When we report on the issue of elder abuse, including financial elder abuse, it is usually because of a recent headline that discusses a new wrinkle, a new twist on how an elderly person was mistreated and/or defrauded. Today, our San Francisco/Sacramento elder abuse law firm has promising news that may help victims bring suit against the perpetrators of financial fraud.
Law Shifts Victim’s Attorney’s Fees to Defendant in Certain Successful Financial Abuse Cases
Just a few weeks ago, as detailed in the Sacramento Business Journal, Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 381into law. The bill permits courts to award attorney’s fees and costs to seniors in cases where someone abused a power of attorney in bad faith to facilitate financial abuse against the victim. This is helpful because, although the law does provide double damages in such cases, some victims worry about affording the lawsuit itself and knowing they can get the attorney’s fees and paid if they win is a relief (Side Note: Please call us if you are worried about fees in any subject matter. We can often use a contingent fee or create a payment plan to help you.).
An Introduction to One Advocate and Her Fight
Another hopeful sign came earlier this summer with a focus on new groups that can, and one that now must, help report financial abuse of the elderly. The San Francisco Chronicle told the story of Helen Karr, a former beauty salon supervisor who repeatedly heard elderly customers telling their hairdresser that they had lent money to someone (family, caregivers, even simple acquaintances) and had never be repaid. The seniors expressed fear, both fear of asking for the money back and fear for how they would live without it long-term.
At age 65, Karr took action by enrolling in a nighttime law school program and she began focusing on elder abuse after graduation. She is now 78 and the San Francisco District Attorney’s elder abuse special assistant. Karr notes that she’d had no clue, when she first heard the unpaid loan stories, that financial elder abuse is actually a crime.
Targeting Financial Exploitation through Education and Reporting
Karr participated in a pair of panel discussions on the financial exploitation of seniors, a group that comprises a full fifth of the population. The group included CEO of the Commonwealth Club Gloria Duffy and Hubert H. “Skip” Humphrey III of the Office for the Financial Protection of Older Americans (a part of the new Consumer Protection Bureau). The group noted the wide range of perpetrators who commit financial abuse, including many trusted advisors, and emphasized the need to better educate people on spotting this abuse. This includes a plan for Humphrey’s office to craft a guide for nonprofessionals involved in managing an elderly person’s finances that would set out rules and standards for money management and provide tips on protecting the senior from financial exploitation. Other groups may also be targeted for educational efforts, such a guide for consumers on identifying and reporting scams.
Since transitioning careers and becoming an advocate for seniors, Karr spearheaded the new California law making banks mandatory reporters of suspected elder financial abuse (similar to how teachers must report suspected child abuse). Karr also trains bank employees to enable them to spot cases of financial exploitation or abuse. She also works directly with seniors in an effort to prevent them from falling victim to abusive financial schemes. One specific target is annuity and insurance fraud, such as a salesperson trying to sell a 70 year old on an annuity that ties the money up for 20 years, making it an inappropriate financial product for that client.
Fighting the Trend, Protecting the Growing Senior Segment
Elder abuse, in any form, is intolerable. The problem is growing, in part because the population of seniors is growing due to improved medical care and the aging of the Baby Boomer generation. However, there is hope. There are people working to stop the abuse, including those working on education efforts, crafting reporting requirements, and making justice more accessible. Attorney Brod, an experienced San Francisco elder abuse lawyer, and his legal team are also committed to the fight against elder abuse and exploitation. If you’ve experienced elder abuse yourself or if you are worried a senior you love is being abused, please call. We can help.
See Related Blog Posts:
The National Council on Aging’s Top Ten Financial Elder Abuse Schemes