Monday, September 24, 2012

Gold, Jewelry and . . . Sardines? A Look Inside California's Unclaimed Property Vault

Last week, we mentioned Illinois' auction of abandoned safe deposit box property (and similar auctions were held in Nebraska and Missouri.  Under most states' unclaimed property laws, property in safe deposit boxes is subject to being reported and turned over to the state 3 or 5 years after the rental period of the safe deposit box expires.

What do people keep in their safe deposit boxes?  Gold, jewelry, important papers, keepsakes and the like.  The Office of California State Controller has posted a photo album of some of the more *ahem* unusual items that have been delivered to the state for safekeeping.   Among the items is a sack of diamonds worth half a million dollars, baseball cards (including a Ken Griffey, Jr. rookie card), and a stack of gold and silver coins.

Of course, value is in the eye of the beholder.  While some people go through great lengths to protect cash, gold and memorabilia, other people stash other valuables like pictures of John Travolta or sardines.  Presumably, these items were left in different safe deposit boxes.  If not, then there is a 70s-TV loving tuna that should get its financial act together.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

No "Easy Button" for Delaware VDAs: Pricetag of Staples Settlement Disclosed -- $8.9 Million

In 2010, office supplies company Staples, Inc. got into a public dispute with the Delaware State Escheator, over the latter's attempts to collect unclaimed property allegedly due from Staples.  As recounted here by Business Week, the controversy started when Staples approached Delaware in connection with a "Voluntary Disclosure Agreement" or VDA.  Pursuant to the VDA program, a holder that is not under audit can voluntarily approach the state and disclose past liability.  The state, in turn, generally agrees to waive interest and penalties that might otherwise be assessed on the property.  Here, Staples ultimately admitted owing approximately $150,000 in past due liability.

As many in this industry know, however, doing a VDA with Delaware is not as simple as it seems.  Here, Delaware refused to accept the results of Staples' VDA, and commenced its own audit.  Ultimately, according to Business Week, the state presented Staples with an assessment of $3.9 million.  The litigation moved along for about two years in Delaware state court.

Earlier this summer, the parties jointly announced the settlement of the matter, and noted that the terms were "confidential."  Apparently, that did not sit well with the Associated Press, which challenged the parties' assertion of confidentiality.  The AP ultimately prevailed:  according to CBS News, among other sources, we now know the full pricetag:  $8.9 Million.  To put that number in context, here are some things you can buy with $8.9 million:

Monday, September 17, 2012

Illinois Unclaimed Property Auction Kicking Off Today

The vast majority of unclaimed property reported by companies and financial institutions to state governments is either money (in the form of uncashed checks, unredeemed payroll, unused credits) or "intangible" property -- things that represent a right to payment or the ownership of some financial asset (e.g., stocks, bonds, insurance policies, etc.).  However, banks also report items from abandoned safe deposit boxes under most states unclaimed property laws.  What do the states do with those items?  Many times, the property is auctioned off, and the funds kept by the state (for the benefit of the rightful owner).

In fact, starting today and running through Friday morning, Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford's Office is hosting an unclaimed property auction.  Among the items up for online bidding are coins, jewelry, and other keepsakes.  The auction website can be found here.  Happy bidding!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Ohio on Offense and Defense

No, we're not talking about college football, or even pro football, we're talking about unclaimed property. 

First the offense:

According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Ohio Attorney General's office is bringing criminal charges against a Columbus man who is accused of offering to help people file claims for unclaimed property, but failing to turn that property over.  If you believe that you were a victim of the scam, you can contact the Ohio Attorney General's Office here.

Next, the defense:

As we mentioned a long time ago, for several years, Ohio's unclaimed property program has been defending a class action lawsuit brought by consumers who say that the state should pay interest on unclaimed property amounts ultimately recovered by their rightful owners.  Ohio recently settled that litigation, and consumers who have reclaimed property from the state since August, 2000 are due an additional $9.5 million that the state has agreed to pay.  Information on the settlement, and on how you go about making a claim for interest (if you are a member of the settlement class) can be found here.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Lost & Found: Connecticut Records, UP Official Sentenced, Politics (but not really)

Connecticut Sets Unclaimed Property Record:  Add Connecticut to the list of states that have set unclaimed property collection or reunification records this year.  According to the Hartford Business Journal, the Nutmeg State returned more than $83.5 million to rightful owners this year, an increase of $30 million over last year.  A large part of the record came from a single claim for $32.8 million -- the largest claim in state history -- relating to stock held by the state for a single individual.

Former Oklahoma Unclaimed Property Auditor Sentenced:  A few months ago, we mentioned the story of LaTisha Reid, the former Oklahoma unclaimed property auditor charged with stealing unclaimed property from the state.  Reid ultimately pled guilty to some two dozen felonies and was recently sentenced to 12 years in prison.  Kids, crime doesn't pay. 

What Do Both Parties Have in Common?:  As you may know, the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC ended last night, with a speech by the President.  The previous week, the Republican National Convention was held in Tampa, FL.  Now, we try to keep it bipartisan here at Escheatable, but what do the parties have in common?  Unclaimed property.  According to a search on Missing Money, both parties have funds held for them by the states. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

While We Were Out: Legislative Updates From Around the Country

It's after Labor Day, the kids are back at school, and everyone is back at work preparing for fall reporting deadlines.  Here are a few legislative changes from late summer that took place while we were at the beach:

Michigan Amends Administrative Provisions -- Earlier this year, Michigan passed a business-to-business exemption to remove certain amounts payable between business associations from the reporting and remittance requirements of that state's unclaimed property act.  More recently, Michigan House Bill 5577 was passed, which amends the act's record retention and limitation of action provisions to reflect the new exemption.  The new law reduces the period of time that a holder must keep records of property due and owing between business associations to 5 years (down from 10).

Changes to Hawaii Reporting -- Hawaii was formerly one of the few states that had different dates for the reporting and remittance of unclaimed property.  No longer.  Pursuant to Act 229, both the reporting and remittance are due on November 1.