The Canadian Foundation for Advancement of Investor Rights (FAIR Canada) and the Canadian Centre for Elder Law (CCEL), a non-profit organization that advocates for legal reform, are teaming up to examine the creation of procedures that could enable investment advisors and financial services firms to step in and help protect vulnerable clients in certain situations.

Specifically, the two groups have launched a joint project to consider developing a mechanism that would allow financial services firms and advisors to "take urgent, short-term protective action" for vulnerable clients in situations in which they suspect that a client may be a victim of elder financial abuse or in situations in which an immediate financial decision is required but the client may be suffering from diminished mental capacity.

Currently, firms and advisors may be concerned about reporting suspected abuse, or acting to prevent it, as a result of concerns about breaching their confidentiality obligations under securities rules and privacy legislation, FAIR Canada and the CCEL note. At the same time, firms and advisors risk being liable for either failing to prevent abuse or taking directions from a mentally unfit client.

The project, which is being funded by the Law Foundation of Ontario, aims to explore these issues and come up with a set of recommendations for better preventing theses abuses while also respecting clients' autonomy and privacy rights.

"A key outcome of this project will be the development of recommendations, including a practical framework, to allow for positive steps to be taken in these vulnerable types of financial situations and for the investment community to play a positive role in their client's lives, without increasing risks to the individual consumer," the groups note.

FAIR Canada and the CCEL have issued a consultation paper on the subject and have consultation sessions planned over the next couple of weeks. They hope to issue a report, including recommendations, by the end of August.

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