to protect them,” Beatty said. “State securities regulators serve a vital role in protecting retail investors, especially those who lack the expertise, experience, and resources to protect their own interests.”
Unlicensed individuals or firms continued to be the most common subject of state securities enforcement actions, with 746 reported enforcement actions in 2014. Among licensed financial professionals, NASAA members reported 230 enforcement actions involved broker-dealer agents, 190 actions involved investment adviser representatives, 156 involved broker-dealer firms, and 146 involved investment adviser firms.
The most reported products and schemes in 2014 included oil and gas offerings, real estate investments, including promissory notes, and private securities offerings.
States continue to serve a vital gatekeeper function by screening bad actors before they have a chance to conduct business with unsuspecting investors. A total of 2,857 securities licenses were withdrawn in 2014 as a result of state action and an additional 728 licenses were either denied, revoked, suspended or conditioned.