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Whelan Bill To Protect Seniors From Misleading Securities Salespeople Approved In Commerce Committee

Measure Would Prohibit Marketing Gimmicks Designed to Trick Seniors, Retired Persons

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Jim Whelan which would prohibit securities sales professionals from using misleading titles or non-existent professional certifications to fool senior citizens into investing their money was approved by the Senate Commerce Committee today by a vote of 4-0.

“Many seniors, living on fixed incomes, can be rightfully very cautious with their investment portfolios,” said Senator Whelan, D-Atlantic. “These are folks who are living on limited retirement funds, and have to pick their investments very carefully. When a security salesperson bearing the phony designation of ‘elder planning specialist’ or ‘certified senior planning consultant’ offers specialty services catered directly to their needs, unfortunately, some seniors fall for this marketing gimmick.”

The bill, S-1745, would make it a dishonest or unethical business practice for individuals to use misleading certifications or deceptive professional designations to imply that the individual has special training or expertise in advising or servicing senior citizens or retirees in connection with security sales, which include stocks, bonds, notes and investment contracts. Under the bill, an unlawful use of a senior-specific certification or designation would include: a certification or professional designation not actually earned or otherwise available for use; a non-existent or self-conferred certification or professional designation; a certification or designation that expresses or implies a level of qualification obtained through special education, training or experience but which is not actually obtained; or a certification or designation obtained from an organization that is primarily concerned with sales or marketing, or does not have reasonable professional standards for monitoring the competency of certificate holders.

Under current law, securities sales professionals charged with dishonest or unethical business practices would be liable for civil and criminal penalties, as well as the denial, revocation or suspension of their security broker’s registration with the New Jersey Bureau of Securities.

“It’s simply wrong for unscrupulous security sales professionals to target senior citizens and try to get them to commit to an investment vehicle based on phony, falsified credentials and titles,” said Senator Whelan. “We need to crack down on misleading, deceptive business practices designed to lull seniors into a false sense of security and invest their limited funds in what could be a risky proposition. This bill would force salespeople to sell an investment on its merits, and not on ginned up titles and fake certifications.”

The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

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