SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
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FINANCIAL EXPLOITATION OF THE ELDERLY
MONDAY, MAY 3, 1999
U.S. House of Representatives,
Subcommittee on General Oversight and Investigations,
Committee on Banking and Financial Services,
The subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 10:00 a.m., in room 805B, United States Courthouse, 500 Pearl Street, New York, NY, Hon. Peter King, [chairman of the subcommittee], presiding.
Present: Chairman King.
Chairman KING. Good morning. The hearing will please come to order, and we will begin with the testimony of our witnesses this morning.
This hearing this morning will address the problem of financial abuse of the elderly, particularly with respect to joint bank accounts.
Senior citizens often require assistance in keeping track of their monthly bills. A long hospital stay or the death of a spouse could have the unfortunate side effect of causing the elderly to fall behind in their mortgage payments, and may cause them to feel they need to open joint accounts with friends, relatives, or caretakers, which sometimes meets with dire results. The joint account allows someone else to write the checks and pay the bills and make sure all accounts are kept current. With a joint account both account-holders have total access to the funds.
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Tragically, however, some of these trusted friends and relatives have abused joint accounts. In many cases senior citizens have been abandoned, with their homes in foreclosure and their life savings depleted.
This morning we have three panels of witnesses, including people who have been victimized by these practices. The first panel consists of two good friends of mineI've known them both for many years, they are very active on this issue and many consumer issues. The District Attorney of Kings County, Joe Hynes, accompanied by Eugene Kelley, Deputy District Attorney and former Commissioner of the Suffolk County Police Department, and New York City Councilman from my old neighborhood in Woodside, Walter McCaffrey.
I wish you good morning. I would like to ask Joe Hynes to begin his testimony.
STATEMENT OF CHARLES J. HYNES, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, KINGS COUNTY, NY, ACCOMPANIED BY EUGENE KELLEY, DEPUTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY AND FORMER COMMISSIONER, SUFFOLK COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT
Mr. HYNES. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I respectfully ask permission to put my remarks in the record and continue with my oral remarks.
Mr. KING. Without objection, so ordered.
Mr. HYNES. With me is Deputy District Attorney and former Police Commissioner, Eugene Kelley. He is the Director of Senior Affairs from my office, also a former Police Commissioner of the Suffolk County Police Department.
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First of all, Mr. Chairman, I'd like to take this opportunity to congratulate you in person for your appointment as Chairman of the Subcommittee on General Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Committee on Banking and Financial Services. As a New Yorker, I'm very, very proud of that appointment, but as someone who has had the privilege of working with you for nearly 20 years advocating equality for the Catholics in Northeast Ireland, I know when you focus on an issue involving injustice, you don't give up until you've been successful. And the injustice I'd like to address this morningand I'm very, very pleased to be with an outstanding public servant like Walter McCaffreyI want to address the pernicious form of elder abuse committed by relatives and friends of seniors who steal money from joint bank accounts which they set up with these seniors, ostensibly to help manage their financial affairs. The problem is that in New York State, when a joint account is established, two presumptions at law are created: first, that the owner of the money intends to make an immediate gift of one-half of the monies deposited to the other joint holder of the account, and second, that upon the death of a joint account depositor, the survivor of the account is the beneficiary of all the remaining funds in the account.
As a result of some abuses which you'll hear about today, in 1990 the New York State legislature amended the banking law creating accounts for convenience only, also known as convenience accounts. Under Section 678 of the New York State banking law these convenience accounts retain full ownership of the deposited money in the owner of the funds, while the other party can withdraw funds as a convenience signer only. It is clear that the money is being withdrawn for the sole convenience of the true owner, and it is also clear that the convenience signer neither owns any percentage of the money nor is the convenience signer vested with any survivorship rights. And unfortunately, the New York State legislature did not mandate the establishment of these accounts.
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Currently there's no willingness on the part of the banking community to offer the accounts. For example, in 1997, a survey of 36 banks in New York City revealed that only two offered this account. The result is that despite horror stories you'll hear this morning of looting, of stealing of monies of relatives and friends from trusting seniors, monies involving tens of thousands of dollars, there could be no criminal prosecution for grand larceny in New York State, because the holders of monies in joint accounts are effectively the owners of that money.
Banking representatives later on this morning, I hope, will give you reasons why they haven't offered these accounts, but in our discussion with representatives in Brooklyn, we were told that there's simply no demand for the account.
This morning, Mr. Chairman, I come to you with a hope that legislation to mandate convenience accounts gets the support of this Congress, which will encourage our State legislature, currently unwilling to require these accounts, to follow your example. Thank you very much.
Chairman KING. Thank you, District Attorney Hynes.
STATEMENT OF HON. WALTER L. McCAFFREY, MEMBER, NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL
Mr. MCCAFFREY. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and I appreciate the invitation you have extended. Having served as a chief of staff for a Member of Congress, I've always admired your career, and it's always good to see that a Woodside boy has done well.
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I have looked at this issue as a Queens member of the city council, representing a vibrant, but an aging community. My community represents some of the highest concentrations of senior citizens in the United States, and so I've focused my energy in public service on finding ways to serve and protect this constituency. In recent years elder abuse, particularly that related to financial exploitation of the elderly, has become an ever-increasing problem in our city. Three years ago, at my urging, the city council funded a new program in the city called Walk the Walk, headed by Father Coleman Costello, someone who is a friend to all of us; he was the founder and former director of Project Outreach, which was a substance abuse treatment program for youth, and Walk the Walk was really a program that has helped create the first shelter specifically dedicated to housing abused senior citizens in the State of New York, much in the way of spousal abuse facilities.
Much of this organization's work has been focused on addressing, however, financial abuse. Let me provide you with an example of what I'm talking about.
Over a little more than a year ago in a New York Daily News article entitled ''Health Aide Eyed in Deaths of Elderly,'' it was reported that a health care aide working for several elderly clients in New York City was the subject of a criminal investigation involving the disappearance of more than $1 million of his patients' money. In several cases involving the health care aide, he allegedly stole their money after gaining access to the elderly clients' accounts.
Because elderly persons frequently require assistance managing their finances, they are particularly vulnerable to financial exploitation. The most frequently used tool to assist senior citizens who need help paying their bills is the joint bank account.
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Under New York State banking law, as District Attorney Hynes has said, entering into a joint account creates a joint tenancy where funds are shared by account-holders. Therefore, upon the death of one, the balance of the money becomes the sole property of the survivor. Even in instances where the elderly person has contributed the entire amount of the assets on deposit in the account and/or opened it solely as a means for helping them better manage their finances, the joint account-holder has an equal ownership interest in that account. Law enforcement officials, and particularly under the leadership of District Attorney Hynes, who has really served in the forefront in terms of this issue, have long complained that the joint bank accounts create impediments to prosecuting financial exploitation of senior citizens, because the party making the inappropriate withdrawal has an ownership interest in that account. No criminal charges can be lodged against a joint account-holder who removes funds inappropriately, even if prosecutors can prove that the party making the withdrawal did not contribute to the deposits in the account and the money used for their own personal purposes was never authorized.
To address this problem, as has been pointed out, the State legislature created these accounts for convenience only. These accounts are opened and maintained in the name of the depositor and another person or persons who can access the account for convenience of the depositor only. Funds on deposit always remain the sole property of the owner. The convenience signer has no ownership interest and does not have any right to the proceeds in the account upon the death of the depositor.
On March 31, 1997, the New York City Council's Committee on Aging, chaired by my colleague, Julia Harrison of Queens, conducted an oversight hearing on the issue of elder abuse. Among the topics discussed at the hearing was the potential for financial exploitation of the elderly created when traditional joint bank accounts are used, as well as the legal protections offered by convenience only accounts. The district attorney's staff was very, very helpful in providing testimony for that hearing and giving us guidance. During the public hearing, I was astounded to learn that although authorized by State law, most banks neither publicize nor offer convenience only accounts.
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As a result of that hearing, at my request, the city council's Office of Oversight and Investigations conducted a survey of 41 financial institutions that do business within New York City. The purpose of the survey was to determine how many of these institutions offered convenience only accounts. Both telephone interviews and personal visits were conducted. In July of 1997, the city council released a report entitled ''The War On Elder Abuse: Banks Fail to Enlist in the Fight.'' The report revealed that at that time only 6 percent of the banks offered these accounts, an astonishingly low figure. Further, we also found through the report that the few banks that did offer the accounts of convenience failed to publicize their availability.
Both Richard Brown, Queens District Attorney, and Charles Hynes, District Attorney of Brooklyn, have expressed from a law enforcement perspective the importance of these accounts. In testimony which I've included, I've detailed the letters from both of these law enforcement officials indicating the same.
Since the release of the survey of July, 1997, I have had the opportunity of working with some segments of the banking community to address this problem. High level discussions have taken place with two of New York's banking institutions, among the largest, Chase Manhattan and Citibank, about promoting and test marketing these accounts for convenience only in a pilot study area. Both institutions have agreed to do experimental programs in western Queens that I expect will begin to be publicized by June of this year in a collaborative effort between the city council and those banks. I will certainly keep your subcommittee informed of the progress in this area.
Page 8 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Further, I would welcome input from your subcommittee and the opportunity to work with you in the future on this important initiative. Let me just say I have to commend these two institutions. A lot of banks when they received the survey ended up complaining out there, well, you release this report and yes, we failed to do it, but it was kind of not sensitive to repeat it. Quite frankly, it was not sensitive. Two of the institutions I mentioned stepped forward and have gone through training their staffs, putting in the type of software needed to make this work, and it's our belief that this should be a model and used on a national level because we believe, quite frankly, as we see the increasing problem of frail elderly around the Nation, that this would be a tool that would help them in terms of their potential to ward off financial abuse.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman KING. Thank you, Councilman McCaffrey. I would like to ask D.A. Hynes and Councilman McCaffrey, what are the disincentives for banks? Why aren't they encouraging this?
Mr. HYNES. I have no clue. They say there's no demand. I'm delighted to hear from Councilman McCaffrey there are two institutions interested in doing this. I don't know, and I hope that we'll get a better answer when the banks testify today.
Mr. MCCAFFREY. We were, frankly, toldand again, the issue of demand was not presentbut additionally, the banks, when this was created in 1990, never had any additional pressure being put on them to do any sort of outreach effort, and from a financial point of view, it does not in any way prevent the banks from their mission in terms of making money. We are sort of flabbergasted when we end up seeing that there is no impediment there that should exist, and that easily they can afford to present this.
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It does require on their part some advertising, and that is something that they might have to pay some money for, but I think in the final analysis as corporate citizens they have that obligation to participate with us in this measure.
Mr. HYNES. Frankly, I think the opportunity you have given may very well lead to the banks' reassessing their decision. I have no reason to believe their decision is venal or insensitive, I just don't know if they understand the need. After they hear the testimony from the victims, maybe it will be very, very clear to them.
Chairman KING. Have there been any prosecutions at all on convenience accounts?
Mr. HYNES. Not that I'm aware of, anywhere in Kings County. I've spoken to some of my colleagues around the State; the answer is I don't know.
Mr. MCCAFFREY. Simply because the accounts have not been made available. So that what happens frequently is that when the banks, someone goes in and says we want to have this here for our protection, they're not cooperating with law enforcement, and that's obviously something that's a problem.
Chairman KING. Do you have any specific suggestionsthis may be more to Walter, but certainly both of you can answeractual promotional methods banks could use or any way they could use outreach programs as far as dealing with senior citizen organizations or dealing with community organizations?
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Mr. MCCAFFREY. The banking community is now attempting to educate the elderly community in terms of the use of ATM machines, so they will bring a demonstration ATM machine to a senior citizen center, for example. Obviously, ATMs are a profit center for the financial institutions these days, and so they do that type of outreach. Well, at the same time, they could do a series of other instructional provisions for seniors there in the availability of the account. Many of the banks, even with their customers as they are standing on line, there are all sorts of displays for various services that the bank or banks make available. Again, they could publicize it there. They have in many cases the opportunity in their inserts to their customers to make them aware of this. They all have very extensive public relations departments and could be similar, very active that way, and I think they could also have a collaborative relationship with all of us.
In the case of western Queens, that's the way we're publicizing it in terms of our newsletters and reaching out to the community.
Mr. HYNES. If I could add to that, we have a very aggressive, active outreach program with senior citizen centers all over my county. We have 400,000 seniors living in the county, and Mr. Kelley's position or job has been principally to have a liaison with those senior citizen centers. It would be very easy for us to assist any bank by disseminating the information to every senior citizen center in the county.
Mr. MCCAFFREY. There's an additional idea that is raised; as you know, here in the City of New York we do have an extensive program of home health care attendants. They distribute materials to their clients. That would be a way particularly, because there is some concern that some health care attendants do have a potential to be able to rip off a senior citizen, and that is something that, again, to get your information into the hands of senior citizens. As well as there are other networks, we have all of our community networks. When the banks want to get the word out there, they can do it, and they can do it very, very well.
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Chairman KING. I want to ask District Attorney Hynes some questions about the type of criminal that carries this outyou go back many years in terms of investigating Medicaid fraud and abuse, the nursing home scandalswhat type of individual would actually rob a senior citizen? Is there any pattern?
Mr. HYNES. It's absolutely extraordinary, Mr. Chairman, there doesn't seem to be anything that would warn a senior that her son was going to steal from heror her brother was going to steal, or a very, very good friendand you're right. I go back many years with the nursing home scandal, where we were able to identify people in the industry, you know, who made the business of stealing money a very structured part of their business, but I see no pattern in this, other than the greed of the individual people involved.
Chairman KING. Under joint tenancy, joint accounts, is it impossible to prosecute? That seems to be what you're saying.
Mr. HYNES. It is absolutely impossible. Because ownership vests in both joint tenants, whereas in the convenience accounts, we can identify the withdrawal, we can require them to supply receipts that justify the withdrawal for a specific purpose of convenience of the senior, but under joint tenancy, we have no way to go at all.
Chairman KING. What would be the procedure on that? Would the joint holders actually file with the bank? Who would they file with as far as receipts, expenditure, and the purposes?
Page 12 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. MCCAFFREY. My staff, my assistant, Colleen Lenahan, they worked out a procedure with the banks where on a software program, a bank, when someone comes in to present a check, for example, to be cashed at a teller, would automatically be allowed to have displayed on their terminal the fact that this is a certain special account and to give special care, and that, then, allows the bank to be able to track. The staff additionally said that one of the items that is important is that there may well have to be some designation on the actual check itself, and that's something we're further exploring so people would understand this is a special account, and again, to give some direct attention that way.
It is well within the capacity of the institutions to be able to make that type of service available. One of the things that they can do with the software now is to be able to really do your entire history out there from the time in which your account opened and who then has the account, all of that can flash very, very quickly, and that's what we're endeavoring to have them provide.
Chairman KING. If a person is being brought into the joint account for the purpose of managing the finances of a senior citizen, is there any reason, if they have a legitimate motive, why they would not want to be in a convenience account as opposed to a standard joint account?
Mr. HYNES. There's none that I can think of. It's very, very clear that the whole purpose is to help a senior with their financial concerns, and that there shouldn't be any reason, other than the greed that may not be disclosed in a joint account.
Mr. MCCAFFREY. And we've heard instances also, this is not someone who might be a health care attendant, but these are family members, sons and daughters, grandchildren. There are times, Father Costello pointed this out to us in stories he's seen, in which there's active substance abuse on the part of the sibling and now you end up having this type of a problem there in which this is a ripe source of money, and with an ATM card, bing, they can end up taking care of their drug habit.
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Mr. HYNES. One of the difficulties you'll get this morning is one of the victims will tell you the story about his 79-year-old mother and how her account was looted of over $50,000. Now, the brother forged the mother's signature. That would give us a prima facie case, but she will not cooperate. She's forgiven her son, which is more likely to occur than we can think of, and of course she will not cooperate with the investigation. She would have to identify the signature and say it's not her signature.
Chairman KING. My colleague, Carol Maloney, is going to join us this morning, I believe she's tied up at another hearing. I want to thank both of you. Any other comments you want to make, you certainly may.
Mr. MCCAFFREY. Mr. Chairman, I encourage the efforts that you have made, and the consideration to make this a national effort. This is an item which we believe will have increasing importance as that population that's now generally in their 70's go into their 80's and 90's, and the circumstances for them to be alert to their own potential exploitation may be diminished, and so it's important for us to expand this, and I compliment you.
Mr. HYNES. Before I withdraw, I'd like to have Mr. Kelley put something on the record.
Chairman KING. Sure.
Page 14 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. KELLEY. Mr. Chairman, may I have marked for the record and read into the record and made part of the record the statement of Mrs. Lorraine Caldarola, to this subcommittee? And basically, Mrs. Caldarola lives in Florida and a few years ago, her 83-year-old mother was on a joint account with the son. Now, the son took from those joint accounts probably over $100,000, and what he was doing was, he was withdrawing the money from the accounts and putting it into a trust fund for him and his family. When the mother was in Florida visiting, she was in awful physical shape; the daughter tried to put her in an assisted living facility, he would not turn over the bank books to get the balance of the money.
Our office stepped in and with the district attorney's active support, we went out, had to sit down with the lawyers to set up these trust accounts, and this man, and they tell us within three days, he had sent all the books down, he had sent all the withdrawal slips down. So at any rate, I would ask the Chairman to mark this into the record.
Chairman KING. Without objection, it's in the record.
Mr. HYNES. Mr. Chairman, finally, I'd just like to make the point, when I learned about your appointment, I called you and brought this to your attention and you immediately said that you would look into it. We're going to be well served by your chairmanship. Thank you very much.
Mr. MCCAFFREY. Thank you very much.
Chairman KING. Thank you, I appreciate your efforts and cooperation, thank you very much.
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The second panel will be Michael Smith, who is the President of the New York Bankers Association.
Mr. SMITH. Good morning, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman KING. Good morning, Mr. Smith.
Mr. SMITH. I'm accompanied by Bill Bosies, Counsel.
Chairman KING. I welcome both of you to the hearing and thank you for all the cooperation you've given to us over the years on this and many other subjects.
STATEMENT OF MICHAEL P. SMITH, PRESIDENT, NEW YORK BANKERS ASSOCIATION, ACCOMPANIED BY BILL BOSIES, COUNSEL
Mr. SMITH. Thank you very much. Good morning, Chairman King, I know Congresswoman Maloney will be joining us.
Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Michael P. Smith, and I am President of the New York Bankers Association. Our association represents community, regional, and national money centers throughout New York with assets in excess of $900 billion and more than 210,000 employees. Let me say my principal role in the Association is acting as a mediator with governmentboth State and local. Councilman McCaffrey I know very well because we worked together on the ATM security law and with that, just at the outset I'd like to say that you have the full cooperation of this association with its member banks to do what we can possibly do to address the concerns expressed at this hearing today.
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Mr. Chairman, I'd like to make that commitment right out of the box.
Chairman KING. Thank you very much. I'm sure that will be the case.
Mr. SMITH. Our industry, as I said, is committed to providing safe, effective, and efficient banking services for all the senior citizens in the State of New York and has taken the lead over many years in working with the New York State legislature, and I might add, the Congress, to enact some of the most progressive pieces of legislation in the country for senior citizens and all consumers of banking services.
In 1978 New York State became one of the first States, if not the first State, to enact its own version of the Community Reinvestment Act, designed to ensure that banking services are provided to all neighborhoods within a bank's service area. When it became apparent that the regulations implementing CRA were in need of reform, New York did not resist; we became one of the first States to propose revised rules in cooperation with the State of New York and the office of the Comptroller of the Currency. The final CRA regs, which went into effect in 1997, relied heavily on concepts in the State of New York, including strategic planning. Among the banking services rewarded under the improved CRA regulations are efforts by individual banks to try and expand their basic banking account services. The Association is proud of the significant role it played in working to enact one of the most comprehensive basic banking laws in the Nation.
I might add at the same time the convenience account was coming up for discussion in the New York legislature, the main product issue for banking in the early-mid-1990's in the State of New York was the basic banking account, so-called ''lifeline'' banking. During the past five years, the low cost convenience of the basic banking account has helped elderly New Yorkers meet their special financial needs.
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Many of you are aware of this account on the panel, this account was widely publicized just a month or so ago in the New York Times. It is one of the most unique accounts in the United States. It has the full support of the New York banking community, and it provides for eight free transactions, a minimum balance of $25 and a $3 monthly charge. And it's an account that we're proud of here in New York.
While this account was certainly not designed to meet the banking needs of every customer, it fits well under the financial plans of many consumers, especially senior citizens.
We also worked with the New York legislature and the city council of New York to enact the most comprehensive ATM safety law in the Nation during this same time period. Our banks understand the importance to all bank customers, particularly senior citizens, of the ability to perform simple banking transactions without fear of financial or physical loss, as was noted by the earlier panel. New York State's ATM safety bill is designed to minimize the risk to customers of ATM crimes while performing their banking transactions. The protection of all of our customers and in particular senior citizens remains a top priority for us.
I might say again that the discussions on this particular piece of legislation that was in the making for a period of over two years, started here in the City of New York. And I might add that Councilman McCaffrey was intensively involved over those two years and New York now has probably the most comprehensive ATM security law in the Nation. It has required tremendous attention by the banking community during the last several years of its implementation.
Page 18 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Throughout our work with the legislature on a series of banking bills of importance to senior banking customers, we have kept an open door for groups expressing concern about the delivery of banking services to seniors, and that door remains open today. Over the past year, we have become increasingly aware of concerns raised by numerous groups about practices that exploit elderly banking customers, and that was noted in the earlier panel. I do believe, from our perspective as an association representing the banks, that this is an issue that is becoming more and more known throughout the banking community. And hearings like today are making it even more well known, and that was the point, not criticism directed at the banks earlier. I think this is clearly an emerging issue for us.
On several occasions we have met with representatives of the Elder Law Committee of the New York State and City Bar Associations to discuss the legal problems associated with senior citizen banking activity. We have also met with such policymakers as Surrogate Radigan of Nassau County, the staff of District Attorney Hynes' office, and Councilman McCaffrey. We have testified before the Assembly on Aging and Banks Committees and also have distributed relevant information through our quarterly publication, the New York State Banking Journal, and will certainly make these proceedings known in that journal.
Even as the banking industry and public policymakers have worked to meet the needs of elderly consumers, however, unscrupulous parties still take advantage of them to bilk them of their hard-earned savings. Banks have in place systems to detect fraud in many of their accounts, but the hardest problem to deal with is that in many cases this is a close relativethis is a friend or an acquaintancetaking advantage of a relationship with an elderly customer. When a customer opens a bank account, Federal and State regulations, as well as the bank's own procedures, require that the customer provide ID, and in certain cases, the source of large cash deposits that may be made into the account. When a joint account with right of survivorship is opened, all parties to the account relationship are subject to those requirements. However, when an elderly customer comes in with a loved one or trusted caretaker to open a joint account relationship, both parties to the account are entitled to withdraw all the funds in the account at any time and upon the death of one of the parties, the remaining balance in the account becomes the property of the other account party. Tragically, some elderly customers' most trusted friends, loved ones, and caretakers have been guilty of the most shocking cases of funds withdrawal, in some cases leaving the elderly customer with no more than the proceeds of Social Security or a meager pension benefit on which to live.
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District Attorney Hynes has testified today to the difficulty of prosecuting joint account-holders for this type of behavior under current fraud statutes, and some have recommended the more widespread use of the so-called ''convenience account'' to deal with this problem. The banking law authorizes banks to offer convenience accounts designed for those customers who may wish or need to share signature authority, but not ownership of the account. Convenience accounts respond to one area of concern with respect to financial exploitation of the elderlythat is the question of the ownership of the account after the death of the elderly account-holder. The proceeds of a convenience account become part of the estate of a decedent and do not pass to the holder of the signature authority on the account. As a result, disputes in court about the ownership of funds remaining in the account after the death of the account-holder are minimized, although there may remain significant factual issues with regard to withdrawals from the account that clear very shortly after the account-holder's demise. Nevertheless, the legislature has provided possibly an even more flexible way of reducing fraud and abuse of elderly customers, and this has come through our counsel's committee that includes the powers of attorney, including short form powers which are readily available at stationery stores, libraries, and bookstores, and to us provide greater flexibility than the convenience account, allowing senior citizens direct control of their financial affairs even when they need to act through others. Through a simple checklist on the power of attorney an elderly customer can direct that signature authority on an account be used only for specified purposes and may even direct dollar limits on particular expenses. State law requires all banks to accept the short form power of attorney, and every bank of which we are aware has established procedures to ensure that these powers are appropriately honored.
While no individual account form can suit every individual's needs, we would note that the power of attorney, more than almost any other instrument, makes clear the intent of the depositor and provides a strong evidentiary trail in the event of an abuse.
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Finally, for the ultimate protection of the assets of the elderly, New York bank trust departments are among the most sophisticated and responsive in the Nation, providing a level of service, prices, and features designed to fit the needs of many senior citizens who could by no means be classified as wealthy. Even having said this, we would welcome the opportunity to meet with you to enhance communication on this important issue.
Before closing, I would like to bring the subcommittee's attention to a current concern with regard to fraud on bank customers that is unfortunately too widespread. As the Year 2000 approaches, the media have reported at length on possible problems with bank computers. Fortunately, banks have made herculean efforts to correct these problems and the bank regulators, State and Federal, have testified to this preparation before the Congress and the State legislature. On a cautionary note, our banking superintendent recently stated that criminals masquerading as bankers, bank regulators, investment advisers or financial consultants, continually ask people to give them bank account numbers or to take their money out of the bank for safekeeping. The elderly are certainly the most vulnerable in this process. We are working with the Secret Service, State banking department, and the State attorney general's office to advise consumers of Y2K fraud and could not let the opportunity of this hearing today pass without calling this issue to your attention.
While an exhaustive cataloging of all the Federal and State banking laws designed to ensure the needs and rights of senior citizens is clearly beyond the scope of this hearing today, it remains our strong belief, and this was stated at the earlier panel, that customer education is the best way to match each customer's needs and wants with the banking products that exist to serve them, and also the needs and the rights of individual customers. To this end, we pledge our cooperation to every sector of government and to your subcommittee, Mr. Chairman, to ensure, and, I might add, to enhance this effort. In my experience and our experience at the Association, it is through this customer education, making these issues public, that we become not only aware of possible new avenues of legislation and regulation, but also the cooperation that's needed to express to the public in general and to bank customers that there are problems out there and this is how you may wish to correct them.
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So we appreciate this opportunity today, Mr. Chairman, and again, pledge our support.
Chairman KING. Thank you, Mr. Smith, I appreciate your testimony. I also appreciate the level of cooperation you've given and pledge to give in the future. If I could ask a few questions, though. Why is it, as D.A. Hynes testified, that only two of the 36 banks that he had surveyed were offering the convenience accounts? Is there any financial disincentive for banks not to offer them?
Mr. SMITH. The only information, Mr. Chairman, that I could provide to you to shed light on this is really to confirm or affirm the earlier statements that we are being told that there has not been a demand. At the same time, I can attest to the fact that the commercial banking sector which we represent, to my knowledge, here in the city and throughout the State is not offering this account. The one side has said no demand, the other side, whether it's the district attorney or Councilman McCaffrey, have indicated otherwise or have indicated that there is a need for these accounts to be offered.
First of all, you can have statutes that are mandatory. We would prefer not to have mandatory statutes. We would prefer to have situations where there is voluntary compliance or people stepping up and offering the account. And in that regard, I might add that over the last eight to nine years, there have been so many significant banking laws passed, including the basic banking account, and other developments going on within the industry, including consolidation, that this for our Association has not been an issue that has come to the fore. I would say over the last year or two, whether through the surrogate's office, the district attorney's office, or Councilman McCaffrey, when we received information, as representatives of the industry we called together members of our banking committees to meet with the parties, whether at the surrogate's office, or with the councilman's office.
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I know Bill Bosies here attended the meeting at Councilman McCaffrey's office. It's my understanding, which was confirmed this morning, that two of our largest banks, largest retail banks in the United States, with significant impact on the New York metropolitan area, are in discussions with the councilman's office, and we are awaiting results from those meetings, and it is specifically with regard to a pilot program on these kinds of accounts.
Chairman KING. Could you give me details about the meetings with Surrogate Raddigan? Was that prompted by problems in Nassau County?
Mr. SMITH. That was specific to the surrogate's concerns about fraud, and with that, I know Bill was at those meetings and if that's all right I'd like to have Mr. Bosies respond.
Chairman KING. Sure.
Mr. BOSIES. Just very quickly, Congressman. The surrogate's concern is an evidentiary one. There have been several disputes over the years among heirs about whether the proceeds of ownership in a joint account after a depositor's death should go to the other joint account-holders or should become part of the estate. So the surrogate wrote and we published an article that described to banks the fact that if they offered convenience accounts, these disputes might potentially be reduced, because if there's a convenience account, at least it's clear that the account-holder did not intend the signatories on the account to also have the right to have an ownership interest at the account-holder's demise.
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Chairman KING. Thank you Mr. Bosies.
Mr. Smith, at numerous times in your testimony you mentioned the importance of customer education, and I would ask you what you see the role of the banks being for customer education, both for convenience accounts or the power of attorney, which in many cases you say might be more protective even than convenience accounts. What role do you envision banks being able to play, if any, in instructing seniors of the pitfalls of opening up joint accounts and the protections they would have of using powers of attorney or convenience accounts?
Mr. SMITH. I'd like to say on behalf of the banks, I know how much effort they put into consumer education and customer education, and the fact that we have through Federal and State laws and regulations and through their own marketing plans a tremendous amount of information going out there to the customer. I would point just this year to the whole Y2K issue, and certainly in past years, I would say the last several years, it might be ATM security, which is certainly relevant to this discussion. And there's a wealth of information. I think in this particular instance, what we would do is possibly with the help of your panel and with the local officials here in New York, we could set up a meeting, a renewed effort on this particular issue, a discussion withwe have about 30 member banks right here in the cityand talk about what further could be done in terms of this particular issue.
I'm not aware specifically of each of their programs, but I know they do have outreach programs. There were hearings just last year in the State. The State legislature had hearings on concerns of the aging within the banking system, and I think we should go beyond the hearing stage at some point and possibly discuss a specific program that might be related to this issue. And certainly I don't think you could have any better result than also, too, a couple of our member banks possibly engaging in this pilot program.
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But I do think that one of the problems we have is the focus. There's so much going on today, as you well know, that sometimes there is not the focus. And we have certainly seen in the last year a very growing focus on this issue, and I think that, for example, we have a meeting in this coming month, mid-June, we'd welcome you to be involved in that and make a specific message to all of our CEOs throughout the State of New York as to the results of your hearings today.
Chairman KING. Maybe I'll take you up on that.
Let me also ask you, in his testimony District Attorney Hynes addresses a Federal law requiring convenience accounts. So here's your opportunity to give us your opinion on that.
Mr. SMITH. I think that it would be our view not to see laws mandated. If there are banks that can mold these programs and account services within their existing accounts, that would be far preferable to any kind of a mandatory structure. I would hope or we would hope that post these hearings, post future meetings in the next month or so, and maybe some real life experience in offering the account or with the account, that we might be in a better position to say whether we would need Federal legislation.
I can tell you, Mr. Chairman, having been involved in the basic banking account negotiations which were part of the major restructuring of New York's banking laws, it was not a stand alone, that that particular account we believe is successful and has weathered the test of time because it was done in a cooperative fashion with the support of the banking industry. And, if there was going to be either State or Federal legislation, anything dealing with mandatory, we would like to work with you, not againstnot to be in an argumentative mode, to be in a cooperative mode, to make sure that it's the customers' needs that are addressed here. And in that regard, we would not just say that we would oppose the legislation. We would rather engage in a discussion with you on it before we had addressed that issue.
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Chairman KING. Thank you, Mr. Smith. Do you have any other comments you want to make or anything you want to add to any of the testimony or any reply that you made already?
Mr. SMITH. Two messages we leave behind. One, we strongly believe in the whole issue of customer education; and, two, we do want to work with you. This is a serious concern to us, and you have our support on that.
Chairman KING. Thank you Mr. Smith and Mr. Bosies, I appreciate your time.
Mr. SMITH. Thank you.
Chairman KING. Let's call the third panel, please, Mr. Davis, Mr. Volskis, and Mr. Wilson. I want to thank each of you for taking the time to be here this morning. This is an issue which is of great importance to our senior citizens. It is an issue which certainly as a Member of Congress I find very important, very critical. As I was saying to District Attorney Hynes, I can't envision anyone with a worse criminal mentality or being more devoid of morality than someone who would rob a senior citizen who is in such a vulnerable position, especially on an account such as this, which is opened up solely because of the trust that the senior citizen has. It's an account based on trust, it's a relationship based on trust, and to violate that trust and to impoverish the person and in effect steal their life savings to me is unforgivable. But we look forward to your testimony today, and I'll begin with Mr. Davis.
Page 26 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCSTATEMENT OF E.B. DAVIS, SR., WILMINGTON, NC
Mr. DAVIS. Good morning, my name is E.B. Davis, Sr., I reside at 203 North 13th Street, Wilmington, North Carolina, and I'm here to tell this subcommittee that my uncle, 90 years old, very sick, was taken advantage of. My uncle has lived in Brooklyn, New York most of his life, and he has worked hard and he's not an educated person. I don't think he has as much as a second grade education. And when my uncle became sick in 1970, my cousin and her husband went over to see him and visit him and told him that they were going to take care of him, and they had power of attorney given to them and shortly after that, they got him to sign over the property which he owned in North Carolina and New York, and shortly after that, they interceded in getting a mortgage on the house, which had no mortgage on it, of $168-something thousand dollars, which they took the money to pay off their debts that they had. They had filed for bankruptcy and the bills that occurred, they paid them late, if they paid them, and some of them are still not paid. We are trying to catch up now. He's on a fixed income of a Social Security check. We went to the district attorney, who has assisted us in trying to get his property back for him, and myself, my wife, and his sister-in-law, both are on fixed incomes and we are trying to retain a lawyer to try to help us get his property back. Anything your subcommittee can do to help us, we'd appreciate it.
Chairman KING. Mr. Davis, you mentioned this to me prior to the hearing, I told you we'll try to work with you and do whatever we can. I know you've been in touch with Congressman Towns, and we will certainly look at our records. Mr. Mondello, who is counsel to the subcommittee, will work with you and we'll do whatever we can, also working in conjunction with the D.A.'s office and with Congressman Towns. Thank you. Do you have any further testimony?
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Mr. DAVIS. Yes, there is one piece of information that was not included and is brief.
Chairman KING. Sure.
Mr. DAVIS. I just received yesterdayor I just got to New York yesterday, and I was confronted with papers from the City saying that he has a $3,300-some-odd water bill that they intend to turn over to a collection agency, and even if the collection agent pays he will still be in debt to the City for X amount of dollars. I don't know how we're going to do this, and I'm greatly aggrieved behind this kind of action, and any kind of assistance that we can get from anybody to help us straighten this out, I'll appreciate it.
Chairman KING. When did you come up from North Carolina?
Mr. DAVIS. Saturday afternoon.
Chairman KING. You came up for the purpose of this hearing?
Mr. DAVIS. Yes.
Chairman KING. I want to thank you very much for making that effort. Thank you, sir.
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STATEMENT OF VICTOR M. WILSON ESQ., BROOKLYN, NY
Mr. WILSON. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Victor Wilson. I'm an Attorney at Law with offices at 189 Montague Street, Brooklyn, New York. I would like to relate to this subcommittee the experience of one of my former clients, in which her niece stole thousands of dollars from her while a joint account-holder in one of New York City's largest banks. My statement today is based on conversations that I have had with a number of people, including my former client, her friend of many years and former caretaker, a representative of the Brooklyn D.A.'s office, an inspection of numerous documents relating to matters, as well as my own knowledge.
For purposes of confidentiality, I will identify my former client as Mrs. X. I first met Mrs. X in 1996 when she was 92 years old and was living in Brooklyn. She had worked hard all her life, saved her money and by living frugally, had managed to accumulate a respectable amount of savings, both here and in the island of Barbados, her original homeland. In 1995, she had a savings account in a Brooklyn branch of one of the largest banks in the city amounting to just under $100,000.
In September, 1995, Mrs. X was hospitalized for some surgery. When she returned home to recuperate, a niece, who herself was in her 60's, approached Mrs. X and persuaded her that she needed help in paying her bills and getting her groceries, and so forth. The niece took Mrs. X to the bank, had her close out her bank account, which then contained $96,028.35, and open a joint account with the niece with $94,880.70 from the closed account. Note that the niece withheld over $1,000 in cash.
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As you know, under the New York banking law, Section 675, which governs joint bank accounts, the niece now could legally withdraw any or all of the funds in the joint account, despite the fact that the niece contributed nothing to the account. In addition, should Mrs. X die, then the niece could legally claim the remaining funds on deposit.
In October, 1995, the niece made three cash withdrawals totaling $9,116.21; in November and December, the niece made subsequent withdrawals totaling $3,000; in January, 1996, the niece also made eight cash withdrawals totaling $30,400. In February, 1996, the niece made three withdrawals totaling $9,139.93. Mrs. X never received any of these funds, nor did she benefit in any way from these withdrawals.
Sometime in April, the niece went on a vacation trip to London and did not return for a number of months. During that time, Mrs. X, along with the help of an old friend, discovered the theft and closed the account. During a period of five months, the niece had removed over $51,000 from the joint account without the knowledge or approval of Mrs. X. As previously stated, Mrs. X did not receive any of this money, but was existing on her monthly Social Security check of $650. The friend referred to above found her alone, slightly disoriented, and with no food in her apartment.
The matter was reported to the district attorney's office, who, after preliminary investigation, informed me that under New York State law, since either holder of a joint account can legally withdraw any or all of the funds on deposit, there is no violation of any penal statute. However, I was also advised that if the funds had been deposited in a convenience account as authorized by Section 678 of New York banking law, then the DA's office could possibly have pressed criminal charges against the niece. The crucial question for criminal prosecution would have been whether or not these funds were withdrawn or used for the convenience of Mrs. X.
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I was also advised that during the DA's inquiry into the matter, it was learned that Mrs. X had originally expressed grave doubts to the bank's representative about opening a joint account with the niece and was advised by the bank representative to go home and think the matter over. The next day the niece and Mrs. X returned to the bank and the joint account was opened.
I'm also advised that when questioned by the assistant DA handling the matter, the niece admitted withdrawing all the cash, but insisted that she did so at the request of Mrs. X and that she had turned over all the cash to Mrs. X. Naturally, she had no receipt or witnesses to the alleged turnover. When asked if she inquired of Mrs. X what was she going to do with all that cash, the niece allegedly answered no, that it was none of her business, since the money belonged to Mrs. X.
One of the things that disturbs me about this case is that I believe that the bank in question in this matter is one of the few banks in New York that actually offers convenience accounts. For some unknown reason, the bank representative never took the time to either offer this type of account or to explain this type of account, that this type of account was available to Mrs. X.
I think that all banks operating in New York State should be required to offer convenience accounts to the elderly and/or disabled, much the same way that banks are required to offer basic accounts. I would urge this subcommittee to work toward that goal. Seniors who work hard all their lives deserve as much protection as they can get in order to live out their lives with respect and dignity.
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In closing, I am saddened to report that I am advised that Mrs. X has moved to Barbados, where she has been financially victimized again by another niece in almost the same manner. As of this date, I don't know if she is still alive or not, or if she now has other legal representation.
I want to thank Congressman King and this subcommittee for this opportunity to present this statement.
Chairman KING. Thank you very much, Mr. Wilson.
Mr. Leon Volskis.
STATEMENT OF LEON VOLSKIS, RICHMOND HILL, NY
Mr. VOLSKIS. Good morning. My name is Leon Volskis and I reside at 8419 101 Street, Richmond Hill, New York 11418. My mother is presently 81 years old and has been seriously ill for a number of years. Although she is physically incapacitated, she is very much mentally alert. She's been a resident of Brooklyn just about all her adult life. She has two sons, of which I am the younger.
Because of her illness she is pretty much bound to the house. What follows as my statement to the subcommittee is a compilation of information I have learned from speaking with my mother, representatives from the bank, a review of the pertinent records, consultation with personnel from the Brooklyn district attorney's office, and my own personal knowledge.
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For many years my mother maintained a bank account at a local bank. A number of years ago, she added my older brother's name to the account as a convenience to her so that she might have access to these funds in the event of a medical emergency. At the time, my brother was living at home with her, and it was her intention to allow my brother to have access to the account so that her bills could be timely paid if she were physically unable to pay them. It was also her intention that my brother should receive whatever funds were left in the account should she pass away.
At the time my mother added my brother's name to the account, she gave the bank written instructions to the effect that the account could not be closed without her consent. On May 29, 1996, without my mother's knowledge or consent, my brother closed out the account, withdrawing the sum of almost $50,000. He did it by presenting to the bank a letter allegedly signed by my mother and sworn to before a notary public, consenting to the closing of the account. At the time, a representative of the bank telephoned my mother's house and spoke to a woman who identified herself as my mother's home care attendant, which she was not. The woman confirmed to the bank representative that my mother did indeed wish to close the account. Unbeknownst to the bank representative, however, was the fact that he was speaking with my brother's girlfriend, who was in on the scheme to defraud my mother.
My brother has since moved out of my mother's house, and now lives with his girlfriend. The theft of the funds was not discovered until late 1996, when my mother was hospitalized and I was looking for various papers she needed in connection with her hospitalization. I reported the matter to the police, but they were of the opinion that no crime had been committed, because despite the restriction, the account was still a joint account permitting either party to withdraw all or part of the funds on deposit.
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In January of 1997, I took the matter to the Brooklyn district attorney's office, which opened a preliminary investigation. The DA's investigators located the notary, who supposedly acknowledged my mother's sworn signature in a bank in upper Manhattan. While the notary admitted he did take the signature, he could not recall any of the details, because he said the signature was taken almost seven months before.
The monies were traced by the D.A.'s people to another bank account where my brother deposited the funds in an account under the name of this girlfriend's son. As soon as my brother learned that the D.A. was investigating the matter, he had his girlfriend's son close out the account with a bank teller's check payable to himself. My brother then held the check for many months without depositing the monies anywhere. Although he was interviewed by the DA's detectives, he allegedly refused to cooperate in any way. The investigation was eventually closed by the Brooklyn DA without any arrest, based on their legal conclusion that the account was in reality a joint account and under New York law any party could withdraw any or all of the funds. The mere fact the bank agreed to my mother's request that the account could not be closed without her consent was in fact a courtesy extended by the bank, but did not change the nature of the joint account for purposes of a criminal prosecution. Some months after the investigation was closed, my brother, through his attorney, presented the expired check to the bank and received a replacement check. He has never returned any of the funds to my mother.
I am informed that if my mother's account was a convenience account, as opposed to a joint account, that the district attorney's office might have been able to prosecute this case as a crime. I personally believe if the bank had offered this type of account to my mother, the convenience account, given her concern that my brother not be able to close the account without her consent, that she would have opted to put the money into this type of account.
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I would urge the subcommittee to encourage the use of these types of accounts by all banks, as they seem to offer at least minimal protection against unauthorized use of joint funds. In my mother's case, I can assure you she does not want to see my brother in jail. However, she would still like to see the money returned. Personally, I don't see that ever happening.
Thank you for giving me the time to present these facts to you.
Chairman KING. Thank you very much, Mr. Volskis.
I would like to first of all take the opportunity to commend District Attorney Hynes for all he's done. Certainly he's in the forefront of this issue. I'd like to thank Commissioner Kelley for all of work he did. I'd also note that when Mr. Smith testified today, it's important to note the banks do want to cooperate. This is an issue of great social significance, but hopefully it's one we can address, working together with the prosecutors, with the banks, and also getting testimony from victims such as yourself.
I would like to ask Mr. Volskis, in your case, it's my understanding that your mother actually wanted protection; the fact that she did want to put some restrictions on the account shows that she did have a concern or she at least wanted to be safeguarded. Do you think in that case if the bank had offered her a convenience account she might have accepted?
Mr. VOLKSIS. Mr. Chairman, my brother had a substance abuse problem all his adult life. He's primarily on alcohol, but I believe it's more than alcohol. He made efforts to get money previously, not in such an organized fashion. He came in with a sloppily written note, vodka on his breath, and the bank wouldn't do it. I made numerous visits to the bank in person, addressing my mother's concern that the signature be required. At no point did the bank manager ever mention the existence of a convenience account. There were numerous discussions I had personally in that manager's office.
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Chairman KING. Do you believe your mother would have opted for the convenience account?
Mr. VOLSKIS. Absolutely, absolutely. She was obviously concerned about my brother's substance abuse problem.
Chairman KING. Mr. Wilson, you heard the testimony, I believe, of Mr. Hynes and also Mr. Smith. It appears that banks do not feel there's a demand for convenience accounts. Do you believe that if there were a greater educational effort by the banks or by community organizations or senior citizen organizations, for that matter, that seniors would be more willing to opt for these convenience accounts?
Mr. WILSON. Yes, I think with education the seniors would be more apt to go with a convenience account. As an attorney, I've been a law guardian, I've had guardianship accounts for elderly and also the incapacitated, but I think that the convenience accounts seem to be more efficient. It takes less time. If you go through the guardianship process, it takes a couple of months, but the convenience account can be done much quicker, and I think that whoever signs for the elderly would be responsible if there is a theft or whatever case, just as in a guardianship-type account.
Chairman KING. Mr. Davis, do you believe that if banks made a more concerted effort to educate senior citizens, that they would be more likely to use convenience accounts?
Page 36 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DAVIS. I'm positive they would, because of the fraud that has been taking place by many senior citizens, especially in the case of my uncle, who is illiterate and not knowing, and I'm quite sure he would be willing to use this.
Chairman KING. Do you have any specific suggestions, just from your experience, as to how banks could do this, as far as educating senior citizens? Obviously in the case of Mr. Volskis, we can see that was clearly an example where your mother anticipated a problem and the bank had a solution to the problem, but didn't make her aware of it.
Mr. VOLSKIS. Never mentioned it.
Chairman KING. Absent of that, which to me is a flagrant example where the bank dropped the ball, but say dealing with the ordinary senior citizen who is probably not even thinking of any potential problem, how do you think banks could best educate senior citizens? Would it be through mailings?
Mr. VOLSKIS. Mr. Chairman, I don't know if it's the best way, but even a pamphlet saying this is option A, B, C. Until this hearing, I wasn't aware there was such a thing as convenience accounts, and I made numerous visits to that branch manager and it was never mentioned to me.
Chairman KING. Mr. Wilson.
Mr. WILSON. I think the problem with educating the senior citizens, againas an attorney, I've dealt with citizens who are mentally incapacitated or they may be suffering from dementia, whatever the case is, and telling them may not be necessarily effective. That's why I think that if it's required that they offer a convenience account, maybe through investigation or interviewing the clients, I think that they would be protecting the senior citizens that way, rather than just education. I think it should be a requirement, because otherwise, I feel there would be some abuse that will continue to happen.
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Chairman KING. Do you believe that the requirement for a convenience account should be at the State level or the Federal level, or do you think it matters?
Mr. WILSON. I think it should be at the Federal level, Mr. Chairman, because we have senior citizens throughout the Nation. I think the need to be protectedthe case that I had, my case, I had to go all the way to Barbados, because my client had property in Barbados, a beachfront area, she had another niece there who was taking advantage of her. I think seniors have to be protected and I think the legislators should impose laws to protect senior citizens. Of course identification helps also, but we have to look at the whole package and really require that, also.
Chairman KING. Mr. Davis, Mr. Volskis, do you have any comment on whether you think it should be mandated and whether or not it should be mandated at the Federal level?
Mr. DAVIS. I concur it should be mandated, for the simple reason I myself did not know it existed, and along with education and the demand for it there would bebecause there was some disruption when my cousin's husband went in to have the monies transferred and whatnot, they found out that he had bad checks, this kind of thing, so he wasn't able to do it, but his wife was able to do it. Therefore, if there's education and the demand for it, they would be able to look at it further.
Chairman KING. Mr. Volskis, just out of curiosity, how is your mother surviving right now?
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Mr. VOLSKIS. Basically I've had a full time job trying to take care of her needs. I've recently been able to get her onto Medicaid, which helps financially, because in the interim, I was footing the bills. Things are stable at this point.
Chairman KING. Mr. Wilson, in your case you mentioned your client in effect went through the same process again when she went back to Barbados, I believe.
Mr. WILSON. That's correct, I went to Barbados in 1997 to take care of that matter for her. She had an attorney in Barbados and I was working in conjunction with that attorney, but a relative knew someone at Royal Bank in Barbados was more persuasive and basically the bank allowed it to happen. She had monies in that bank, she made it clear, wrote letters to the bank, I myself wrote letters to the bank, saying that she did not want a joint account with her niece.
She had no children, her husband died many years ago, and I don't think she was well protected. She tried, she made an effort to seek that protection, but she didn't get the cooperation from the banks. Even in Brooklyn, as I indicated, the bank representative noticed that she came there with the niece and she didn't seem to want to close her account, but he had to tell her to think about it, and the next day they closed the account and opened that joint account, knowing that they have the convenience account, this is a bank that has a convenience account.
Chairman KING. I want to thank all of you for your testimony. This is a congressional hearing; everything you've said will be made part of the permanent record. We are going to be working with the banks of New York, we are obviously going to be working with District Attorney Hynes, Councilman McCaffrey and Surrogate Raddigan in Nassau County.
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Is there anything else you would like to add for the record, that you want on the record?
Mr. VOLSKIS. Mr. Chairman, I'm a fairly educated person, I have a master's degree, I tried to get my own financial situations, I'm in banks often for this or that, not just my mom's concerns; I'm still aghast and amazed. The bank can say what they want to say, this is not publicized, this is not known to the common person, for whatever reason.
Chairman KING. I think it's become fairly clear this morning from the testimony of the district attorney, Councilman McCaffrey, and the bank representative, that for whatever reason it's not been publicized. I think our goal is to try to correct that and turn that around.
Mr. WILSON. I don't have any more.
Chairman KING. I would say, this is neither here nor there, I notice your address is 189 Montague Street. When I was a kid in Brooklyn, the Dodgers had an address at 180 Montague Street.
Mr. WILSON. We do have a plaque of the Brooklyn Dodgers on Montague Street.
Page 40 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Chairman KING. Now we're talking the same language.
Mr. DAVIS. I want to add this put a tremendous amount of stress on me and my sister-in-law. Because we're all on fixed incomes, for me to come to New York once a month to look after his affairs, whatever, is quite taxing, and when I get there, it's still a new thing. Every day it's a new thing, a new thing and I'm getting calls and I don't know how to handle them from where I'm at, so I have to come here. Sometimes it's twice a month I have to come. It's quite taxing. As far as how he's making it, it's for the family chipping in to make the bills, as well as with the rent. As far as you come along, it's a new thing, last month it was a $9,000 gas bill, now it's the water bill. So it's always something new happening that we have to cope with and like I said, it's quite stressful.
The thing that really disturbed me is how this country allows senior citizens to be taken advantage of so readily by family members. Now, this was an orchestrated thing for my cousin's husband, because he swore on the Bible that he was going to take care of his needs, and in some way he got his confidence, I guess, but when I saw my uncle, he was delirious, out of it, didn't know where he was at, so I don't think he would have done this under normal circumstances, because he's a very proud person. I came to New York once a year to help him with his financial matters and business matters, and things were pretty much in check, but he always would tell me, ''Not now, not now, we're going to do this,'' but evidently he got things done up until this point.
So as it stands right now, he stands to lose everything he has, including his real estate. He lost his money already. Hopefully we'll get it back. Thank you.
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Chairman KING. Mr. Davis, you've proved to be a very compelling witness. I commend you for the dedication that you have shown. I just spoke to my counsel who informed me that you have come up here at your own expense. It shows the dedication that you have that you've come to New York many times, and have come here to testify. You have added a lot to the record of the hearing, and I want to thank you for everything you have done.
I want to thank each of the witnessesMr. Volskis, Mr. Wilson, and Mr. Davisfor your testimony today. Thank you very much. I just would like to announce that the record will be kept open for the submission of any further testimony and questions, and I know that Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney did intend to be here today. Unfortunately, she was detained, but certainly I'm sure she will be making a statement for the record.
Chairman KING. Again, I want to thank you all, and the hearing stands adjourned. Thank you.
[Whereupon, at 11:21 a.m., the hearing was adjourned.]