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UNCLAIMED PROPERTY FOCUS is a blog written by and for UPPO members, featuring diverse perspectives and insights from unclaimed property practitioners across the U.S. and Canada. We welcome your submissions to Unclaimed Property Focus. Please contact Tim Dressen via tim@uppo.org with any questions about submitting a blog post for consideration and refer to our editorial guidelines when writing your blog post. Disclaimer: Information and/or comments to this blog is not intended as a substitute for legal advice on compliance or reporting requirements.

 

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Michigan enacts new audit standards

Posted By Administration, Thursday, May 25, 2017

Earlier this spring, the Michigan treasurer enacted new audit standards for examination, authorized under the Michigan Uniform Unclaimed Property Act. Following is an overview of those new standards.

 

Rules and rights

The state unclaimed property administrator is charged with determining who will undergo examination. Use of collection goals or quotas is prohibited. If someone under audit believes a contracted auditor is acting outside of the scope of the Act, policy or procedures, a review may be requested and will be carried out by the administrator.

 

Auditor standards

Auditors are expected to meet specific professional standards and supervision requirements, and follow specific fieldwork standards. Their planning should include a timeline for each examination segment, the property types to be included and the documentation the audit subject may need to provide. The timeline should account for whether or not the audit subject intends to provide electronic records.

 

Auditor documentation should provide sufficient detail to enable an experienced auditor with no connection to the examination to understand: the documentation of work performed; the property types reviewed; any estimation techniques used; and calculations that form a basis for the examination findings.

 

Process

For audits conducted only on behalf of Michigan, the state administrator is responsible for notifying and examination subject of the audit, providing the auditor’s contact information and the administrator’s contact information. For audits conducted on behalf of Michigan and at least one other state, the administrator submits an audit authorization to the auditor.

 

The auditor and examination subject are expected to reach agreement on a nondisclosure agreement within 30 days of the notice of commencement of the examination. The auditor is also responsible for ensuring confidential records remain confidential.

 

Before or during the opening conference, the administrator establishes whether the audit subject is an “eligible holder.” The audit standards provide a timeline and process for the audit subject to dispute its standing as an eligible holder.

 

At the opening conference, the audit subject receives a copy of the auditor’s contract with the state. The administrator is charged with investigating complaints that the auditor is not complying with the contract or examination standards. If appropriate, the administrator may replace the auditor with another auditor to complete the audit.

 

The auditor is also responsible for providing:

  • A list of states participating.
  • A description of the components and stages of the audit.
  • Expected duration.
  • A description of the responsibilities of the audit subject and auditor.
  • The potential types of property that may be subject to examination.
  • An initial records request.
  • The time period subject to examination.
  • The applicable dormancy periods for each property type.
  • Explanation of examination methods, including estimation techniques that may be used.
  • A summary of the opening conference.

 

Remediation

After the preliminary audit findings, the auditor will provide a copy to the exam subject, beginning a 120-day remediation period. During the remediation period, the exam subject can provide documentation demonstrating that property presumed abandoned should be removed from the final report.

 

Final conference

Within 30 days of the end of the remediation period, a final conference will occur. The audit subject’s total liability will be calculated at this conference. The auditor may adjust the liability based on information received during the final conference. Within 45 days, the auditor will file the examination report with the administrator and provide a copy to the audit subject.

 

 

Tags:  audits  Michigan  unclaimed property 

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Diving deeper into the world of exemptions

Posted By Administration, Thursday, May 11, 2017

Exemptions provide holders with the ability to significantly reduce their unclaimed property liability. Unfortunately, identifying, understanding and applying available exemptions are not simple.

 

“There’s no uniformity in terms of their application or meaning,” says Freda Pepper, counsel for Reed Smith LLP. “For example, the business-to-business exemption isn’t addressed by every state or offered by every state. Among states that do offer it, the B2B exemption comes in a variety of shapes and colors. Some are full exemptions, some are partial exemptions and some have qualifications that others don’t.”

 

B2B exemptions are based on the idea that businesses don’t require the same protection as consumers because they have the resources and knowledge necessary to protect and recover their property from another business. While many states agree on this premise, they differ in their execution of the exemption.

 

Some, including Illinois, Kansas, Ohio, Maryland, and Virginia, offer broad B2B exemptions with few conditions. Others, including Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan and North Carolina, offer limited B2B exemptions that are still holder-friendly but may include exclusions. Others offer what appears to be a B2B exemption, but it is really a deferral, requiring an ongoing business relationship.

 

“Holders may not understand whether an exemption is outright or more of a deferral,” says Chris Jensen, director of abandoned and unclaimed property compliance for Ryan. “Sometimes the liability is delayed or deferred from reporting until the relationship you have with another business no longer exists. The definition of an ‘ongoing business relationship’ differs by jurisdiction, so it is important to review the state’s requirements before applying the deferral.”

 

Some states may not include a B2B exemption or deferral in their unclaimed property statutes, but do so administratively. These present greater risk and diligence, as they may change when a new administration is installed.

 

The B2B exemption is one of the more common exemptions, but many others are available. Gift cards represent another opportunity in many jurisdictions. More than 30 states offer some form of gift card exemption, depending on card variables including expiration date, fee inclusion and type of merchant (retailer or other). Other retail exemptions include merchandise return credits, loyalty cards, layaway deposits and rebates—each with their own restrictions, rules and application standards, depending on the state and other factors.

 

While holders are generally accustomed to reporting property regardless of its value, a few states offer de minimis exemptions. Michigan, for example, does not require escheatment of property valued at $25 or less. Similarly, Florida and Arizona exempt select property types below $10 and $50, respectively.

 

Because exemptions vary so widely, it takes some effort to identify and understand them. Even locating exemption language in state statutes can prove challenging.

 

“Locating where exemptions actually appear in the statute varies by state,” Pepper says. “Sometimes there’s an outright exemption addressed in the area covering the presumptions of abandonment. Often, the exemption can be found in the definitions section of the statute. For example, when defining ‘property,’ there may be a passage listing that is not considered reportable property. So, finding the exemptions can be a hunt.”

 

In addition, taking an exemption doesn’t relieve a holder from all responsibilities for that property.

 

“If the holder determines an asset is exempt from reporting, it doesn’t necessarily extinguish the liability on their books and records,” Jensen says. “There remains an expectation that you adjudicate the asset with the owner and resolve it on your books and records. Don’t automatically take it as income. Having conversations internally about how property is managed after its determined to be exempt cannot be understated.”

 

With so many variables and sometimes murky definitions at play, applying exemptions presents some challenges. Holders may need to examine how their reporting software accounts for available exemptions and consider their level of risk. When an exemption is offered administratively but not statutorily, a holder applying the exemption takes on some risk. Likewise, when definitions related to exemptions are vague and open to holder interpretation, risk increases. Holders should document their interpretation, apply it consistently and keep track of when it is applied. Doing so may prove useful if faced with an audit.

 

Holders seeking to minimize their unclaimed property liability have the ability to do so via exemptions. The lack of uniformity from state to state presents numerous challenges. Identifying, understanding and correctly applying available exemptions may not be easy, but can be worthwhile.

 

To help holders dive deeper into the world of unclaimed property exemptions, Jensen and Pepper will lead UPPO’s An Advanced View of Exemptions webinar on Wednesday, May 17. This informative webinar will focus on various exemptions offered by the states and will help holders determine when and how to apply them. Unclaimed property professionals with customers or vendors located in states that offer exemptions should not miss this in-depth educational session. Register now.

 

 

Tags:  audits  compliance  exemptions  unclaimed property 

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Delaware’s proposed audit regulations raise many questions

Posted By Administration, Thursday, May 4, 2017

Earlier this spring, the Delaware secretary of finance, in consultation with the secretary of state, published a proposed Department of Finance Abandoned or Unclaimed Property Reporting Examination Manual, as required by S.B. 13. The proposed regulations provide some clarity regarding the finance department’s approach to administration and enforcement of the law. However, they also raise noteworthy questions regarding language that may contradict S.B. 13, exceed the department’s authority and fail to clarify murky language in the statute.

 

Noteworthy issues include:

 

Foreign property: S.B. 13 indicates that Delaware has jurisdiction over unclaimed property if the jurisdiction with primary authority has no unclaimed property law. The proposed regulations, however, addresses only states, but not other countries that have the authority to escheat.

 

Stored value and gift card maximum cost: The proposed regulation would dramatically increase the amount reportable with respect to unredeemed gift cards and other stored value cards to the issuer’s “cost of goods sold [reflected on its federal income tax return for the year] plus total deductions less charitable contributions, depreciation and depletion.” This interpretation expands the amount reportable by an issuer far beyond the cost to the issuer of the merchandise, goods or services represented by the card, in violation of the statutory language.

 

Record retention: Language in the proposed regulations requires holders to retain records not only for property reported to Delaware, but also for property not reported. This requirement exceeds the record retention requirements set forth in the Delaware Code.

 

Examination scope: The scope of examination in the proposed regulations allows the state to begin an examination without having identified the specific entities under audit and provided notice to those entities. The Fourth Amendment prohibits such “fishing expeditions” for the purpose of identifying whether or not a company may be a proper target for audit.

 

In addition, Delaware law allows the state to examine the records of a purported holder “upon reasonable notice.” Once notice is given, the statute authorizes examination of the holder’s own records, and may even extend to certain records in the possession of a third party or an affiliate. However, the proposed regulations attempt to expand that authority by deeming all entities “related” to the holder as under examination themselves, without the required, reasonable notice.

 

Certification/record availability: The proposed regulation assumes fraudulent intent on behalf of holders and fails to account for the realities of corporate life. The proposed requirement that holders “certify” to the “availability” of “records,” on a strict liability standard of fraud appears to be based on the inaccurate assumption that companies operate through a single software system, which houses all information for all years and all operating divisions. As a result, failure to provide information must be based on malicious intent. This is simply not accurate for most holders.

 

Without any limitation on the terms “availability” and “records,” personnel involved with the audit will have difficulty convincing any officer to certify to such a vague and ambiguous statement under the threat of strict liability for fraud, creating unnecessary conflicts within the audit process. In addition, deeming even inadvertent errors to be “willful misrepresentation” on the part of the holder undermines any purported desire of the State to work collaboratively with holders.

 

Sampling: The Temple-Inland decision and order specifically required that, in the department’s estimates, the sample must be a surrogate of the property that was being estimated. To that end, if Delaware intends to estimate what was due to the state for years in which records are not complete, the sample must include only property that would be due to Delaware. Unfortunately, the proposed regulations simply memorialize the process the judge rejected in Temple-Inland.

 

Complete and researchable records: The proposed minimum standard for what constitutes “complete and researchable” records is unclear. It suggests that a complete and researchable record shall include items that contain a last known address of the property owner. However, this standard has not always been an accurate test to determine researchability. An address alone does not make a transaction researchable.

 

Remediation: The proposed regulations dictating the terms of what can be considered remediated extend far beyond any authority granted to the department or its auditors by S.B. 13. While it may be appropriate to indicate certain elements that are required or desirable in correspondence to Delaware owners, it is beyond the department’s jurisdiction to require the language proposed in the proposed regulations.

 

Omitted issues: The proposed regulations fail to clarify or include issues including the expedited audit examination created under § 1172 (c); the 10-year statute of limitations set forth in § 1156 (b); and interest and penalty provisions in § 1183 and § 1184.

 

On behalf of its members, UPPO has raised questions related to these and other sections of Delaware’s proposed regulations via a letter to State Escheator David Gregor , submitted this week. UPPO will continue to monitor implementation of S.B. 13 and Delaware’s proposed regulations, and will report on additional developments.

 

 

Tags:  audits  compliance  Delaware  examinations  S.B. 13  unclaimed property 

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Delaware publishes proposed examination regulations

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, April 12, 2017

As required by the recently passed Delaware S.B. 13, the secretary of finance, in consultation with the secretary of state, developed new unclaimed property examination regulations in the form of the proposed Department of Finance Abandoned or Unclaimed Property Reporting and Examination Manual. Following is an overview of the proposed regulations.

 

The guiding principles for the proposed regulations include a goal that every examination be predictable, fair and consistent. The state escheator is prohibited from establishing collection goals or quotes related to unclaimed property assessments, and contracts with third-party auditors are available by request.

 

Upon assignment of a third-party auditor to examine a holder’s books and records, both parties will enter into a confidentiality agreement before any confidential information is produced, if requested by the holder. The proposed regulations include an example of an approved confidentiality agreement.

 

Examination Process

The state is permitted to examine a holder for any reason. Examinations begin with an official examination letter from the abandoned property audit manager, notifying the holder that its books and records are subject to examination, identifying the assigned auditor and providing auditor contact information. The proposed regulations include an example of a notification letter.

 

The state is permitted to initiate an examination only on holders who previously have been notified by the secretary of state of their right to enter into a voluntary disclosure agreement (VDA) or who have failed to comply with section 1172 of the state’s unclaimed property law. The examination notice terminates the holder’s ability to enter into a VDA.

 

Holders are responsible for complying with all information requests. If a holder retains a third-party advocate to assist with the examination, the state will communicate with both the holder and the advocate.

 

Examinations are not limited to a review of work papers, compilations or record summaries prepared by the holder or the holder’s advocate. They also include access to the holder’s original books and records.

 

Opening Conference

Once an examination is assigned, an opening conference will be scheduled with the auditor and representatives of the holder. Before the opening conference, the auditor will provide the holder with a list of documents the holder must produce before or at the opening conference. These documents may include tax returns, organization charts, charts of accounts, unclaimed property filing history in all states, prior completed and accepted VDAs and examinations, and policies and procedures related to record retention, accounting, unclaimed property, or any other practices the state deems relevant.

 

During the opening conference, the auditor will:

  • Advise the holder of Delaware’s reporting requirements
  • Provide an overview of the examination process, including state-approved methodologies, record availability, sampling and the potential for projection and estimation
  • Provide an examination work plan
  • Identify the maximum time period to be covered by the examination and discuss potential scoping issues
  •  Request additional records and materials necessary to proceed with the next steps of the examination, including tax returns, unclaimed filing history for all states, bank statements, bank reconciliations, outstanding check lists, detail general ledgers, aged accounts receivable reports, and if applicable, information surrounding gift certificate issuances and redemptions

Scoping

A typical examination will not exceed 24 months. If it lasts longer, the audit manager will meet with the holder to help complete the examination. Interest and penalties may be assessed on or abated at the discretion of the state escheator.

 

Examinations may include all of the holder’s subsidiaries and related entities. Once entity scoping has been determined by the state, no additional entities may be scoped into the examination without the holder's consent. At the holder's discretion and with the consent of the state, legal entities whose acquisition began after the conclusion of entity scoping can be added to the existing examination.

 

Record Review

During the examination, the auditor will review all necessary books and records, interview key personnel and review relevant policies and procedures related to abandoned property. The auditor may make subsequent requests to the holder for additional books and records.

 

The auditor will submit record requests to the holder in writing. The auditor will also provide a reasonable timeframe for the holder to respond, based on the type and extent of the information requested and other relevant circumstances. Upon receipt of submissions received from the holder, the auditor will provide confirmation with projected response times.

 

If “applicable and practicable,” the auditor will provide to the holder:

  • The process used to determine that items are unclaimed property
  • Why documentation provided by holder is not sufficient to remediate an item
  • Support for determining the proposed assessment
  • Steps the holder can take to remediate the assessment
  • The remediation timeline

Holders will have the opportunity to review, reconcile, remediate and, where applicable under Delaware law, perform due diligence on any items that have been identified as potential unclaimed property. The auditor will verify that the holder has mailed due diligence letters to the owner’s last known address. The auditor will also provide guidance regarding the due diligence process and ensure the holder is performing the outreach within the timelines established by the state. The holder will submit all due diligence letters to the auditor for review and approval before sending them.

 

The state may, at the holder’s request or with the holder’s agreement, divide the examination by property type and year. Thus, portions of examinations may be concluded while other portions remain ongoing. The auditors will keep the holder informed of any potential for such division to expedite the examination.

 

Status Reports

The holder will be kept informed of the progress of the examination and may contact the state directly to address issues or concerns. The holder has the right to contact the state directly to address issues arising from or related to the examination, including the right to report alleged misconduct, unethical behavior or lack of professionalism by the auditor.

 

At the end of any defined portion of the examination, the auditor will present the preliminary findings to the holder. The preliminary findings identify the work performed, property types reviewed, time period reviewed, estimation techniques employed, and a calculation showing the potential amount of unclaimed property due. The auditor will allow the holder reasonable time to complete required research and gather more records to address matters raised in the preliminary findings.

 

Estimation

Delaware requires that holders retain records for a minimum of 10 years plus dormancy (15 years total for most property types). If records are unavailable for the full 10-year period, holders are expected to possess several years of dormant records. The state may use any available dormant records to estimate an unclaimed property liability for the period of time for which the holder does not possess complete and researchable records.

 

If the holder fails to retain sufficient dormant years of records, the audit manager and holder will discuss which records will be used for the base period. In the absence of an agreement, the state escheator possesses the sole authority to make a reasonable determination of the base period in order to prepare an estimate.

 

Base periods consist of complete and researchable records. To draw a representative error rate, the base periods will consist of at least three years from the available complete and researchable records. Depending on the circumstances, the state may include nondormant periods in the base periods.

 

The holder must provide to the state escheator a representation of which records are available, for which property types and what years. A false statement will be considered willful misrepresentation made with intent to mislead the state escheator.

 

Items payable to a U.S. federal department or agency will be removed from the population before review. Funds returned in the normal course of business before issuance of the examination notice will not be included in the population of potential unclaimed items.

 

When transactions for a particular property type are deemed too large of a population to be reasonably tested on an actual basis, a statistical sampling methodology will be employed. If a holder prefers to research the entire population of a given property type, the holder is permitted to do so within a reasonable time.

 

Generally, the population will be divided into strata from which samples will be drawn. For each strata, a sample size will be determined using generally accepted statistical principles such that the sample mean will be within 10 percent of the population mean for that strata at a 90 percent confidence interval. In the instance of a lower-valued stratum, where the results are generally immaterial to the overall liability, a relaxed confidence and precision level intervals may be considered.

 

In some circumstances where the holder has not maintained records for the entire examination period, the state may sample a number of entities of a holder during an examination in lieu of testing all Delaware entities. The auditors will identify an appropriate sampling of entities based on factors including revenue, line of business, commercial activity and property types being held.

 

The results will be extrapolated, if applicable, to the other appropriate Delaware entities that have not been selected for detailed review to determine the liability. The holder will be given the option to use this sampling methodology or to test all entities that fall within the scope of the examination.

 

Delaware's sampling process for estimation includes the following steps:

  • Define the population, including base period and sampling unit (e.g. aged checks or customer net credit balances) and remove potential anomalies, such as duplicate records
  •  Determine appropriate stratification, if necessary, including number of strata and stratum boundaries
  • Calculate sample size, including desired confidence and precision
  •  Perform random computerized sample selection
  • Evaluate results

If the amount of reportable property cannot be ascertained from the holder’s records, projection techniques may be used to determine the reportable amounts for such periods. Such determination shall be made by first examining records during periods in which records exist to establish a base period of data from which statistical inferences can be made for periods in which records are incomplete. To the extent permitted by law, names and addresses identified in the base period will not be used to determine which state has the priority claim to the abandoned property estimated to be due over periods where records of owners’ addresses do not exist.

 

The state must approve all sampling, projection and estimation techniques before they are used by the auditor. The state will permit the holder to suggest an alternative technique. However, the ultimate decision to employ a particular technique is at the sole discretion of the state. The holder may challenge this decision after the examination ends.

 

Remediation

Holders have the opportunity to review, reconcile, remediate and perform remediation outreach on any items that have been identified as potential unclaimed property. The form of the outreach letter must be approved by the state, and all letters must be submitted to the auditors for review and approval before they are sent. The holder must provide confirmation of the date of the outreach mailing to the auditor. The proposed regulations include a sample approved outreach letter.

 

Bankruptcy

If filing for bankruptcy before or after an examination, the holder must provide bankruptcy notification to the auditor. Within seven days of receiving the holder’s notice or the discovery of the event, the auditor will notify the state and assist the escheator in filing a proof of claim in the bankruptcy action.

 

Statement of Findings

If the audit manager determines at the conclusion of the examination that the holder failed to report or underreported the amount of unclaimed property due to the state, the state will issue a statement of findings and request for payment to the holder.

 

This letter will outline the findings of the examination and make a formal demand for the property under question. The holder has 90 days to remit any abandoned property identified during the examination as owed to the state. The holder’s appeal rights to contest all or part of the findings as outlined are triggered by the statement of findings and request for payment.

 

Comment Period

Interested parties may submit comments regarding the proposed regulations to State Escheator David Gregor at david.gregor@state.de.us by May 3, 2017. The UPPO Government Relations and Advocacy Committee (GRAC) is currently drafting comments on behalf of UPPO for submission.

 

 

Tags:  audits  compliance  Delaware  examinations  unclaimed property  VDAs 

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S.B. 13 makes sweeping changes to Delaware’s unclaimed property statutes

Posted By Administration, Thursday, February 16, 2017

On Feb. 2, 2017, Gov. John Carney signed Delaware S.B. 13 into law, significantly updating the state’s unclaimed property statutes. Many of the changes mirror the 2016 Revised Uniform Unclaimed Property Act (RUUPA), and others appear to respond to issues raised by the Temple-Inland case. The new law is intended to “bring greater predictability, efficiency and fairness to the state’s unclaimed property reporting process and compliance initiatives.” Following is a summary of several of the law’s most noteworthy provisions.

 

Lookback, Record Retention and Statute of Limitations

S.B. 13 reduces the lookback period for both audits and voluntary disclosure agreements (VDAs) to 10 years plus dormancy. It also defines an express record retention period of 10 years from the date a holder submits a report. The statute of limitations is now 10 years from the date the duty arose, whether or not the holder reported the property. The previous statute of limitations, although shorter, began to run from the time the holder reported the property.

 

Estimation Methodology

The new law mandates that the secretaries of finance and state develop estimation regulations by July 1, 2017. They must include permissible base periods; items to be excluded from estimation calculation; aging criteria for outstanding and voided checks; and a definition of what constitutes “complete and researchable records.”

 

Audit Conversion

Under the new law, all holders currently under audit may convert to a two-year accelerated audit. Holders under audit as of July 22, 2015, may convert to a VDA program. Holders have until 60 days after the promulgation of the new estimation regulations to decide whether to convert to an accelerated audit or VDA program. Interest and penalties will be waived if conversion is made. Holders remaining in the audit will be subject to mandatory interest that is waivable only up to 50 percent.

 

Subpoena Authority

Provisions of the new law give the state escheator the power to issue an administrative subpoena and the ability to seek enforcement of an administrative subpoena in the Court of Chancery. These provisions appear to address issues raised by Delaware Department of Finance v. Blackhawk Engagement Solutions.

 

Judicial Review

Among the new provisions adopted in Delaware is a process for appeal by holders to the Delaware Court of Chancery, replacing the previous multi-step administrative review process. Under the new appeal process, holders have the ability to challenge the state escheator’s determination of liability. The court’s standard of review is deferential to the state escheator regarding factual determinations, but errors of law will be reviewed de novo. The judicial review provision also expressly gives the Court of Chancery the authority to review questions of state or constitutional law related to the examination. This provision appears to be a response to the Temple-Inland case.

 

Indications of Owner Interest

S.B. 13 adds a specific list of owner activities that prevent running of the dormancy period. Indications of the owner’s interest in property includes:

  • A written or oral communication by the owner to the holder or agent of the holder concerning the property or the account in which the property is held.
  • Presentment of a check or other instrument of payment of a dividend, interest payment or other distribution.
  • Accessing the account or information concerning the account, or a direction by the owner to increase, decrease or otherwise change the amount or type of property held in the account.
  • Payment of an insurance policy premium with some exceptions.

The new law also specifies that if an owner has more than one investment or account with a holder, an indication of interest in one investment or account is an indication of interest in all of those accounts.

 

Knowledge of Death

The new law adopts the “knowledge of death” concept as a dormancy trigger for life insurance proceeds. “Knowledge of death” may be identified through any source, such as declaration of death, a death certificate or the comparison of the holder’s records against the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File.

 

Priority Rules

For the first time, the Delaware unclaimed property law includes a codification of the U.S. Supreme Court’s priority rules. It expressly prohibits Delaware as the state of domicile under the second priority rule from taking property into custody that is exempted in the first priority rule state. It also allows the state of domicile to claim foreign-address property but excludes property claimed under foreign law.

 

Owner Address

S.B. 13 adopts portions of RUUPA’s definition of an owner’s “last-known address.” The last-known address of an owner is defined as “a description, code or other indication of the location of the owner on the holder’s books and records that identifies the state of the last known address of the owner.”

 

Disposal of Securities

The new law specifies that the state escheator shall sell or dispose of securities on any established stock exchange or by such other means as soon as the escheator deems it feasible after the delivery. The escheator may not sell a security listed on an established stock exchange for less than the price prevailing on the exchange at the time of sale. The escheator may sell a security not listed on an established exchange by any commercially reasonable method.

 

S.B. 13 provides for indemnification of security owners for 18 months. The escheator will provide either a replacement security or the market value of the security at the time the claim is filed if the owner comes forward with that 18-month period.

 

Gift Cards

For the first time, Delaware’s statute defines “gift cards,” “stored value cards” and “loyalty cards.” Gift cards and stored value cards remain escheatable after five years of inactivity. The state retained its unique profit retention provision defining the amount unclaimed as “the amount representing the maximum cost to the issuer of the merchandise, goods, or services represented by the card.” S.B. 13 adds “Goods” and “Services” into the mix, as old statute only provided exemption for “maximum cost to issuer of merchandise represented by the card.” Loyalty cards are expressly exempt.

 

Holders are prohibited from transferring their unclaimed property liability or obligation, except to a parent, subsidiary or affiliate. This provision affects third-party, unrelated companies that issue gift cards on behalf of a business and appears to address some of the uncertainty resulting from the Card Compliant qui tam litigation.

 

Compliance Review

Another new provision in the law permits the state escheator to conduct a “compliance review” if the escheator believes a filed report was inaccurate, incomplete or false. The compliance review is limited to contents of report and all supporting documentation. The escheator is required to adopt rules governing the procedures and standards for compliance reviews, but no timeline was included in the statute.

 

Application of the New Law

S.B. 13 represents a major change in Delaware’s unclaimed property practices with many positive developments for holders. They include reduced lookback, clear record retention period, estimation regulations, statute of limitations regardless of prior reporting compliance, direct appeal to Court of Chancery, new definitions and new exemptions.

 

As with any new law, it remains to be seen how provisions will be interpreted and applied. Holders await the regulations still in development regarding audit conversions to fast-track audits and VDAs, and the new compliance review provision. Clarification from Delaware will help holders make informative judgments about whether to convert current audits into VDA or fast track audits, and whether other changes to their unclaimed property practices are warranted.

 

Tags:  audits  Delaware  estimation  gift cards  RUUPA  unclaimed property 

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