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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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Unclaimed Property News Roundup

Posted By Administration, 14 hours ago

Unclaimed property often makes news headlines beyond the frequent reports of states trying to return money to their citizens. Following is a recap of some recent stories getting news coverage from local media outlets. 

 

Finders keepers? Not so fast

“Find a penny, pick it up. All day long, you'll have good luck.” That may work if you find a penny, but you may not be so lucky if you find a wad of cash. An Oct. 22, 2019, WWBT TV story discussed who gets possession of found money in Virginia. Although several county sherrif’s departments had different policies, they all suggested Virginia’s unclaimed property statute determined the money should eventually make its way to the state. 

 

You can’t take it with you

Uncashed checks, forgotten 401k accounts and abandoned safe deposit boxes may be common sources of unclaimed property, but what about items people are carrying when they pass away? On Nov. 6, the Indianapolis Star reported on the findings of a Marion County, Indiana, coroner’s office audit. The “culture of mismanagement” detailed in the audit report included concerns that coroners were simply storing belongings unclaimed by families of the deceased rather than turning them over to the county. 

 

Another day, another scam

Several news outlets, including Idaho’s Times-News and WFMY in Greensboro, North Carolina, recently reported on the latest consumer scam involving unclaimed property. According the Better Business Bureau, unwitting individuals receive a postcard, email or social media message alerting them that they have an unclaimed reward of $100 or more from a major retailer, and the deadline for redeeming them is just a few days away. Upon calling the phone number, the scam victims are asked for personal information to confirm their identity, along with payment information to cover mailing fees. The scammer than uses the payment card information and personal information to make fraudulent charges. 

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UPPO Survey Examines State Unclaimed Property Return Rates

Posted By Administration, Thursday, November 7, 2019

State unclaimed property officials often promote their goal of reuniting citizens with their property. They use a variety of tactics to educate the public about unclaimed property and encourage people to search their unclaimed property databases. They perform their work under a patchwork of laws and policies that vary by state.

 

The Unclaimed Property Professional Organization Claimants’ Representative Committee is examining how these laws and other factors affect unclaimed property return rates. Its objective is to apply a data-driven approach to identify, organize and share existing laws and policies that maximize reunification while preserving balanced consumer protection.

 

The committee’s first step was establishing individual state return rates. Using data gathered through a Freedom of Information Act request, the committee reviewed the total dollar amount of unclaimed property received and paid annually for fiscal years 2013-17 from all states. The following return rate results are organized into four descending groups of 12 states each by percentage returned. The states within each group are listed alphabetically and do not reflect any return rate order within the group.

 

Three states – Indiana, Nebraska and Wisconsin – are not included in the following results. Their committee is reviewing the methodology used by the states to determine their results, which varied significantly from the other states, making them subject to question. 

 

Group #1

Average Return Rate: 48.25%

Return Rate Range: 58.75% – 43.14%

  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Maine
  • Mississippi
  • Nevada
  • New York
  • Rhode Island
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Washington

 

Group #2

Average Return Rate: 40.12%

Return Rate Range: 42.56% – 38.83%

  • Alaska
  • California
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Oregon 
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee

 

Group #3

Average Return Rate: 36.02%

Return Rate Range: 38.74% – 33.14%

  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • New Jersey
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • Texas
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming

 

Group #4

Average Return Rate: 19.44%

Return Rate Range: 31.18% – 8.59%

  • Alabama
  • Colorado
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia
  • Georgia
  • New Hampshire
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • South Dakota
  • Virginia

 

The committee is now analyzing state statutes and policies governing claims, private sector service provider restrictions, and unclaimed property account information restrictions to compare return rates with legislative and policy frameworks. This information will be the subject of a future committee report. 

 

Tags:  return rates  unclaimed property 

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Insights from the NAST Symposium, Part 4

Posted By Administration, Thursday, October 31, 2019
Updated: Thursday, October 31, 2019

The National Association of State Treasurers’ (NAST) Annual Treasury Management Training Symposium held during May 2019 in Providence, Rhode Island, was engaging and enlightening. The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA) is affiliated with NAST and led the well-attended unclaimed property track of educational workshops and sessions. This blog post is part four in a series about the topics discussed in the symposium sessions. Read part one hereRead part two hereRead part three here.

 

RUUPA

The session related to the 2016 Revised Uniform Unclaimed Property Act – RUUPA in the States – was insightful. Presenters, including state and Uniform Law Commission (ULC) representatives, said they had hoped for more adoptions. The ULC indicated there were three or four more good years of momentum, after which new adoptions of the Act could lose its legs.

 

Presenters also expressed frustration and disappointment about the American Bar Association (ABA) moving forward with its own version in the form of the ABA Model Unclaimed Property Act. The ULC disagrees with assertions that certain provisions in RUUPA are unconstitutional.

 

According to the ULC, states that adopt RUUPA, or a variant of the Act, must adopt certain provisions for them to consider it truly a RUUPA-inspired adoption. Examples of requirements include lookback limitations and holding periods before liquidation for securities.

 

There was debate on whether or not lookback limitations make sense. The argument was made that life insurance, property or other newly found areas of unclaimed property that were previously not being reported and remitted may never be enforceable with shortened lookbacks. Also, based on the dialogue, the life insurance industry and its associated trade organizations were not discussed in favorable terms during this discussion.

 

Presenters discussed different RUUPA versions, including those in Illinois and Tennessee, being proposed and enacted were examined. State representatives explained why they departed on certain provisions. Consideration was given to the states adding the provision related to estimation as a penalty that may be used by first priority states, rather than for estimation of a liability for second priority states (the classic reason given for why estimations are used). Based on the discussion, it seemed that a few people strongly advocated for this provision.

 

Mind the Noncompliance Gap

The Mind the Gap: Focusing a State’s Compliance Regime on Gaps in Reporting session focused on increasing annual compliance through making past due compliance meaningful. Questions this session intended to answer included: 

  • How do you increase compliance with limited resources? 
  • How do you increase compliance levels without creating a substantial burden on the holder community? 
  • How do you confirm that holders are reporting properly?

Panelists promoted the advantages of a multi-pronged approach, including offering meaningful and diverse voluntary compliance options for holders to catch up on past due unclaimed property liability, and maintaining a robust audit program. Further, annual report compliance reviews, traditional VDA program and voluntary self-examinations were included as a means to support this.

 

The benefits of maintaining a healthy audit program were highlighted. In short, the threat of enforcement drives compliance for both current and past due property. Panelists promoted a robust audit program indispensable to identify significant underreporting and to ensure that other voluntary and mandatory compliance initiatives are conducted efficiently and in good faith. They also discussed the value of creating a diverse package of compliance options, with some being voluntary and some being mandatory, both with varying degrees of rigor.

 

Using a compliance study results chart based on a sample analysis of holders with an annual revenue of greater than $100M, panelists noted that:

  • 44% of the companies in the sample had no prior reporting history. 
  • 37% of the sample companies reported less than $1,000 of general ledger property each year. 
  • 23% of public companies only report securities. 
  • 45% did not report securities at all.

In the last few years, there have been periods where patterns in compliance gaps emerged, relative to specific property types, such as accounts receivable credits, royalties and gift cards. A current area of concern where there seems to be common underreporting compliance gaps are in the mergers and acquisitions arena. Challenges with mergers and acquisitions include the availability of pre-M&A records and the timing in relation to closing of the deal. 

 

The session endorsed the prospect of devising efficient methods to capture the material past due unclaimed property before or even contemporaneously with deal closings. States continue to collect and analyze data from annual reporting, audits and compliance initiatives to target areas with known historic gaps while looking for new emerging patterns.

 

The session also covered audit candidate selection. This process begins with identifying candidates that are likely to have unreported unclaimed property. The next step is to identify and obtain broad available information from government, commercial and public sources and developing an understanding of the entities using company information obtained from different sources. Additionally, states are analyzing candidates’ previous reporting history and comparing it to others in the same industry with a similar size and year of incorporation. After this analytical process, final determinations depend on many factors, which differ based on each state or industry specifics.

 

There were reports on Delaware noting $800M has been taken in through Drinker Biddle & Reath’s administration of the secretary of state’s voluntary disclosure agreement process. DBR reported that over 580 total VDAs had been concluded in the prior years, with around 60% of collections being related to securities. This has resulted in increased compliance. Also, it was reported that very few VDA seekers had been transferred to the Delaware escheator for audit.

 

Legal Issues in Unclaimed Property Audits

On the final day, a session titled Committee of Legal Practices Deep Dive into the Recurring Legal Issues in Unclaimed Property Audits was scheduled. According to the description, it was intended to discuss strategies for addressing recurring issues and legal arguments raised by holder advocates. Participants were to include state unclaimed property officials and third-party auditor representatives. 

 

This session was intended to have restricted attendance. Unfortunately, it had not been published or otherwise publicly known in advance that attendance was restricted. Therefore, the session was changed into an open forum, and the slide deck for the session was not presented. 

 

Discourse in the open forum session included:

  • Various “gamesmanship” seen from holders, attorneys and holder advocates.
  • Attorneys allegedly slowing down the process for fees, such as protracting the NDA process.
  • States considering the use of audit fees and subpoena power in reaction to slowed audits.
  • Gamesmanship around GDPR, HIPAA, and other data security concerns; exceptions and ways to skirt such arguments.
  • Increased use of “come on site” tactic.
  • Concept of record availability and completeness.
  • Due process nexus, derivative rights and “ripeness” rebuttals.
  • What constitutes a “reason to believe” for an audit to be initiated.

The educational workshops and sessions at the unclaimed property track of the recent NAST Symposium covered important insights on RUUPA and audits. While the topics covered may not directly or indirectly impact all property type holders, it is worthwhile to remain aware of NAUPA developments. It is also important to be informed of opportunities to work together with states, where our expertise and needs are aligned, and we can share our respective unique expertise and insights, and related unclaimed property challenges or issues.  

 

Christa DeOliveira is chief compliance officer with Linking Assets Inc. Michael Unger is a senior manager with Crowe LLP’s unclaimed property practice. 

 

 

Tags:  audits  NAST  RUUPA 

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UPPO Advocacy Update: October 2019

Posted By Administration, Thursday, October 24, 2019

To help members remain aware of UPPO’s advocacy activities, the Unclaimed Property Focus blog presents the recurring Advocacy Update when legislatures are active or significant advocacy activity has occurred. Following are recent activities and trends from UPPO’s Government Relations and Advocacy Committee (GRAC).

 

Texas H.B. 3598 Update

Earlier this year, the Texas legislature passed H.B. 3598, which the governor subsequently signed into law. Among other things, the legislation outlines requirements for combined reporting of unclaimed property for affiliated companies. The new law raises many questions for holders and service providers.

 

On Oct. 15, 2019, UPPO sent a letter to Texas Director of Unclaimed Property Joani Bishop and Assistant Director of Unclaimed Property Bryant Clayton, requesting clarification from the state regarding issues related to controlling interest, third-party vendors and combined reporting implementation. 

 

UPPO received a prompt response. Texas unclaimed property officials are currently drafting guidance regarding the new law and welcomed a call to discuss our questions. We look forward to our discussion, scheduled for Oct. 30, and will provide additional member updates when more information is available.     

 

As more and more legislatures and regulatory agencies take on issues affecting unclaimed property compliance, advocacy has become an increasingly important role for UPPO.

Please take a few minutes to complete our 
Government Relations and Advocacy Survey to help us build our grassroots network. Responses will give us the ability to mobilize UPPO members when we are faced with legislative and regulatory challenges and opportunities.

 

 

Tags:  consolidated reporting  Texas 

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Unclaimed Property Best Practices for Accounts Receivable

Posted By Administration, Thursday, October 17, 2019

Unclaimed property compliance often begins with the accounts receivable department. Regardless of a company’s industry, AR is a common source of potential unclaimed property via credit memos, overpayments, duplicate payments, customer account adjustments, unidentified remittances, accounting errors, promotional credits and discounts, product returns and write-offs. 

 

AR departments can reduce their unclaimed property risk by implementing several best practices.

 

Establish written policies and procedures to ensure that unclaimed credit balances are addressed on a regular basis.

 

Ensure that account receivable duties are segregated to discourage fraudulent activity. No single individual should have control over adding a customer plus the ability to generate credit memos. This reduces opportunities for an employee to create a fictitious customer and issue a credit to that person. 

“It is important to monitor employees’ roles, understand what each role has the ability and access to do, and make sure that there is not crossover that might lead to bad actions,” said Colleen D’Eramo, corporate service specialist with Owens Corning, during a recent UPPO webinar.

 

Update last activity dates to accurately reflect current activity. Maintaining an ongoing relationship with a customer reduces the likelihood of an account becoming dormant. Recording accurate last activity dates is necessary to flag accounts at risk of generating unclaimed property and demonstrates proof of ongoing relationships with customers in the event of an audit. 

 

Follow up on credit balances as they are created. Contact customers to ask whether they want the credit offset against the next billing cycle or refunded via a check. 

“Customers are busy with their day-to-day operations, and credits can be easily forgotten,” said D’Eramo. “If you’re waiting for them to contact you about the credit, it may not happen. The longer credits linger, the more challenging it can be to take care of them because of changing roles and difficulty tracking down the transaction history.”

Include credit balances on all invoices. This practice reminds customers of credits they may otherwise forget and helps demonstrate you are making customers aware of their credit balances in the event of an audit. 

 

Establish a procedure to automatically generate correspondence with customers with outstanding credit balances. Routinely generating a report that flags customers with credit balances of two years or longer, for example, can help you reach out before accounts have to be reported as unclaimed.

 

Include outstanding credit balances in standard due diligence communications. Much like including balances on invoices, this procedure reminds customers of their credits so they can be applied or refunded rather than reported as unclaimed.

 

Implementing these procedures, AR departments have less liability to worry about as accounts age. The goal is to reduce the amount of time credits remain on the books and, ultimately, eliminating the need to consider them for unclaimed property reporting. 

 

 

Tags:  accounts receivable  best practices 

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