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(TRENTON) — Legislation Assemblymen Gary Schaer, Matt Milam and John Wisniewski sponsored to prohibit financial advisors from using misleading information to make it appear they have special certifications for advising senior citizens is now law.

“Any senior citizen or retired individual seeking the best financial advice and planning needs every assurance that the professional they are trusting to properly handle their money and their future actually has the expertise they say they do,” said Schaer (D-Passaic/Bergen/Essex), chairman of the Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee. “Anything else is outright fraud.”

The law (A-369) prohibits financial advisors from advertising senior-specific certifications or professional designations which:

  • Was not actually earned or that an advisor is otherwise ineligible to use;
  • Is nonexistent or self-conferred;
  • Indicates or implies a level of occupational qualifications obtained through education, training or experience that the person does not have; and
  • Is conferred by any organization that does not meet certain recognized professional criteria.

“Consumers rely on professional designations because they confer a level of trustworthiness and expertise that not everybody has,” said Milam (D-Cumberland/Atlantic/Cape May). “Especially in financial matters, these seals of approval mean a lot. We need to take a tough stance against advisors who take advantage of the goodwill these certifications create — especially among seniors and retirees.”

Financial advisors found in breach of the law will be considered in violation of the state’s Uniform Securities Law and could be subject to civil and criminal penalties.

“The bill is based on the North American Securities Administrators Association’s model rule that prohibits the misleading use of senior and retiree designations,” said Wisniewski (D-Middlesex). “This measure would always be a sensible approach, but it takes on even more relevance as seniors fight through this difficult economy.”

The bill was signed Tuesday. It was approved 78-0 by the Assembly in May and 37-0 by the Senate in March.

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