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Peter E. Grosskopf, Attorney at Law

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Wisconsin Legislature Proposes Drastic Financial

Exploitation Laws

Part 2

Last month, I provided information about the very troubling financial exploitation laws proposed in the Wisconsin Legislature.  To briefly summarize, the proposed legislation defines elderly as anyone over the age of 60, it also provides financial institutions can refuse to acknowledge a Power of Attorney, refuse to allow automatic payments, limit cash withdrawals and electronic fund transfers, and place geographical limits on transactions for anyone over the age of 60, if that institution, in its own discretion, believes the person over the age of 60 may be vulnerable to exploitation.

Last month we talked about the failings of the law, as it related to the person over the age of 60.  This month we will discuss some of the failings of that law, as it applies to the financial institutions. 

The law requires that there be “Reasonable Cause” for the financial institution to believe that the person may be vulnerable.  However, it does not define, or give clear standards for what is “Reasonable Cause.”  In other words, any financial institution could concoct their own explanation as there is no objective standard to determine whether or not the financial institution is correct or not.  There would be some relatively easy ways to create those standards, for example:

  • if the transaction was to a known scam;
  • the customer is accompanied by an unknown individual;
  • there has been a recent series of transactions which are inconsistent with that customer’s pattern of spending;
  • the customer appears to be in distress at the time of the transaction;
  • If the suspected abuser is acting under a power of attorney, and after request by the financial institution, the agent fails to respond.

Some other easy steps that could be added to the law as protections for the customer would be:

  • require mandatory and immediate notice to the customer;
  • if the account is a guardianship account, require mandatory notice to the court;
  • if the account is in a Trust, mandatory notice to the Trustee;
  • If the account is a business account, mandatory notice to the registered agent of the business.

The present wording of the law allows indeterminate extensions to delay acting by the financial institutions; that should not be allowed.

The present draft of the law does not require that the financial institution trains its employees, plus it provides a complete waiver of liability for the financial institution, those should be changed so the law requires the financial institution to train its employees, and there should be liability if the financial institution is wrong.

Finally, the law allows unlimited fees or service charges to the customer while the alleged financial abuse is being sorted out; this merely profits the financial institution to the detriment of the customer.  This should be reversed so may not charge fees or service chargers, while this is being sorted out, which would encourage the financial institution to sort this out quickly. 

Respectfully submitted.

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