SEC to Continue Fight Against Senior Investment Fraud in 2010

The Securities and Exchange Commission is stepping up its efforts to combat senior investment fraud. In 2010, the SEC plans to focus on issues related to retirement investments, including product development, disclosures, and marketing issues.

The need to better regulate the retirement products arena and actively take action against securities fraud that targets elderly people has increased now that some 55 million senior investors are involved in defined contribution plans. The SEC is currently taking a closer look at life settlements (also called viatical settlements) and target date funds.

Viatical settlements involve transactions made by chronically ill or older people who sell their life insurance policy benefits to investors. In turn, these investors pay the premiums and collect the payout upon the seller’s death. According to the Senate Special Committee on Aging, the life settlement industry has doubled in value in the last 3 years and will likely exceed $150 billion in a few decades.

At this time, the SEC has limited authority over life settlement securities, which fall under its purview when they are solid in capital markets but also are sold in private offerings. On October 22, SEC Chairperson Mary Shapiro spoke at an American Association of Retired Persons forum. She called the life settlement market one of “emerging interest” and said its products could become Wall Street’s “next big securitized products.” The SEC has established a task force to determine whether this area of the market is regulated enough.

Shapiro expressed concern that many seniors may not comprehend the consequences of selling their life insurance policies to investors. She noted that tax benefits and the ability to get life insurance later on can be lost.

Shapiro says the commission is looking at target date funds and a target date’s use in the fund’s name. Target date funds are vehicles for college savings and retirement plans that move toward more conservative holdings as a specific date approaches. The SEC is taking a closer look at marketing and advertising collaterals to figure out if investors are getting accurate information about these products. Shapiro noted that some target-date funds lost up to 40% of their value when the economy collapsed last year.

Related Web Resources:
Schapiro: Settlements Need Watching



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