Michaud Offers Amendment to Protect Seniors from Fraud

Jul 21, 2011 Issues: Working for Maine Seniors

WASHINGTON, DC – Last night, Congressman Mike Michaud spoke on the House floor on an amendment he offered to H.R. 1315, a bill that would weaken the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which was created to stop unfair, deceptive and abusive practices and ensure credit card, mortgage, student loan, and other financial transactions are more clear, transparent, and fair to all Americans.

Michaud’s amendment, which failed to pass, would have ensured that nothing in the underlying bill would prevent the CFPB from issuing rules aimed at protecting seniors. During his floor speech, Michaud offered examples of Maine seniors that have been victims of fraud.

“I’m disappointed that congressional leaders are working to water down this important new consumer protection agency before it’s even given a chance to do its work,” said Michaud. “But the least Congress can do is make sure protections for our seniors don’t fall victim to this misguided bill.”

The full transcript of Michaud’s remarks can be found below.

Mr. Speaker, I offer this final amendment today for two reasons. First, to improve the bill one last time before we vote on final passage. And second, to provide Congress an opportunity to come together on an issue that all of us can agree on:  protecting our seniors.

In the last 8 years I’ve been in Congress, I’ve had the opportunity to work with Republicans and Democrats alike to ensure that older Americans have the security and the quality of life they deserve. I am hopeful my amendment today will present another chance for my friends on both sides of the aisle to vote for something because it’s good policy, regardless of our different politics.  

This final amendment would ensure that nothing will prevent the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau from issuing rules or regulations that protect our seniors. Specifically it makes sure the Bureau is fully able to protect seniors’ Social Security and Medicare benefits, mortgages, pensions and other retirement savings from fraud.  

In my state of Maine, seniors are the frequent targets of predatory practices intended to cheat them out of their money. Our Republican Governor Paul LePage recognized this disturbing reality when he announced new efforts to guard seniors from these scams just last month on Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

The governor’s efforts and my amendment are badly needed to protect our seniors.  A 2010 survey of 7.3 million older Americans found that one out of every five citizens over the age of 65 has already been the victim of a fraudulent scheme. Even more are at risk of becoming victims – 37% of seniors are currently being contacted by people calling them asking for money, lotteries, or other schemes.  

I think we can all agree that Congress needs to act now to stop people from preying on seniors’ finances and to protect their Medicare and Social Security benefits from scams. My final amendment to the bill will do just that.   

I want to highlight two stories of fraud targeted at older Americans in my state.  These heartbreaking examples show why it is so important for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to be able to protect our seniors.  

Carolyn and Ray Thompson live in Brewer, Maine and, like many Mainers, they are big advocates of green energy and like a good opportunity when they see one. So when their friends told them about a man who owned a patent for a new form of windmill technology and was looking for investors, Carolyn and Ray were excited about the possibility of investing in his windmill projects. So they did invest – to the tune of $30,000 – thinking they were putting their money in an investment that would provide a secure future for their children.

But on a trip to view the windmill technology, they were not impressed by what they saw and became suspicious. Their suspicions were justified, and the opportunity proved to be a scam that took tens of thousands of dollars of their savings.  

Thankfully, the scammer was convicted of fraud earlier this month, but the Thompsons are unlikely to ever get their money back.

The second story is about Lucianne, a retired teacher from Caribou, Maine who passed away last year from breast cancer. Three years before she died, she met with an insurance agent in Maine who took advantage of her age and repeatedly gave her bad financial advice for his financial gain. He convinced her to buy and finance a snowmobile for him to use. He got her to buy a long-term life insurance policy she couldn’t afford. And he advised her to cash out some of her stock portfolio even though it didn’t make good financial sense and caused her Medicare premiums to skyrocket.  

Lucianne passed away in November and did not live to see the agent lose his license. But her story lives on today as compelling evidence that Congress needs to protect our seniors from fraud.

So I ask my colleagues to join me today in support of my amendment.  We all have constituents like Lucianne and like Mr. and Mrs. Thompson.  

This final amendment will not prevent this bill from moving forward.  If it is adopted, it will simply be incorporated into the bill, and the bill will be immediately voted on.

I offer this final amendment today to protect our seniors, and I hope my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will join me in supporting it.  

I urge everyone to vote “yes” on this final amendment.