New Law Will Prohibit Marketing Gimmicks Designed to Trick Seniors, Retired Persons
TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Jim Whelan which will prohibit securities sales professionals from using misleading titles or non-existent professional certifications to fool senior citizens into investing their money was signed into law earlier this week by Governor Christie.
“Senior citizens who’ve worked hard and saved their entire lives for retirement should be able to enjoy their golden years, not worry about bad investments they were conned into making,” said Senator Whelan, D-Atlantic. “This new law cracks down on unscrupulous business practices designed to trick seniors and retired persons into risky or inappropriate investments. The State cannot stand by while seniors are being victimized by con men with flashy – and ultimately, meaningless – professional titles and hollow credentials.”
The bill, S-1745, makes 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 will 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 previously existing law, securities sales professionals charged with dishonest or unethical business practices were 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.
“New Jersey needs to use all the tools at its disposal – including civil and criminal penalties and license suspension and revocation – to end the business practice of defrauding seniors out of hard-earned retirement funds,” said Senator Whelan. “Marketing tricks and sales gimmicks intended to create a false sense of security for senior investors should not be ignored, particularly when people’s livelihoods are on the line. This new law exposes unethical and deceptive business techniques for the breach of the consumers’ trust that they are.”
The bill was approved unanimously by the Senate in March, and received unanimous final legislative approval by the Assembly in May.