tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN October 30, 2015 7:00pm-9:01pm EDT
community. the types of scams that we see include executing fraudulent deeds, unduly influencing the elderly individuals to sign over their property or using power of attorney to empty their bank accounts. the almost $50 million that we've recovered for people under my guardianship is just the tip of the iceberg. and i'm sure that it is only a tiny fraction of the money that individuals have been exploited of in and around chicago. some of our suggested solutions are to help local governments establish offices such as mine or legal clinics to establish practices that help people who have been exploited whether they come into the court system or whether they simply need help and aren't involved in the probate court case. educate seniors and the public
regarding the dangers of financial exploitation through ñ community organizations and places of worship and community centers and resources that might be available to them, to utilize organizations like the national guardianship association to play an important role by promoting standards of best practices for guardians and probate courts by providing education and training and provide advocacy on the issue and the impact seniors including -- that impact seniors including elder abuse and financial exploitation, develop court systems and processes that don't work against seniors and consider the urgency of time for the elderly such as the probate and the elder law and miscellaneous remedies courts in chicago because many exploiters simply try to wait out the life span of those of the elderly victims. you have the written materials that i've submitted that are premised large part on article that my deputy public guardian wrote and i'd be happy to share our experiences with individual cases.
thanks to all of our witnesses for your testimony. recognizing myself for five minutes. fraudulent deed, what happens with that? someone comes door-to-door and says i'll sell you some property? >> well, no, actually what they do sometimes is they do quick claim deeds from the person, the elderly person. they forge those deeds, write their own names in or deeded to a third party and then they recorded against the property. and sometimes those elderly people never know about the crime. and then one day someone shows up and they no longer own their own homes. >> sometimes they -- actually they have not purchased the home.
they've just developed a deed. and recorded against their property. >> and you're able to intervene on behalf of that person? >> oh, yeah. what happens is if a case is referred to our office and the person qualifies, first of all, they have to have a cognitive impairment that severe enough to qualify for our services. we would file a citation to recover the property that's been wrongfully taken from them. >> are there other people within your county who would if someone wasn't suffering from a cognitive impairment where that could be remedied? >> yes. there's a legal assistance foundation that we have in chicago there are a couple of attorneys who work on cases who don't have guardians. often they just have people that walk in. the office is very small and one
of the biggest issues i think we are confronted with, not just on the deed, the fraudulent deed cases but some of our people that we work with make the worst witnesses because of their impairment whether this is severe or not. they need more help. sometimes these are very intensive document intensive, financial intensive cases that requires a lot of work and detail. >> thank you. mr. kaufman, thank you for being here this morning and i want to thank the ftc for always being willing to come and talk to our subcommittee and having us over to your offices earlier in the year. and having us to your regional offices in dallas. i've learned about resource that is are available. let me ask you about your question about a foreign agency involved, something called the jamaican lottery, which i'm not sure i understand what it is but what enforcement tools do you
have to be able to put a stop to these practices and what have you learned about multijurisdictional enforcement? >> thank you for the question. it is challenging. there are impediments when fraud is emanating from overseas to the united states. the tools that this committee has given us, the u.s. safe web act have provided assistance but we've worked closely and built stronger relationships with law enforcement authorities in other countries in canada and the united kingdom. we've seen a lot of scams emanating from jamaica and have a group we're involved in caught jolt which is a number of law enforcement. to help assist the jamaicans in prosecuting these cases there as well as in the united states. what do you have at your disposal for spotting trends that you might anticipate if something is happening in one location that it might migrate to another location.
are there tools where you can keep track of popping up on the radar screen. >> we have law enforcement agencies and the better business bower owe. we track and look for trends and look for increasing spikes in order to find targets to pursue. >> i mentioned in my testimony that we have a consumer response department where we accept complaints from consumers if our office, the office for older americans, we look at the complaints submitted by on
behalf of older consumers routinely. and look for trends and spikes as well. some of the information we pulled from the complaints if appropriate we send to our enforcement division. we will develop materials based on what we find. >> part of the purpose of having this hearing, of course, is the expository nature of the services that you all have. i will tell you as a regular guy when i was caring for my parent as they aged i had no idea about the types of services available nor cognizant of the risks out there. looking back on 10 or 15 years ago i realized there were probably some near misses. what i really hope this subcommittee hearing does today is make people, number one, aware of the problem and, number
two, aware of where they can go for help. the gentle lady from illinois, the ranking member of the subcommittee. >> thank you, mr. chairman, and i appreciate your last comment. hopefully we can drill down on this. i wanted to ask mr. harris a question. you said that you represent, you are guardian for 600 people. how do those people get to you? how does that happen? >> we often have referrals from judges. we will be called from law enforcement, referrals from banking institutions as well. >> so would you estimate there are a lot of people out there who are -- who do not have the benefit of your guardianship? >> yes. i do. a lot of people who either are fearful and there's a lot of people out there that are fearful even to call our office
because they believe that the government stepping in will be a bad thing for them. if there's an appropriate family. that's the preferable way to go. i think we do offer some services that specifically are through a unit that is unlike probably any other organization in our city and state. >> you said that a third of the people, so that would be about 200 of those are a victim of exploitation, did you say by families? >> by family members but often it's a lot of other people. there's a lot of people that hold great positions of trust. it can be a family member. >> i'm wondering if you could describe some of the types of
financial exploitations that seniors under your care have. >> sure sh i remember a young lady to me, she's older, but she's still young in spirit, who was exploited by a woman who styled herself as her personal banker. she would go to the same bank downtown chicago, large banking institution, for years. she worked for r.r. donnelly, which used to be a company that produced books and other things in the city. and she and her husband had amassed a small amount of money, about $300,000. this person, she befriended her, would sit down with her every time she came into the bank. she started to rely on her to write checks for her bills. and she ended up taking about $300,000 from her. the bank called us. we ultimately, after a little contentiousness, we ultimately were able to recover the money from her. but we have also had people who have been exploited who have gone to the hospital, elderly
gentleman, 90 years old, met a cna at the hospital who ended up volunteering to become his caregiver who stole about $500,000 from him. those are just some of the cases we have had all kinds of cases similar to that. >> some of these are so personal. and i think -- i don't know if all of you, but i know mr. kauffman said a lot of people don't report it. and i would think when families are involved, that it becomes even more difficult. how can we -- maybe this is for all of you -- encourage people to protect themselves to actually report when family or a former trusted friend has clearly exploited them? how do we break through that? >> sure.
i think a couple things. first, obviously, we would love to have the committee members providing information on their website and to the constituents about the resources we provide. it's important to help us get the word out. we would like the committee to assist us. for us, our campaign pass it on is premised on the notion that it's senior citizens helps other senior citizens and not being afraid to talk about fraud and to protect each other. that's been the focus of our consumer education is sort of breaking that barrier and getting seniors to talk about it with each other. >> let me ask you -- did you have something? >> well, i was just going to say that similar to the ftc, we're out and about and encouraging the reporting of abuse. it is something that really needs almost a mass media attention to. we have the money smart for older adults, train the trainer program that we are out and about with intermediaries training people, constantly
about how to spot and intervene and report when fraud is observed. >> do you partner with senior citizen organizations like aarp? >> yes. we're a very small office with 57 million constituents. so the only way that we could effectively do our job is if we connect with service providers, state, local government entities, other federal parter ins in order to -- with organizations that are on the ground providing services to seniors. many of them have -- will engage in the money smart training for their clientele. >> mr. chairman, can i ask one short question? i wonder, mr. harris, does the state attorney general have any role in helping your office with financial exploitation?
>> yes. in terms of some of the bigger cases, people who do systemic, exploitive of things, they do get involved, file lawsuits. as does the u.s. attorney's office as well. i have to say that to me, one of the biggest tools that we can use is to get to the smaller community groups, to go to churches, to go to synagogues, to go to other places. we work with a small agency on the west side of chicago called south austin coalition. and they are -- they know people. they bring folks like myself and these two people here from their organizations to come and talk to the very smaller groups. i have generated certain cases where we have been able to help people from those groups. because i'm not sure how much some of the folks on the west side, the south side and some of the north side of chicago are looking at bigger media attention on something like that or reading some of the brochures that are really geared toward helping the seniors.
as simple as you can get it and as grass-roots as you can get it, that's probably most effective tool that i have seen. >> let me just say i would really like to meet further with all of you and talk about ways that we can partner on this. and i look forward to the committee following up on this. thank you. >> chair thanks the gentle lady. the chair recognizes mr. lance from new jersey, five minutes for your questions. >> thank you, mr. chairman. my thanks to the distinguished panel for being here. i hear from constituents all the time about being bombarded with robo-calls from scammers who have spoofed their phone numbers to look like a local call or like a state or federal agency in order to scam them out of personal and financial information. indeed, yesterday my wife received such a call in new jersey. someone claiming that we were in arrears with the internal
revenue service. she chose quite appropriately not to return the telephone call. she telephoned me and our office looked into the telephone number. it was someone scamming constituents, i would imagine, across the country. i've introduced a bill with grace mang of new york city and chairman barton called the anti spoofing act of 2015. it would target caller i.d. spoofing. specifically, expand protection of the communications act of 1934 to include spoofed text messages and voice over i.p. calls. mr. kauffman, the ftc runs a do not call list. would you please explain in detail what my constituents and
others who are on the list should do if they believe they are being called by scammers or organizations in violation of ftc protection. >> sure. thank you for the question. robo-calls are a huge challenge. the first word of advice, if you receive one, hang up. don't provide any information. just hang up. >> i hope those who are viewing this hearing will take that to heart. do not respond to such a call. >> the technology issues are challenging. it has become very inexpensive to blast millions upon millions of phone calls. we're bringing law enforcement actions. but the cases are challenging. the caller i.d.s are spoofed. it makes finding the perpetrator challenging. one thing we have done at the ftc that is innovative is we have issued a number of different public challenges to get people in the technology community interested in the issue of robo-calls to figure out ways to block calls. we have had four separate events
that have been successful. it's something we are continuing to pursue. we also, again, hang up on the calls, get yourself on the do not call list. we continue to work hard on n this area. >> thank you. in one of the counties i represent in new jersey, residents were being telephoned by those who claimed to be from the county sheriff's office. this is clearly inaccurate, fraudulent. the sheriff of that county, the sherr sheriff has taken appropriate action. but this happens frequently. how do the ftc and fcc coordinate to combat the scams? >> we have frequent phone calls. we are careful we're not overlapping in terms of the law enforcement actions. we try to harmonize our processes and implementation as well as we can. >> thank you. i'm interested in your office. i do not know much about it, as
i understand it, you are appointed by the chief judge of the circuit court of cook county. and is that true of all the counties in illinois or only in cook county with several million people? >> actually, it is only in cook county that there's a public guardian like myself. the other public guardians are appointed by the governor. >> by of governor in the various counties or are there jurisdictions? >> it should be in the various counties, which becomes a problem sometimes because some of the counties are so small. >> yes. then do you report to the circuit court of cook county? how does that work? >> yes. i act under the auspices. i'm an appointed person on each one of my cases. we have to report the court on an annual basis. we file inventories. we file a yearly accounting and kind of a goings on, kind of a social on what we have done with the wards. we also file a yearly -- annual report with the cook county commissioners. >> thank you. very good luck with your
continued work. it is certainly a matter of strong public policy as well as the other members of the panel. i yield back the balance of my time. >> the gentlemen yields back. the chair recognizes the gentlemen -- the other gentleman from new jersey, the ranking of the full committee. five minutes for your questions. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i wanted to ask mr. kauffman a variety of scammed emerge turning tax filing season, one of which is a person who claims to represent the irs. i think that's -- >> yes. would the ranking member yield? this happened to me, my wife personally yesterday. >> i thought you were saying that when i walked in but i wasn't sure. thanks. this person threatens a victim with arrest, deportation or suspension of a license if an
amount of money is not paid immediately. these scammers are very aggressive and may use personal information to seem legitimate. it has affected many constituents in my district. i'm not making this up. including seniors, one of whom was recently threatened with a home foreclosure if they didn't pay a specified amount. mr. kauffman, i would like my constituents to be prepared when they receive a phone call from an irs imposter. >> i can absolutely confirm that, those are imposter scams and consumers should hang up and not provide any information. >> i appreciate that. i'm probably going to repeat what you just said just so we don't -- so people understand that in my district. i wanted to ask also about reporting incidents of elderly fraud. many consider financial
exploitation to be a silent crime because victims are often too ashamed or embarrassed to report what has happened. additionally, it can be challenging to serve as a witness and law enforcement officials identify lack of reporting and the difficulty obtaining relevant data as challenges to identity and to combat elderly financial exploitation. can you explain the role the consumer sentinel network has? are there any challenges the ftc faces with respect to the database and what steps need to be taken to increase reporting of exploitation? >> the database is important for law enforcement agencies. we continue to improve it. we have enhancements in the works right now. it's a tool for law enforcement agencies to have access to millions of consumer complaints and to look for trends and to
look for specific areas they might be interested in. it's been effective in many of our cases have originated from complaints that we have received and that are in our database. >> okay. let me ask, can you give us an update on the consumer complaint database at the cfpb? how many complaints do you receive? what types of fraud are you seeing? how is this information been useful to you in developing policy proposals? >> well, i will say that we know that there have been in excess of 63,000 complaints that have been submitted by consumers 62 and older since we began accepting complaints. what we do is we look at them to see how older consumers are doing in the marketplace. we know from looking at the complaints that there are many older consumers who are having difficulties with their mortgages and with debt
collection. those are the two largest areas that orlando consumers are complaining about. which, by the way, is not unlike their younger counter parts. there is often a misconception that older consumers are not engaged fully in the marketplace. that simply is not true. that's borne out by the complaints that we see. our consumer response section for complaints, of course, is focused on consumer products and services, which is what the bureau focuses on. however, consumers also add narratives into their complaints. and we have the opportunity to find instances of financial exploitation, of stories that are related to that in the complaints as well. >> all right. thank you very much. thank you, mr. chairman. >> the chair thanks the gentlemen. the chair recognizes the
gentleman from mississippi. >> thank you and thanks to each of you for being here. we certainly have a lot of issues that need to be discussed. i know this will come as a surprise, but we do some bipartisan work on occasion. so i along with representative caster have introduced legislation in july, hr-3099, the race family caregiver act which would implement the recommendation of the federal commission on long-term care that congress require the development of a national strategy to support family caregivers similar in scope to the national strategy developed to address alzheimer's disease. the bipartisan legislation would require the development, nape nance and updating of an integrated national strategy to recognize and support family caregivers. i think this is an under reported issue. unless you are living in the middle of it, a lot of people don't understand what is going through -- my mother is almost 92. we're going through issues with sitters and ourselves trying to
take care of her and deal with those issues. and it's a difficult problem for a lot of families. and we deal with constant -- i can tell from personal experience for a number of years, we had phone calls, credit card offered, switch your credit card over here, do this, change your phone service to the cable and then you don't like that and you can change back and we lose our phone number. we finally were able to get to the point and hopefully this will be something to help families that are doing this is to tell that person to say, i won't do anything until you talk to so and so, my son, my daughter, my trusted family member. and those things sometimes will help. but this is a question for mr. kauffman and miss canon. do you have a -- you mentioned
some but do you have particular education materials or guides for these care givers and others in a fiduciary position to seniors? how are lawyers and financial institutions dealing with the risk of fraud against their elderly clients? >> at the ftc, we have a wide range of consumer materials available. we have materials that are focused specifically for seniors, our pass it on campaign has been highly effective. the cfpb has more materials on care givers and financial institutions of that nature. i think i might defer to my colleague here. >> thank you. >> take your time. >> i'm actually very happy to have this opportunity to tell you about one of our very popular publications which we call managing someone else's money.
these are how to user friendly guides for non-professional fiduciaries. people taking care of financial matters for a family member or friend. it includes information that helps the lay fiduciary know what their responsibilities and duties are. in other words, if you are caring for someone and you have access to their money, it's not okay to buy a car with those funds. simply things like that which should be known but unfortunately sometimes there is some confusion. in addition, in these guides we include information about how to spot scams and frauds and what you can do to protect the person who you are caring for as a financial caregiver. we have these national guides. we are in the process of embarking on rolling out state specific guides including a
template which would allow states to do their own as well. >> you mentioned you had 63,000 complaints involving people 62 years of age and older. you mentioned mortgage related, debt collection. of course, we have the federal fair debt collection practices act that deals with a lot of that. of that 63,000, you're not saying all 63,000 were fraud? you're saying those were complaints that were registered, correct in. >> correct. that's correct. >> if in the time that i have for both you mr. kauffman and miss canon as well, i'm very interested in the cross agency initiatives that protect seniors from fraud, abuse, neglect and exploitation. would you both very quickly discuss your work with the elder
justice coordinating council, whether the council's efforts have been constructive toward your agency's efforts and what do you think could be improved. if i may be allowed to continue, mr. chairman, to an answer on that? >> proceed. >> thank you. >> we are members of the council. we have participated in a number of events. we have partners with organizations throughout the country, senior organizations. we found it to be effective for sharing information with other law enforcement agencies. i can't think of any improvements at the moment. >> yes. we're one of the 11 federal agencies. we have been very active in participating in the elder justice coordinating council. we find it very helpful for coordinating our actions. each agency brings to the table
different expertise and different jurisdictions. it's clearly a situation where we need all hands on deck. our work often will compliment those of our sister agency. >> thank you very much. i yield back. >> chair recognizes the gentleman from massachusetts, mr. kennedy, five minutes for questions. >> thank you. appreciate it. always a pleasure to hear you get massachusetts out as often as we can from our friends from texas. the distinguished panel, thank you for being here. i wanted to focus on an aspect of medicare if we can. the open enrollment started october 15 and runs through december 7. for the nation's 54 million beneficiaries, this is an important time to consider changes to their health and drug plan. however, they should be vigilant as this offered an opportunity for fraud. a common request from medicare scams is that a victim reveal their medicare number. it's important our seniors know how easily it is to spot these open enrollment scams. i would like to start with you, mr. kauffman. i understand the ftc won a complaint after filing a complaint against a telemarketing scheme designed to trick and did trick seniors by pretending to be part of the medicare. could you describe the specifics
of that case and why that victory is so important for consumers? >> sure. thank you for acknowledging this case. it's a very important case. it's sun bright. telemarketers were claiming to be affiliated with medicare. they falsely promised new cards for consumers and required people to provide their bank account numbers. they used the numbers to withdraw several hundred dollars from the consumers. it's very consistent with cases we have seen where they are misrepresenting affiliations with government entities to scam consumers out of personal and financial benefits. >> how does the ftc coordinate with cms to prevent this type of fraud? >> we do work with them. we talk to them. we also issue alerts. when there are changes in health benefits that are public available, we know frauds will follow. that's one thing we have seen. when there's a new program, a new scare, frauds will follow
from it. we will always issue alerts and scam alerts and blog about it. >> so everyone is clear, mr. kauffman, is it true that medicare will never call or e-mail seniors for -- with products offered or for request for their medicare number? >> that is correct. they will not ask for your bank account information in particular. >> insurance agents are not allowed to visit your home to sell or endorse any medicare products? >> that is my understanding. i would have to verify that and get back to you. >> my understanding as well. thank you. what should consumers do if they or someone they know received one of these fake medicare solicitations? >> hopefully, they have not provided their information. if they have, they should contact their bank immediately and try to rectify the situation. file a complaint with the ftc. >> great. thank you very much, sir. any of the other witnesses have anything to add? with that i yield back. >> i was just going to dig in my purse for my medicare card.
every once in a while we hear from people who say, how come social security numbers are on the medicare card. it's in the wallets of everybody who is over 65. we're told that it would be very cumbersome and costly to change that. is that a bad idea? either one of you can answer. it's right there. that's the number. when we talk about medicare number, it's social security number. >> i'm not sure about this. i do have to -- i will look into it for you. but i believe in the medicare reform that we passed in march and april of this year, the removal of the social security,
that was one of the provisions added to the bill called macro passed earlier this year, that repealed the sustainable growth rate formula. will find out about that. that was a weakness inherent in the system. >> i very much agree with you. it's important social security numbers not be share order readily accessible. we would be glad to talk to you more about that issue. >> maybe we did fix it. that's good. >> every now and then we fix something. the chair recognizes the gentleman from oklahoma for five minutes for questions. >> i can honestly, i can't tell you what a card for medicare looks like. >> you will. >> anyway, thank you so much for being here. something started happening to us about a month ago in our office which was very odd. we started getting people calling us saying they received a call from our office. pertaining to getting personal information. it worries me because the trust we have built with our
constituents is getting phone calls from people that supposedly being from our office. i can imagine in business we use a rule that you only receive roughly around 1% of your actual complaints. i would wonder if that would play true that i'm only receiving about 1% of those that are receiving those calls. is there an enforcement that can -- do we lack enforcement? do we lack the ability to go after these individuals even if we get their information? what is the penalty for doing this? one of you, can you talk on that? >> we have seen a rise in imposter scams. i have received calls that people have been contacted by me that were not contacted be my. the ftc is bringing actions when be can find the perpetrators. we can only bring civil actions.
we know criminal law enforcement is looking at it as well. consumer education is an important focus here. >> we talk about consumer education. but i will use my grandparents, for example. they are checked out. i'm not saying that in a bad way. my grandpa is 94 years old. grandma is i think 89. they're not reading these manuals that come out. they're not getting online. they're not reading this stuff. we're talking about the most vulnerable, ones that didn't grow up with computers, one that has a cell phone but the numbers are this big on it. information is for younger generations, not these older generations. >> i would encourage you to look at our pass it on brochure. we have a one pager on imposter scams. it's three paragraphs like. it describes what scams are, what they're trying to do and what consumers should do.
we researched with seniors to find out ways to communicate it. >> i get that. but what i'm saying is, is there an enforcement problem here? because it's growing. it's not going backwards. obviously, it's profitable or they wouldn't do it. how can we help you on the enforcement side of it? there has to be someone knowing that if you do this, there's a better chance you will get caught than not. >> we continue to bring cases. there's more that we can do. we're getting more and more criminal law enforcement agencies interested. i think the combination of the ftc working with other law enforcement agency is starting to make a dent. but it's a problem. >> mr. harris, i believe if i understand it correctly, guys have recovered roughly -- is it $50 million in stolen assets? >> yes. >> maybe what we work together here. if they are recovering that out of one county, i'm just floored. >> i think, you know, we, too,
are a civil litigation organization. for us, the more practical thing is to get the money back because they need it. the people we work with need it. i think that criminal enforcement is important. when first became public guardian almost 11 years ago, i think it was fewer criminal cases being brought against people because of problems with witnesses and record keeping. but since then, it has increased, the amount of litigation both from the state's attorney's office in cook county as well as the u.s. attorney's office. >> what i'm trying to get to is, what is the most effective tools you are using to make that happen in one county to recover $50 million? >> we largely work with the probate act. there's a specific section called the citations section. we can recover properties exbezeled, stolen, concealed. so it's really just us lawyers doing our work and doing our
job. >> how do you find the people? >> we get referrals from all sources, from banks, neighbors, churches, hospitals. once we have an intake and if they qualify, those are cases we go after. >> basically, you have to spend the time? you have to have the resources to be able to spend the time? >> that's true. when first became public guardian, we had one person working on it. because of the growth in this area, we have added more resources. and i work on it and other people as well. >> mr. harris, i appreciate it. i do appreciate what you are doing. i really think we're going to have to step up the enforcement side. as i go back to say what i said earlier, we have to make it to where they believe there's a better chance they're going to get caught than a slim chance they're going to get caught.
i yield back. >> the chair recognizes the gentle lady from indiana, five minutes for your questions. >> thank you, mr. chairman. in my home state of indiana, our attorney general is taking a lead in combating fraud targeting seniors. six years august they launched a free senior protection workshop that traveled to all counties in indiana and reached over 200,000 elderly. i appreciate that we have to take a multi-level approach in working on this, whether it's the federal, state or local levels. i do have to say that when you think about retirement security -- i talk about security a lot and retirement security is part of that when i'm out talking with constituents. people often are embarrassed, they don't want to share if they've been scammed. i appreciate the work that you all are doing. they don't want to share with their families. they don't want to share -- they don't want to talk about it. it might take a while for them to realize it. i'm curious -- i'm a former u.s.
attorney. i'm curious whether or not any u.s. attorney offices, whether in the civil division or criminal division, are engaged. i know they are on identity theft. that's something that we have been working on for a very, very long time. as the justice department has worked on it. i'm curious whether or not any of you are working with any u.s. attorneys offices on any task forces or civil, whether it's civil division or criminal division. this is for any of you. >> we work with a number of u.s. attorneys throughout the country. we have a criminal liaison unit. we realize that a lot of our cases should be prosecuted criminally. we provide referrals, lead, information, support to criminal law enforcement since we started this program in 2003. well over 700 of our defendants have been prosecuted. >> terrific. >> so i'm in the consumer education and engagement
division in the bureau. i would have to get back to you regarding whether our enforcement team are engaged with u.s. attorneys. i suspect they are. i know that we are in frequent contact with the department of justice and we have frequent communications with d.a.s around the country who are prosecuting elder exploitation and abuse. >> we do with the u.s. attorney's office. i think the relationships have developed over the years. working with cases and so that -- it has worked out very well. we have worked with the postal inspectors on some cases as well. i think it becomes for us a relationship building. and i think we have established that at least in chicago. >> thank you. just with respect to your respective agencies, i'm curious, how many people work on this specifically?
how many ftes going back to my days in -- how many are focused on this? >> at the ftc, we don't have our attorneys designated as working specifically on senior issues. they are spread throughout our bureau. we have about 440 people in the bureau of consumer protection working on a wide range of issues. we have brought a number of cases affecting seniors. it's an area of interest throughout our bureau. >> thank you. >> our office is small. we're determined and dedicated but we're small. we're under ten full-time employees. we have the benefit of being able to work with other divisions and offices throughout the bureau. when we become aware of a particular problem where it appears that it may include violations of the law, we bring in other divisions that have the ability to engage in enforcement or supervision. we also have a markets division and research division, too.
so we are frequently working -- even though we're small, we have the benefit of being able to work with others around the bureau. >> thank you. when the ftc does on those rare occasions when you recover the funds, how is it determined -- how do you ensure the victims ever receive the funds? >> that's always our first priority, if there's enough money to give back to consumers. we get lists and we will do distribution. there are cases where we were successful. there are cases where the funds are no longer available and we can't find them. our number one priority -- number one is stopping the conduct. number two is getting money back to consumers. >> how does that happen actually? >> we actually have a redress office in our bureau that coordinating. we have contractors we work with. depending on the nature of the fraud, often we will have customer lists and we can send out checks. sometimes there might be a
claims process. it varies depending upon how the consumers were defrauded. >> one last question, if i might. how do we make sure, mr. harris, when so many of these financial abuse go underreported, underprosecuted, what would you like for us to do? >> well, i think that one of the things that is lacking is our organizations like mine. not just necessarily that do guardianship but that focus on recovering monies on a local level for seniors. there's a lot of people we can't help. if there's some way the federal government can support legal assistance foundations or other legal services for establishing attorneys in those offices that focus specifically on this area, i think that would be very helpful. >> thank you all for your work. i yield back. >> chair recognizes the gentleman from north carolina, mr. butterfield. >> thank you very much for convening this important hearing today. thank you to the three witnesses.
mr. harris, i'm not going to be able to get to you today. these questions are directed to the other two. don't take that personally. i know a little bit about the cook county public guardian program. it's one of the best in the nation. what was your predecessor's name, the gentleman there before you. >> patrick murphy. >> that was his name. my daughter -- stepdaughter used -- don't get surprised. that was my stepdaughter. she worked for patrick for some years there in chicago. i never heard of the public guardian program until she went to work there. i have the greatest amount of respect. thank you for the work that you do. >> thank you. >> the federal -- the ftc recently created aid program called pass it on in which the commission reaches out to older he were americans with information about avoiding common types of fraud by contacting them at places where they gather and interact like libraries, clubs and adult living facilities. mr. kauffman, you can explain why that approach might be more
effective at disseminating the anti-fraud information than, say, publishing the information on a website or even a mailer? >> absolutely. we engaged in research before we instituted the pass it on program. we met with seniors, we met with people who provide support for seniors. we discussed the best way to effectively communicate information in short, clear, concise information on specific topics. we have given away 3 million copies of it to i think it's more than 8,000 different organizations around the country. there's a lot of research and thinking that went through it. we're going to issue additional aspects in the coming year. >> the pass it on initiative seems to emphasize the importance of striking the right tone, in educating seniors about fraudulent schemes, that is respectful and non-judgmental. do you find seniors respond better to advice given to them by people of their own age, their own generation? how can the financial literacy community owner this preference
going forward? >> our research has shown that it's an effective tool. this is a campaign we launched about a year ago. we're continuing to explore it. it has shown effectiveness. it has been very successful. we have gotten a lot of positive feedback about the program and will continue to monitor it and see thousand can be modify and improved over time. >> as someone who also promotes financial literacy, do you agree with this approach in general? >> yes, we do. we have very similar materials in that -- at least the type of materials that are written in plain language, that are non-judgmental. we frequently will actually use the ftc's materials, the pass it on materials. we go to conferences together and share tables and distribute our materials jointly.
>> the ftc conducted a workshop in october of last year that explored some of these issues, including how fraud affects different communities in different ways. mr. kauffman, what were some of the outcomes from this workshop in terms of the senior community, to consumer groups and the industry know how to address the problems that are really, really unique? >> our every community initiative, we kicked it off about a year, a year and a half ago. actually pass it on is one of the results of that. we realized we had experts on senior issues. we focused on issues affecting spanish speaking americans, african-americans. that continues to be a very important issue for us. we're looking for law enforcement action and targets where they're targeting specific populations. we want to make sure that our law enforcement and education programs reach all americans. >> very well said. i thank all three of you. i'm going to set a record today.
i have to be in the cannon building in 30 seconds. i will yield back. >> the chair thanks the gentleman. the chair recognizes the gentleman from kentucky. mr. guthrie, five minutes for your questions, please. >> thank you very much. i appreciate that. thank you, mr. chairman. thank you for being here. i've been in another hearing of the subcommittee of the same committee. i apologize if i missed some of it. i'm going to ask you a couple questions on your regional offices. how involved are your regional offices in combating fraud against the elderly? >> our regional offices, we have eight throughout the country, are incredibly involved. they do a good deal of our litigation. they do a lot of our fraud work, and they also do a lot of outreach on the local level. our regional offices provide enormous benefits to the bureau. it's very important to us that they're there and they're on the ground and doing actions and
bringing outreach. >> so i may have to get back to you with more detailed information. because i don't want to say anything that may be incorrect. it's my understanding that our regional offices are mostly occupied by our examiners. we have a full team of examiners that are examining financial institutions. nonetheless, in our headquarters, we have a nationwide approach. our enforcement actions are nationwide. our consumer education engagement is nationwide as well. >> do either of you -- maybe it's not applicable to you given the setup of your regional offices, but do you measure this as a regional level to see if there are target or scrams that are in one area more than the
other? >> yes, absolutely. we are frequently going through our consumer complaints just as one example. in the process of doing that, we look for geographical spikes in complaints and things of that sort. in addition, we are frequently conferring with stake holders that are nationwide around the country, having calls and hearing from people on the ground about particular problems that they are seeing. >> another the -- at the ftc, over the past 30 years we have hosted 30 different what we call common ground conferences throughout the country. we get together law enforcers from other federal agency, local authorities, we have a discussion and it's a way to develop relationships and to keep abreast of the trends that are happening. >> thank you. mr. kauffman, actually -- mr. butterfield went down the panel i was going down. you said you will look at the effectiveness of the pass it on. i know you have other programs. how do you measure the effect?
what do you do when you do a review of effectiveness? >> it's challenging to measure effectiveness in fraud. that's something we wrestle with. we do a lot of consumer education. our materials seem to be popular. we have high demand. we get a lot of requests for it. we have organizations that take our materials and stamp their logo on it and use it. we're delighted when they do that. we want to get the message out. measuring effectiveness is challenging. we keep bringing more cases. that's one measure of our success. the receptiveness people have to our materials is one measure as well. it's a challenge to precisely measure how effective are we being. we also, i will say, do a survey every year of one of our consumer education websites to see if consumers are satisfied with it and we have done well. >> a lot of times hard to measure the crime that you prevent from being committed. it's hard to find that.
i understand that. thank you. i will join mr. butterfield in yielding back time. >> the chair recognizes the gentleman from florida for five minutes. >> thank you. i thank the panel for their testimony. mr. kauffman, in your testimony you state the importance of the ftc recognizing trends and fraud against the elderly as the population of older americans continues to grow. as you may know, the census estimates the number of seniors 65 and over will surpass americans under age 18 for the first time. actually, we're 18 years away from that, 2033. what resources is the ftc putting toward following trends in fraud against the elderly, allocating resources to enforce against criminals targeting the elderly, and educating seniors of the risk? >> it's an important priority area for us. our database which has millions of complaints is an incredibly important tool for us. it's self-reported information we get at the ftc as well as other law enforcement agencies, the bbbs.
they all share information, put it into this database, and we're very frequently analyzing it looking for trends and for developments. we're continuing to do more outreach. it's an important priority for us. >> i want to commend you. i've had several senior seminars in my area. you participated, the ftc has. they have done a wonderful job. is there -- maybe this question also is for mr. harris. is there a line, maybe anonymous line, where someone, a friend of a loved one who is having trouble, an elderly person is having trouble or maybe has been taken advantage of, where a person can call and report an incident? >> we collect complaints at ftc.gov/complaints. and we also have a toll free number. it's 1-877-ftc-help.
>> very good. sir, is there a number -- i know that you do a wonderful job. most seniors do not qualify for your services. do you refer some seniors to other programs where they can be helped? also, is there an anonymous line or maybe a 211 -- we have 211 in florida where a person can call and be made aware of some of the services. specifically, is there an anonymous line where maybe a friend of a loved one who is having difficulty can share those concerns with your particular program? >> with my office, you can call our office directly at 312-603-0800. we would refer you to either an adult protective services agency that's monitored by the state of illinois or the city of chicago or you can call 311, quite frankly, in chicago and get help in that way as well.
>> what are the ways that you gather information with regard to maybe candidates that need your services? >> we talk to their medical providers, doctors. we also have some power -- investigatory power to look at previous reports of adult abuse or exploitation of some of our wards. we also have some access to financial records vis-a-vis an investigatory process if we open it for an intake. we use subpoena power. once we have a case that's opened. and other legal tools like depositions and other discovery tools. >> very good. thank you. i will follow the trend and yield back my time. thank you, mr. chairman. >> the chair thanks the gentleman. the chair just does want to --
that indeed was part of the law that was passed in april. my understanding -- and i've got crack staff who are always watching me and they provided me the information. i think it is within four years time. it's an agreement between the secretary of health and human services and the commissioner for social security, but that is a change that is coming. it is not going to be an immediate change if anyone gets their medicare card in the next couple of months. it may well not reflect the which i think. it was passed by the house and senate, signed into law by the president. one of those times where things did work as intended. seeing there are no further members wishing to ask questions for the first panel, i wanted to thank our witnesses for being here today. this will conclude our first panel. we will take a two-minute recess to set up for the second panel.
tennessee senator bob corker chaired the hearing. it's an hour and a half. >> foreign relations committee will come to order. senate foreign relations committee is meeting this morning for a confirmation hearing on nominations, including state department counselor thomas shannon, to be undersecretary of state for political affairs. if confirmed by the senate, he would replace wendy sherman who helped to lead the u.s. negotiations for iran.
and as i said to him when he came into our office and i'm sure, ben, you said the same thing, all of us are gratified when people who commit their life in this way end up ascending to these positions. you oversee africa, east area and the pacific, europe. the nearest, south and central asia, the western hemisphere and international organizations just to note to staff, we could see the world. it would be easier. thank you. the nomination we are considering today for the most senior and influential undersecretary. this is a key nomination for this committee at this time. the person that the senate confirms for this job will not just serve this administration but will also be an institutional bridge to the next. with that i turn to senator cardin. >> let me first thank you for the speed in which this confirmation hearing has been set. i really appreciate it. and i know your commitment so that the state department has a full complement in dealing with the urgent international issues, there's not a shortage of that. we couldn't have a better person than ambassador shannon, and we thank you very much for your career of public service. we thank you and your family for what you have done for our country. this position has been vacated by secretary sherman who did an
outstanding job representing the interests of our country. as i think senator corker pointed out, ambassador shannon is a career diplomat. he's currently the counsellor at the state department. he was the ambassador to brazil. he was the assistant secretary of state and senior director of the national security council staff of the western hemisphere affairs. he's had posts in venezuela, south africa, and other critically important positions. mr. chairman, we have conversations with key nominees before we actually have the formal hearings. it gives us a chance to sort of explore and get a sense as to the commitment to the issues that we're concerned about. and i just want to share with my colleagues in my conversation with ambassador shannon, i was very impressed with his understanding of the importance of this committee, our oversight role and the critical importance for transparency, openness
between the position of undersecretary of state for political affairs and the senate foreign relations committee. and i think that's going to bode well for the type of relationship that we need in order to speak strongly for our country, the proper oversight role of the united states senate. i do want to mention, there's many issues we could talk about the implementation of the iran agreement. and the increased u.s. engagement in the middle east. we could talk about russia's engagement in the ukraine and whether they will comply and how we will assure that they are held to the standards of the minsk agreement, and then, of course, russia's engagement in crimea, russia's engagement in moldova, in georgia, and now in
syria. i just want to mention one point that i know the chairman and i are going to be very much engaged with you, ambassador shannon, and that is the advancement of good governance, transparency, human rights, and anti-corruption. the focal point was on the tip report. you hold a critically important position to make sure that the tip report, which is the gold standard for judging conduct globally on the commitment to fight modern-day slavery, trafficking, is held to the highest standards. the tier ratings are based solely on the facts on the ground. and i just -- in our conversations, i know you are committed to that. but we want you to know, this committee is going to do everything we can to support that type of an analysis on the tier ratings of the countries of the world. with that, mr. chairman, i look forward to our exchange. >> thank you for bringing up the tip issue. we talked extensively about that in our meeting too. one of the questions i will ask later will be about that. i really appreciate you emphasizing that in an appropriate way. with that, we will turn to our nominee.
our first nominee is ambassador thomas shannon who has been nominated to serve as undersecretary for political affairs. ambassador shannon earned the rank of career ambassador, the highest in the foreign service. currently, he serves as counsellor of the state department, a position he's held since 2013. previously ambassador shannon has served as our ambassador to brazil, assistant secretary of state for western hemisphere affairs, special assistant to the president and senior director of the national security council and assignments abroad. apparently having some difficulty keeping a job. [ laughter ] he has received a bachelor of arts from the college of william & mary and a master's and doctorate of philosophy from oxford university. we look forward to your testimony. >> thank you very much.
members of the senate foreign relations committee, thank you for this opportunity to appear before you today as president obama's nominee to be the next undersecretary for political affairs. i very much appreciate the opening remarks, especially the comments regarding tip and i'm going to be happy to answer those questions as we advance in this hearing. as you can imagine, i'm honored by this nomination. i'm also humbled by the nomination. its pedigree is distinguished from its first occupant, robert murphy to such great diplomats as larry eagleburger and wendy sherman. the position of undersecretary has been defined by extraordinary quality, ability and the dedication of its occupants. throughout my career, i have sought to serve in challenging and complicated places where the power and influence of our great republic could be brought to bear.
as you consider my nomination, i can offer you the following. first, i have dedicated my life to public service. my foreign service career began in 1984 and it has spanned five administrations, two democratic and three republican. i understand american power and purpose. i worked in countries and regions in transition and transformation from latin america to africa. i have seen the important and positive influence the united states can bring in helping countries move from authoritarian to democratic governments, from closed to open economies, from an import substitution to development based on regional integration. in this process, i have seen and understood the attraction we hold for many and the unique role we play in shaping world events and order. third, i believe that diplomacy is an act of advocacy. our great diplomats from john jay to john kerry have had a deep understanding of power
politics and its global dimensions. they have used this understanding to protect and advance american interests. however, the vision of order and purpose they brought to american diplomacy was infused with values that reflect or democratic ideals and our conception of individual liberty. fourth, i know how to get things done in what needs to be done. as noted, my professional experience has been spanned assignments in the white house, the state department, international organizations and embassies. as the chairman noted, i probably do have a problem keeping a job. i'm familiar with the machinery of our foreign policy and diplomacy and have experience at every level. finally, i understand the importance of consultation with the congress. i entered the foreign service during the central american wars. this was a time of institutional divide on our policy in the region. this divide limited our ability to successfully implement our policy. it was only when broad consensus was formed around an agenda based on democracy, human rights, and economic development that we were able to form a bipartisan approach to central
america. this experience shaped how the legislative and executive branchs faced foreign policy challenges in columbia and support enjoyed by them and the implementation led to trade policy, reconstruction and development in haiti and the merit initiative in mexico. these experiences taught me that engagement with congress is an essential part of our foreign policy making process and its only long-term guarantee of success. if confirmed, i will consult with congress, i will cult -- consult with this committee, i will consult with its staff. as i reflect on my experience in american diplomacy, i'm struck by the changes i have seen in three decades. they will not compare to what awaits us. the factors that are driving change, political, economic, social and technological are accelerating. this will increase change and challenge in the world and challenge our ability to understand and respond to events in the world. during the past two years as counselor of the department, i
worked on a variety of issues that have been emblematic of the kinds of changes we face. i have worked with our special envoy to south africa on a long and complicated effort to bring peace to south sudan. i worked in southeast asia on an effort designed to improve coordination and cooperation among the countries of the area to ensure the viability of the river as a source of food, energy and water. i worked on maritime security counterpiracy and trade issues through the indian ocean rim association. finally, i worked to provide a response to the child migrants in the summer of 2014.
the result was, the alliance for prosperity and program designed by guatemala and honduras and el salvador to address the root causes of migration in the communities of origin of the children. if confirmed, it will be my assignment to ensure that the department of state under the direction and guidance of the presidents and secretaries of state can meet the challenges and seize the opportunities in front of us. it would be my job to ensure that our bureaus and missions and the remarkable individuals who serve there have the policy and guidances to be successful in the high level access assistance and support to shape and implement our foreign policy. this is a responsibility that i take seriously. again, acknowledge the important role of the congress. let me close by thanking the president and secretary kerry for the confidence they placed in me. let me thank you, mr. chairman, senator cardin and the senators present for this opportunity to appear before you.
finally, let me thank my family. today i have present with me my mother, barbara shannon, along with my father, who she instilled in me the values that led to my public service. i have with me also my brothers paul and terry, both special agents of the fbi and veterans of afghanistan and iraq conflicts. i would like to recognize my wife and our sons. unfortunately, they're not here today. i would not be here today without them. as my colleagues in the foreign service know well, our service to country is a family affair. the joys and dangers of that service abide in our families. thank you very much. i look forward to your questions. >> thank you very much. we typically are much nicer on people coming before us when their kids are here. when your mother is here, it will probably be much the same. obviously, just for the record, we talked in our office about the tip report. we were very dissatisfied, many of us are very dissatisfied with
the way it was handled this last year. i just for the record wonder if you would share with us how you plan to handle it differently this year. >> thank you very much. i had the opportunity to talk about the tip report with a whole range of members of this committee. and i was struck by the consensus of concern about the tip report. this worries me deeply. as you noted, the tip report is a gold standard report. and it's one in which the credibility that the report holds both in the congress and publically is an essential part of that gold standard. it would be my intention working with my colleagues in the state department who manage this process both on the functional bureau side in jtip, on the regional bureau side, and our m
embassies that we have a transparent process and one that can address the concerns expressed. trafficking in persons is an important issue for me. it's an issue i have dealt with at different times in my career. the information that we collect regarding the actions of states, governments, municipalities regarding trafficking comes from our embassies in many instances. how our embassies respond and how they engage with the office of trafficking of persons is an important part of this process. and i've seen this work and i know it can work. i can assure you, sir, i can assure members of this committee that will do everything in my power to make sure that we restore the credibility in your eyes of this report and we can address the concerns you have expressed. >> i appreciate that. i will say in some cases i would imagine that ambassadors want to see good things happen in the countries that they are involved in. so i hope that while i know the ambassadors play a role, in some cases it can be an advocating role for their country, i hope that you will figure out a way
to ensure that that doesn't cause things to be out of balance. >> we will do that, sir. and i will do that. but i can assure you that the american foreign service, as i noted in my remarks, understands our diplomacy is advocacy. we understand the importance of trafficking in persons to you and this committee broadly to the congress, but also to the president. and so i will do everything in my power to make sure that this advocacy is powerful. >> my last comment, you know, certainly i respect tremendously those people who offer themselves for foreign service. i just understand the dynamics that can sometimes take place, human nature dynamics that can happen on the ground. you have watched and been a part of and worked with so many people who have been in this position. you gave a litany of those who have come before you, many of which are highly respected, many of whom are highly respected. you have watched this and seen how people have operated.
what is it that you think you might uniquely do that is different from those who have come before you? >> thank you for that question. it's a very good one. to begin with, there is a bureaucratic and policy management process to this job that infuses the work of all undersecretaries. as you noted, we sit atop a variety of bureaus. the six geographic bureaus and the bureau that manages international organizations in an effort to manage and focus policy so that it can be as successful as possible. but i'm one of the first nominees in a long time, since tom pickering, who comes with strong experience in latin america and africa, the larger developing world. really a world of transition and transformation. although my purview will be the globe and i have already over the last two years done a variety of work in the middle
east, more deeply in africa, in southeast asia, and the indo-pacific region, i understand the impact and how to manage transformation. i understand how the united states has done it in a variety of environments but especially in africa and latin america. i began my career in central america during a transition from authoritarian government and military government to democratic government. i have worked in a variety of countries that were making a similar transition such as in brazil and in south africa from 1992 to '96 i was part of a u.s. team that helped manage and promote a transition from an apartheid government to the government of nelson mandela. so i think i bring an understanding of transition and transformation. i think i understand -- i bring an understanding of post-conflict societies. and i think i can inject and add a dimension to our foreign policy that could be very important. >> thank you very much.
with that, i will turn to ranking member cardin. >> thank you, mr. chairman. again, mr. ambassador, thank you for your service. we very much appreciate the members of your family that are here. we do recognize this as a family commitment, and we thank them also. you mentioned your experiences with congress in central america conflict, that there was deep division in congress but where we spoke in unity, the united states was stronger in its carrying out its mission. there's been a division in congress over the support for the iran agreement. but there's been no division in congress about the importance of the congressional review and the ongoing commitment that congress has in the implementation of the iran agreement. the iran review act that was passed in a very bipartisan vote, almost unanimous vote in
the united states congress, spells out certain continuing commitments by the administration to keep congress informed. we do that because we had a conversation yesterday about the compliance with iran on the agreement. there's already been a violation of the u.n. resolution dealing with ballistic missiles. how the united states responds to that to many of us is an indication on whether we will demand zero tolerance for violations and strict compliance. so we need to be kept informed in a very open way as to how the compliance issues are taking place. they may not elevate to the type of violation that would warrant the united states taking actions to reimpose full sanctions, but they may be of interest as to
how we can make sure that there's full compliance with the agreement. we also have the concerns of recognizing that iran's not going to change its nefarious activities, particularly as it relates to the support of terrorism and its human rights issues that may engage us in a way to how we counter those activities. so being able to trace the funds that iran will be receiving through sanction relief and how they use those funds, it's going to be of great interest to the members of this committee and to the members of congress. so i just would like to get your assurances that you have given us about keeping us fully engaged. we know what the law requires. but what i'm asking for is, as you pointed out in your relationships with congress in the past, that we're going to have a very open relationship and full information so that we can carry out our critically responsible -- responsibilities of oversight.
>> thank you very much, senator. again, i appreciate the question. i especially appreciate its intent and purpose. the implementation of the jcpoa is going to be what makes it a good agreement or a bad agreement. we are intent on ensuring that that implementation is to the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. in that regard, we intend to consult with the congress along the way and will consult with congress along the way at different steps in the implementation process. i think it's worth noting that secretary kerry and president obama have selected ambassador steve mull to manage the implementation process, the interest-agency side but our engagement with the iranians. he has a group of experts working with him that have deep experience in this and that he has chosen myself as nominee for undersecretary to manage along
with ambassador mull work in the joint commission, which will meet regularly to assess the implementation process. it is worth noting that in choosing us, he has chosen career foreign service officers and he has chosen two people who did not participate in the negotiations of the agreement. and therefore, he is bringing fresh eyes and objective eyes to the implementation process. i think it's smart and important. but as ambassador mull and i carry out this work, we will be consulting with you you the other members of this committee and your staff. we recognize and understand the importance of having the executive branch and the legislative branch having clear understandings of what needs to be done in the implementation process. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> senator purdue. >> thank you, mr. chairman. ambassador, it's an honor to have you here today. i appreciate the courtesy of a private meeting with you recently. i want to publicly for the
record applaud your career. i know you have raised your kids abroad. you probably saw your mother much less than you would have liked through your career. we're here today -- i just applaud your career and thank you for being here and for being willing to take on this new responsibility. i would like to move to the global security crisis that we talked privately about. i see it on three levels. one, we've got a power vacuum out there that has created a rise again of these power rivalri rivalries, china and russia. we saw another power vacuum in iraq into which isis has stepped and created all sorts of problems in syria and iraq and several other areas in the region and in subsaharan africa. of course now the iran nuclear deal that as you well said privately and i think just now that it's all in the implementation. i would like to focus on syria. i know we got talks coming up tomorrow. what are the prospects of those talks? are you concerned that in your new role -- are you concerned about iran being a part of the dialogue this early in the
conversation and also russia, as far as i can see? bashar al assad has been propped up by putin. without their help, he would have been gone a long time and g -- ago and he would not have had the wherewithal to continually barrel bomb his people and gas his own people. are you a little concerned about having the arsonist trying to help put the fire out in these talks this weekend? >> thank you very much, senator. again, very grateful for your willingness to see me and talk about these issues. as secretary kerry i think noted in his testimony here -- i know as assistant secretary patterson and general allen noted, you are know, our objectives in syria remain degrading and defeating isil, fostering a political transition and helping syrians lay the foundation for a free feature, but a future without isil and without assad. in this regard, secretary kerry --
>> sooim -- i'm sorry. is it still the administration's position and your understanding that bashar al assad has to go? is that a prerequisite for this? >> correct. >> thank you. second kerry in his effort to fashion a global response to events in syria as he said trying to chart a course out of hell, he has determined that there's a moment in time in which it is important to bring together major players and actors to address events inside of syria. part of this process builds off of earlier processes such as the meetings in london and geneva. but the insertion of russia and iran in a very aggressive way in syria has also created a different kind of dynamic. the russian and iranian presence or support for assad is nothing new. but the russian military presence and air strikes is something new. the presence of iranian troops
and special forces is something new and worrisome. for this reason, the secretary thought it was time to bring everybody together and effectively call their bluff, determine whether or not their commitment to fighting -- their public commitment to fighting isil and terrorism is a meaningful one and the extent to which they are prepared to work broadly with the international community to convince mr. assad that during a political transition process he will have to go. >> you have got, i think you said, great experience in post-conflict societies. is it possible iran would support a secular government after bashar al assad p
perspectively leaves? >> i don't know the answer to that question, sir. i think we're only going to determine whether or not that is possible by engaging. you know, our engagement is not going to affect our intent or purpose. we are hopeful that we can establish an environment in syria where we can address the underlying political problems and allow the syrians to determine their future and to do it in a way in which they're not responding to iran or to russia. >> i'm almost out of time. i want to move on to venezuela. because of your vast experience there, i know you have led conversations there. talk to us a minute about our role in ensuring that they have a true and open and free election in the upcoming election. >> thank you for that question. it's an important one. as we have engaged with venezuela, we focused on a variety of issues that are important to us. first, when we first began our engagement, it was about insisting that venezuela establish a date for legislative elections. when we first engaged, they had not established such a day and there was concern about whether or not they would establish such a date. secondly, it was -- we focused on political prisoners, not just
high-profile prisoners but also a group of students and other political prisoners, between 77 and 80, depending on who is doing the counting, who are being held by the government of venezuela for what we believe to be political purposes. we wanted to make it very clear that we did not agree with that and we thought it important that these people be released and allowed to participate in public life. finally, connected to the broader purpose of elections, trying to convince venezuela it was in their interest to ensure international electoral observation of the upcoming elections in order to validate the results of the elections and allow all venezuelans to understand that their votes were freely cast and counted in valid fashion. these remain our principal objectives. we do have an electoral date. we were able to accomplish that.
the political prisoners, for the most part, are still in prison. some have been released. we continue to advocate for them. and we've helped create a larger environment in latin america where advocating for these political prisoners is now more common and direct. we see it in the oas. we see it in the interamerican human rights commission and in a variety of other forums. we work with our partners around the issue of electoral observation. >> thank you very much. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you. senator menendez. go ahead. senator kaine? we have a very courteous committee. [ laughter ] >> new jersey civility is always appreciated. thank you, mr. chairman. >> notwithstanding what governor christie said last night. >> thank you, ambassador shannon. a couple of points. your long career has included service in some very dangerous areas.
talk about the evolving security conditions under which our folks have to operate around the globe and your sensitivity to those issues in this new role. >> senator, thank you very much. i am a proud member of the commonwealth of virginia. thank you very much for your service as governor and as senator. we're very lucky to have you. you know, today -- i live in crystal city. i take the bus to work. which means i get off on constitution and 22nd. i walk up 22nd street and enter the state department through the c street entrance. aside from seeing the array of flags of all the countries of which we have diplomatic relations, i also see on both walls on either side of our entrance the names of all the foreign service officers and family members who have given their lives in the service of
the united states of america. so every day it is impressed upon me the danger of our job, but also the honor of serving and the importance of being able to make that kind of commitment. this is really a wall of honor for us. it's also a wall of inspiration. but at the same time, we don't want to add any more names. the first name was walter paulfre. he was lost at sea in 1780. we have -- we realize we operate in a dangerous world. as i noted, we're in an especially dangerous spot around the world. how we manage security and the structures we put in place are going to be key to how well we can protect our people and how well we can manage risk. whether it's through our kind of high threat post review process, whether it's through the determinations on whether or not we keep our embassies open, how
we determine -- these are processes that have to be fluid, dynamic, agile and reflect the facts on the ground. aside from that, i believe we need to do more in terms of training our officers to be their own security officers. in other words, allowing them to understand better the environment they're going to be in and allowing them the training and the tools necessary to protect themselves. the reality is, we are an expediti expeditionary diplomatic service. we have 275 diplomatic missions around the world. we have about 10,000 american diplomats and civil servants around the world. we're responsible for them all. >> this is something that senator purdue and i have worked on a lot. i hope we will reach a point soon where we can give a green light to the state department's long plan to build an enhanced security training facility for embassy personnel. a point on iran to pick up the comments that both the chair and ranking member meant. when we were working on the review act, the administration's
attitude really was they didn't think congress should have a role in approving an iran deal, which i thought was given the fact the congressional sanctions were such an integral part of the negotiation. and i would just say i hope the administration will have a different attitude going forward in terms of congress' role. the deal puts congress in the middle of it. in year eight, congress is required under this deal to dismantle the congressional sanctions statutes or we are in breach of the agreement. just as in year eight the iranian parliament is required to permanently accept the additional protocol requirements or they're in breach of the agreement. there's not going to be a scenario where congress will kind of be kept in the dark and uninvolved and then suddenly in year eight we'll be asked, okay, repeal the sanctions statute.
it's hard to get a mother's day resolution passed in two houses of congress. the notion that you would get 60 votes in the senate and a majority in the house to repeal the sanction statutes in year eight if there hasn't been very significant dialogue and trust building and assurances that congress feels comfortable about, we'll be in breach of the agreement if we don't have this really tight kind of communication dialogue and accepted level of congressional oversight over the implementation. i hope that will be your philosophy in the position. >> thank you for that. it will be my philosophy. the challenge we're going to face as both an executive branch and a legislative branch is that eight years a long time. we will pass through at least one other administration and maybe more. so in trying to find ways to ensure continuity of purpose and continuity of dialogue is going to be a central part of what we will do. >> one last -- congratulations. it's premature but it's congratulations on the effort. the state department's commitment to really aggressive diplomacy, we're aware of the iran deal, we're aware of taking
a new tact with cuba but the u.s. has played a really important role in companying the government of colombia in the negotiations with the farc. i know there was an announcement by president santos of we would hope to get to an internationally monitored cease-fire on new year's day. this is the last war that's going on in the americas. there's plenty of problems in the americas, but the notion of two continents without war, i'm not sure there's been a time in recorded history where the americas has been without war. we're close to that. the u.s. has played an important role in accompanied colombia and being an advocate and ally in those negotiations. i give credit to the state department for this kind of focus on important and multi-lateral diplomacy and appreciate your efforts. >> thank you. i want to thank the congress and this committee in particular for the tremendous work that has been done over the years along with the house and the members of the house who have dedicated
themselves to colombia. it's really been a stellar group of people, and they've been a pleasure to work with. and i've had an opportunity to do it in so many incarnations from the deputy assistant secretary and then as assistant secretary. also as counselor, i've been involved in this. you are. if thecolombians are able to negotiate this deal, it will be the first time not only in living memory, but probably since the formation of most of the south american republics in the early 19th century that this
hemisphere has been at peace in terms of state on state wars and internal conflicts. but the challenge we're going to face -- in this we're going to be engaging with you, sir, and senator cardin, with this committee, about how to ensure that having been colombia's best partner in war, we're going to be their best partner in peace. because colombia is going to be -- is a great nation, but it's going to be a greater nation. with brazil, it will be one of the defining powers of south american. as a caribbean power, as an amazonian power and pacific power and as a country that will, if it's successful in the
peace process, have consolidated its society and been able to extend the reach of the state into the plains of colombia, it will be a major producer of oil and gas, of minerals, agricultural power. but it will also has a dynamic and entrepreneurial people who will be very, very important players throughout the hemisphere. how we shape that is going to have a big impact how successful we are in the hemisphere. >> thank you. senator menendez? >> thank you, mr. chairman. ambassador, congratulations on your nomination. considering your distinguished career, i think it's having your mom and dad here and two fbi agents is over the top. you know? in terms of guaranteeing your nomination. on a serious note, we had a good conversation. i listened to some of your responses today. i just want to quickly go over some ground, because i think it's incredibly important. would you agree with me that consultation with this committee and the senate is an important factor in us having a united front in u.s. foreign policy? >> yes, it is. >> because what i have experienced both as the former chairman of this committee and
as a member is that we get a lot of notification but not a lot of consultation. and there's a difference. we may not agree at the result of consulting, but at least you will understand, you know, some thoughts of those of us who represent the nation. maybe there will be ways to achieve a common goal, but to do it in a different way. and so what i have experienced is a lot of notification but not a lot of consultation. so i'm glad to hear that you are committed to consultation. secondly, do you agree with me that the tip report needs to be the gold standard? >> yes, i do. >> i think i could probably not find anybody on this committee who believes that the last report did not have -- did not meet that standard. in the questions of malaysia and cuba and some other places, the justifications belie the facts and the reality is is that you can't say that certain things in a reporting period that happen to be good for that country will be included, even though they're beyond the reporting period, and certain things that are bad that are also beyond the recording
period don't get included. either we include everything beyond the reporting period, good and bad, or we stick to the reporting period. but you can't go beyond the reporting period for what's good but not beyond the reporting period for what's bad. i'm referring particularly to malaysia and the mass graves that we found. that wasn't considered in what malaysia was doing in that context. some passage of a law that wasn't even yet enforced was considered. we need to make that the gold standard. i hope that we can -- understanding the pressures within the department from regional bureaus and whatnot, but it just doesn't work the way it worked the last time. it undermines our credibility in trafficking in persons. thirdly, would you agree with me that we must respond to violations by iran of whether it is its nuclear agreement or
security council resolutions with significant responses or else we will be down a slippery slope in terms of what they think they can get away with? >> yes, i do. >> so i say that because we -- regardless -- there are members of this committee that voted both ways. i oppose the agreement. i think it's aspirational. i hope it works now that it's the law. by the same token, i don't think any of it can work if iran thinks it can get away with violating, as it largely has done for the past decade and a half in violating international united nations security council resolutions and international law and still largely developed a nuclear program. if we're going to get anything out of this agreement, it has to be enforced. and with the ballistic missile test that they had, i don't think you're going to end up with a u.n. resolution that's going to sanction them because
russia will probably negate it with its veto, so we have to be thinking about how we're going to respond to that. otherwise we're headed down a slippery slope. i know this won't be the main stay of your portfolio. but the reality is, you are going to have as the third highest ranking person at the state department some say in this. i hope you will hold the view that you have publically described here as saying it's important within the deliberations of the department. thirdly, fourthly, venezuela. you and i had a long discussion of this. i have to be honest with you. i appreciate what you are trying to do when you met with the man who is supposedly by some of our agencies described as someone who is involved in narco trafficking. i realize he has an elected position inside of venezuela. that's a question for the future
as a policy, how far do we go with individuals who while they may hold the position are involved in the context of narco trafficking? in venezuela, you have a process in which we don't have yet international observers. you have a sham trial with a prosecutor ultimately fleeing -- one of the prosecutors flees the country and says that he was under pressure to ultimately pursue the case in the manner in which he did. lopez is convicted in a sham trial. i think 13 years in jail. and you have a series of other human rights activists and political dissidents jailed. and you have the madura regime basically saying publicly in essence, we're going to win the
elections. which basically means, we're going to win it one way or the other. the polls don't indicate they will. but we will win it. my concern is -- the thing i think you do bring to this job that others don't have is your combination of latin america and africa experience. my concern is that we are not willing to challenge regimes, whether it be in venezuela or cuba where we have seen nothing, nothing in terms of human rights and democracy issues. talk to me about challenging a regime when the diplomacy has not achieved what we want and we pass this law that came out of this committee on venezuela on sanctions. the president invoked some of it. there's still a lot more that could be invoked. when is the demarcation in which we say our diplomacy has not worked? how do we back it up with some strength? >> thank you very much. let me thank you for why you commitment to latin america and the state department. it has been an important motivator for us, an important driver of how we shape the
diplomats of the future. in regard to the tip report, let me reiterate that i'm committed to addressing the concerns of this committee and members of the committee who have expressed their concerns to me. as i noted previously, it's very worrisome for me that a report that should be a gold standard is seen as not being that. so i will do everything i can to address those concerns and ensure that we are examining countries under the rubric of the report with all the rigor that is required by law. with regard to iran violations, i can guarantee you we will respond to them. we recognize as important as the jcpoa is, it has a set of sanctions tied to it that are nuclear related. but there are sanctions related the ballistic missiles, to human
rights, and to terrorism. we will pursue those when we see them. we understand that our relationship with iran is a complicated one. but, again, our success in the jcpoa and its implementation will only happen if we show a clear willingness to pursue violations elsewhere under other sanctions regimes. with regard to venezuela, we had a good conversation. i appreciated your point of view. i understand it and i appreciate the concerns that others have expressed. as we look at what's next in venezuela, so much of our own relationship with venezuela will depend on what happens around the legislative elections and what happens around the issue of political prisoners. when i met with them as i noted to you earlier, it was with the purpose first of all of winning from them an electoral date for legislative assembly elections which we thought was essential to create a political process
that would allow the venezuelan people to express themselves, but also create a larger environment for dialogue inside of venezuela. its secondary purpose was to save the life of lopez was in the fourth week of a hunger strike and we were looking for an action by the venezuelan government that would convince lopez to come off his strike. we believe lopez along with the other political prisoners being held are an essential part of a broader solution to the kinds of internal challenges that venezuela faces today. we will continue to advocate for his release after we have done over time. as we have engaged with venezuela, we have never backed off our criticism regarding some of its political behavior and activity. we have suppressed our concern
about the politicized judiciary and continued holding of political elections. the ability of elections to be perceived as free elections and the vote count is valid is an important part how we manage the next step in the relationship. in that regard the legislation that you worked on and that other members of this committee and senate worked on will be an important tool for us and we will use it if necessary. >> i hope you use the tool. i look forward to supporting your confirmation before the committee and the senate. >> senator coons? >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you, ambassador, for your service. thank you for your family for sustaining and supporting his service and immediate family service over so many years and challenging environments. i will concur with my colleague from new jersey that your long service in latin america and in africa brings in particularly a needed strength. your service as a member of the career foreign service officer brings an important and vital perspective.
so let me just broadly reference three questions. then you take as much time as you wish. allocate your time accordingly. service employees of the department what you think are the most important, most needed steps to continue to attract and retain and motivate the best and brightest to serve in these difficult and demanding and important posts around the world. i'm also interested, you succeed wendy sherman, hopefully you will be confirmed, i'll support your confirmation and she placed a real focus on peacekeeping. peacekeeping is difficult business. it's expensive. it's full of complications. there is an african standby force that is in the early stages of being perhaps ready to actually serve on the continent. they've been doing some recent exercises in south africa and i'd be interested in how you see the future of peacekeeping and how we make it sustainable from a cost perspective. and last i'm concerned about how
we support economic growth in africa while also supporting democracy and governance. there's been a hotly contested election in answer the indonesia. the results were announced in the last hour. they were invalidated in zanzibar earlier today. we have a number of critical other elections this year. how do we balance those two -- promoting economic growth and development while still advocating for our values over the values of some of our competitors in africa? >> well, thank you very much, senator. appreciate the questions and let me thank you for the trip you made to the state department to meet with some of our mid-level officer, it was a great experience for them. but we really appreciate the respect you showed us and we look forward to inviting you back so thank you for that. in regard to your first question, how to attract and keep the best people, that's something we struggle with everyday. luckily, we have a really interesting portfolio and so we tend to attract people who are
smart, motivated and expeditionary in mind-set. this to want go places and they want to do things and so that's important to us. but the challenges we face are real. the challenges that dual career families face in the foreign service, the challenges that families with children with special needs face. and then the broader security environment that we spoke about earlier also affect how people understand the foreign service and the degree to which they enter the foreign service or stay as officers. we are really at this point in time going through a generational change in the foreign service. 60% of the foreign service, nearnear ly 60%, about 57% or something, of the foreign service has served for 10 years or less. this is remarkable. that means we have a cadre of younger officers who are going to be our next generation of leaders.
who have served in the foreign service during a period of combat in iraq and afghanistan and a larger global struggle against terrorism and in many instances, some of these classes have gone in large numbers to iraq, afghanistan, pakistan, and other areas first where they're unaccompanied postings but secondly where the challenges they face are quit significant. and how we help these officers understand a larger world, how we mentor them, how we train them, how we enhance their language capability is going to be a big part of our success? the future so one of the assignments i'm going to take on myself is really a mentoring assignment and it's intent on engaging with our geographic bureaus, with national foreign affairs training center, with the foreign service institute and with the secretary to ensure he can leave behind a legacy of enhanced language training, enhanced regional stud dooz and ability to do for the field to help officers become familiar with the areas they're working
on and areas they want to continue to work on. but let me share one quick anecdote with you. as i go around and talk to younger officers, especially in the middle east, one of their biggest concerns is security. but not whether they're going to be okay. their concern is are they going to be able to do their job. and this is where we talked about earlier, they want the tools to be able to do their job and that means the security environment that protects them but also their ability to understand and interpret the environment they're in and in this regard we've got a lot of work to do because there's some places that are just deadly force us and we just either can't go there or we have to go there under very careful conditions. but, again, this is something i'm really focused on because this is going to have a big impact on some of our best and brightest as to whether they stay. if they think their career is going spent in a container or behind an embassy wall and if they can only go out in force
and with interpreters they're not going to stay so we have to find a way to deal with this. and then finally the -- you know, africa is a special interest of mine. i've served in washington on african affairs but also in the field on african affairs and i've been able to travel to africa a lot. the economic growth side is really important for this continent. this is the continent of the 21st century and president obama through his africa leader summit highlighted the importance of commercial engagement and presented a different vision of africa to the american people, one of opportunity and growth. and as we look into the future, we need to understand that the chinese have figured this out and the chinese are present in africa in a big way and so we have to be present in a big way. and that means looking for ways to push american businesses, american investment and create the connectivity around economic growth that is necessary for africa to continue to grow at the rate that it's growing. i think it's the fastest-growing continent in the world in terms
of commerce and investment. but that said, the governance issues are really striking in different parts of africa and the issues we're facing, whether it be in tanzania, weather it be in the drc, burundi, rwanda or beyond, how leaders understand their role as elected leaders, how they understand their ability to perpetuate themselves in power and the degree to which they use state structures to further themselves in power and don't address the transparency, accountability, and anti-corruption issues that will be the basis for long term economic growth and development is going to be key and it has to be a central part of our engagement in africa and i believe it is and i think with your assistant secretary linda toms in a greenfield we have been dynamic, pushing hard on these issues, not always successfully because of the nature of some of the countries that we've been working in, but we haven't given up. and i can assure you that governance is going to be a big part of how we engage in africa
because absent the right kind of governance that economic growth is not going to have the social impact it needs to have. >> thank you, mcr. chairman. >> thank you. as you know, there will be follow up questions and we'll keep the record open for bot nominees but thank you for your willingness to serve, for having your family here, for their service to our country and we look forward to your confirmation. >> thank you very much. i'm very grateful. >> yes, sir. next, we'll consider the nomination of laura hallgate, nominee to be u.s. representative to the vienna office of the united nations and u.s. representative to the international atomic energy agency, commonly called the iaea. this role requires an and jiel ambassador capable of representing u.s. position with a diverse array of u.n. organizations from the u.n. office on drugs and crime to the u.n. division of management, is
the comprehensive test ban treaty organization of which we're not a party, the wasserman arrangement and the u.n. commission on international trade law among others. perhaps the most visible toll this committee given the ongoing engagement on the jcpoa with iran will be the nominee's representation of the united states at the international atomic energy agency. i recognize that you ms. holgate have dedicated your career, as we have discussed privately, to promoting nuclear security and establishing an environment that staunchs the spread of nuclear materials. but the challenges of the position may be daunting. you will be called upon to hold a strong line in the face of pressure from our partners who, in order to open economic relations with iran may seek to close the door on old allegations and turn a blind eye to previous military dimensions of the program that may provide indicators necessary for the iaea to monitor the program
going forward. you may be called upon to defend u.s. -- key u.s. positions in the face of opposition from non-aligned movement -- from the non-aligned movement. you may have to stand alone to adequately defend u.s. national security interests. i hope you will explain how you intend to fulfill these obligations in this role and the expectations you have for your ability to successfully represent the u.s. while we have the opportunity, i'd also like for you to discuss your government -- our government's current efforts to counter nuclear smuggling and how you may use this position if confirmed to further ensure the security of nuclear material globally. appreciate your attendance before the committee today and look forward to growing our relationship should you be confi confirmed. with that, i would like to recognize our distinguished ranking member senator cardin. >> well, let me also welcome laura holgate.
thank you very much for your long-standing public service and as was pointed out by the previous witness, this is a family commitment, we thank you and your family for your willingness to serve our country in this critically important position. you bring a host of qualifications to this nomination. senior position at department of energy and department of defense, a career that prevents terrorists from using weapons of mass destruction. you're currently the senior director of the weapons of mass destruction terrorism and threat reduction at the national security council. you come well prepared for the challenges in vienna and i say that because, yes, there are the direct responsibilities that you have on the organizations in vienna under the united nations and the iaea and others. but it's also working with two