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Unclaimed Property Focus
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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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UPPO Claimants Representative Committee Outlines Top Priority

Posted By Administration, Thursday, October 5, 2017

In addition to their responsibilities of reporting unclaimed property to the states, many of the professionals who are active UPPO members are also responsible for recovering unclaimed property on behalf of their companies and their clients. To address the needs of these members related to property recovery, UPPO formed the Claimants Representative Committee.

 

Within the world of unclaimed property recovery, a small number of bad actors have unfairly tarnished the reputation of the industry as a whole. Through the Claimants Representative Committee, UPPO seeks to address these reputational issues, create best practices and promote professionalism. Over the next several months, the committee will primarily focus on these efforts.

 

We believe collaboration between UPPO and state unclaimed property administrators would contribute to this initiative’s success. We all have a common objective—returning property to its rightful owners. We believe the environment for achieving this objective can be improved, and it makes sense to work together. For this reason, two state administrators serve on the Claimants Representative Committee as ex officio members. Their input and effort will continue to be invaluable to the committee’s work.

 

UPPO is reaching out to NAUPA regarding this initiative to request the organization’s support as we work to develop meaningful standards to address reputational issues affecting claimants’ representatives.

 

The committee is also tasked with addressing challenges faced by claimants’ representatives as they seek to assist consumers and companies with the recovery of their unclaimed property. During and after the 2017 UPPO Annual Conference, the Claimants Representative Committee gathered feedback from attendees and committee members concerning policies and procedures that cause impediments to the recovery of unclaimed property.

 

“The members of the Claimants Representative Committee have collected important data through their own handling of large volumes of claims on an annual basis; through public information requests from state administrators; and through input from UPPO members,” said Claimants Representative Committee Co-Chair Jim Harris.

 

The committee has spent the past several months refining the information into a list of priorities to address after tackling the reputational issues.    

 

“It is our goal to gain support for addressing these priorities in hopes of improving the recovery process and return rates for consumers coast to coast,” said Claimants Representative Committee Co-Chair David Knott. “The committee looks forward to working with the UPPO Board of Directors, the UPPO Government Relations and Advocacy Committee and state unclaimed property administrators to solve some of these impediments to higher return rates.”

 

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Providing Opportunity Through UPPO’s Scholarship Program

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, September 26, 2017

For the past several years, the UPPO Scholarship Program has provided several association members and their dependents with financial assistance as they pursue their higher education. The program began in 2013 with an annual, renewable $1,000 scholarship to one recipient and has since been expanded, offering two awards per year, beginning earlier this year.

 

It’s no secret that the cost of attending college has skyrocketed, and many students depend on scholarships to have the ability to focus on their studies and earn a degree.

 

“As I go through dental school, it’s a huge investment, which carries a very large tuition burden,” said 2017 UPPO scholarship recipient Taylor Steffans. “This scholarship helps reduce that burden, allowing me to have less stress about finances and focus on my studies rather than having to potentially work more on the weekends. I want to put all of my effort into becoming the best dentist I can be.”

 

The program has made a significant difference for six students and their families in just five short years.

 

“The scholarship has really opened a lot of doors for me to explore the interests I can pursue and build on what I can do in the future,” said 2016 recipient Charles Julius. “That opportunity is really important to help me move forward with my education.”

 

Eligibility

The UPPO Scholarship Program is available to:

  • Full-time UPPO member employees who are not eligible for tuition reimbursement by the member company.
  • UPPO member employees’ dependent children, age 25 and under, who are high school seniors or graduates, or current post-secondary undergraduates or graduate students.

Applicants must be planning to pursue post-high-school studies, including undergraduate or graduate programs at an accredited two-year or four-year college, university, vocational-technical school or graduate school for the entire upcoming academic year. See the program rules for complete details.

 

The 2018 UPPO Scholarship Program is accepting applications through Dec. 15, 2017.

 

Funding the scholarship

The UPPO Scholarship Program is funded through a combination of opportunities for members and their companies to support its mission:

Thank you to all of the individual and corporate UPPO members who have contributed to this valuable program over the past five years. With your continued support, the UPPO Scholarship Program will continue to provide opportunities and to give back to association members.

 

Tags:  annual conference  scholarship 

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Unclaimed Property News Roundup

Posted By Administration, Thursday, September 21, 2017

Unclaimed property has been in the headlines lately with a variety of stories appearing in local and national media outlets. Following is a recap of some of the most noteworthy reports.

 

Delaware’s pro-business image slides, in part from aggressive unclaimed property enforcement

On Sept. 11, 2017, Delaware Online published an article about a U.S. Chamber of Commerce study that dropped Delaware from the top state for business litigation to 11th. Among the reasons noted was the state’s aggressive enforcement of unclaimed property laws.

 

Unclaimed property takes center stage in Louisiana treasurer election

On Sept. 9, The Advocate published a lengthy article discussing how Louisiana’s former treasurer and current senator John Kennedy raised the profile of unclaimed property in the state. As a result, candidates for the upcoming treasurer election have made unclaimed property central to their campaign platforms.

 

Even celebrities appear on state unclaimed property lists

Reports in numerous media outlets, including WCVB TV, in the past few weeks have reported on members of pop group New Kids on the Block appearing on the Massachusetts unclaimed property list. Although celebrity unclaimed property reports are often a little hokey, they receive a lot of media and online attention, raising awareness of unclaimed property nationwide.

 

Texas unclaimed property rule changes receive coverage

On Aug. 30, Ignites, a Financial Times company, published an article discussing Texas unclaimed property rules that subsequently went into effect on Sept. 1. Commenting on behalf of UPPO, Kendall Houghton addressed the new Texas Designation of Representative form: “While there appears to be a maintenance requirement, there doesn’t appear to be a record retention period established through the form or, to my knowledge, by the comptroller’s office.”

 

Wall Street Journal looks at the JLI Invest unclaimed property case against Delaware

On Aug. 18, The Wall Street Journal published an article about the lawsuit brought by two French scientists against Delaware for seizing and selling their stock, considered by Delaware as unclaimed property. The value of the stock increased significantly after Delaware sold it but before the scientists learned their stock had been seized, causing them to lose millions of dollars, according to their complaint. The author of the WSJ article subsequently appeared on CNBC’s Closing Bell, discussing the article and the issues raised by the JLI case.

 

Bloomberg looks at issues with Delaware’s proposed unclaimed property rules

On Aug 14, Bloomberg BNA’s Salt Talk Blog published an article about Delaware’s work to develop new unclaimed property rules, required by S.B. 13. The article notes that many of the issues raised after Delaware released its previous version of the proposed rules remain present in the new version.

 

Tags:  Delaware  Louisiana  Texas  unclaimed property 

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State Spotlight: Utah Unclaimed Property Division Focuses on Communication and Collaboration

Posted By Administration, Thursday, September 14, 2017

Engagement and cooperation with unclaimed property holders are central to the work of the Utah Unclaimed Property Division. Not only does working closely with holders help achieve the division’s primary mission of returning funds to their rightful owner, but it also helps reduce potential confusion throughout the unclaimed property process.

 

Utah was one of the first states to pass a version of the Revised Uniform Unclaimed Property Act. S.B. 175, which became effective on May 8, 2017, was the first substantial update to the state’s unclaimed property statute since 1981. A companion law effective at the same time, H.B. 42 updated the state’s life insurance laws, including provisions related to unclaimed life insurance benefits. As part of these changes, the state administrator is responsible for rules regarding administration of the law—a new responsibility for Utah’s administrator.

 

“In Utah, we’ve never had a robust administrative rules function, so that was brand new for us, said Unclaimed Property Administrator Dennis Johnston. “One of the things I’m really engaged in is reaching out to industry and others who are interested in these issues, so we can circulate drafts of proposed rules for comment well before we go through the formalized process of adopting rules.”

 

Working with the insurance and banking industries has been essential to understanding the issues important to those key stakeholders. 

 

“We may not agree with everything, but if we can understand each other and collaborate more on how the wording comes out, we can have less confusing wording and make it more clear and understandable for the people who need to abide by the rules,” Johnston said.

 

Communication is also central to the goals of Utah’s revised unclaimed property statute. Utah’s revised law specifies that owner access of an online account is a valid form of contact. With more transactions and communication occurring electronically, modernizing the state’s statutes to recognize current practices was important.

 

The increasing move to electronic communication also affects how holders file their reports with the state. The statute, rather than policy, now dictates that holder data must be transferred electronically and encrypted. Reports are not accepted in any other format. 

 

“Keeping personal information private was one of the big issues I used to promote passage of the law in our state,” Johnston said. “Privacy is a very important issue. In fact, it’s gotten so much attention that we now sometimes face a credibility gap with owners trying to get them their money back.”

 

When visiting a legitimate website aimed at reuniting property owners with their funds, consumers often think it is the work of a fraudster posing as an unclaimed property administrator. Because the site seeks to confirm their identity by asking for personal information, including names, Social Security numbers and addresses, they worry they are at risk for identity theft.

 

“We have processes in place that are somewhat automated, allowing us to turn around money to those folks within 10 days,” Johnston said. “That’s hard to do if they aren’t willing to share their identifying information. So, we’re trying to build people’s confidence that they’re using a legitimate website.”

 

In addition to clearing up skepticism from property owners, the Utah Unclaimed Property Division hopes to remove misperceptions about the office’s role within the state.

 

“There are rumors of states leaning on unclaimed property to fill budget deficits,” Johnston said. “That has never been the case in Utah, and it won’t be for the foreseeable future. I have never had any pressure from anyone to reduce the amount of money I’m paying out to claimants or to accelerate my collection from holders to satisfy a budget shortfall. I think that’s probably been a misnomer in many states. Our mission is to receive, manage and return unclaimed property to the rightful owner, and that’s how we approach our work.”

 

Johnston maintains policies aimed at encouraging holder compliance without being heavy-handed. If a holder routinely reports information clearly and accurately but experiences a reasonable need to file late, the office is willing to grant an extension. Likewise, if a company realizes an area of the organization hasn’t been reporting properly and comes forward to work through it, Johnston is open to waiving penalties and interest. The state offers a voluntary disclosure agreement to help holders come into compliance.

 

“We want to get the money to the right place,” he said. “We encourage holders through outreach and education about what they need to do and to follow the law. That works well for everyone in the long run, so that’s our approach here in Utah.”

 

Tags:  unclaimed property  Utah 

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States Score a Victory in Savings Bond Dispute

Posted By Administration, Thursday, September 7, 2017

On Aug. 8, 2017, U.S. Federal Claims Court Judge Elaine Kaplan issued a ruling in support of Kansas State Treasurer Jake LaTurner’s claim that the U.S. Treasury should turn over to the state approximately $150 million in unredeemed U.S. savings bonds. 

 

Kansas argued that the treasury should work with the states to identify and locate bond owners with last-known addresses in each respective state so they could reunite those citizens with the proceeds from their matured, unredeemed bonds. 

 

Among other things, the U.S. Treasury claimed its savings bond regulations do not permit transfer of ownership under the Unclaimed Property Act, and that because Kansas lacked possession of the bond certificates, its claims were invalid. The court disagreed, concluding that the U.S. government’s arguments “lack merit.” The ruling did not, however, grant the state permission to redeem the unclaimed bonds. 

 

“We wholeheartedly agree that the states are best equipped to reunite citizens with missing or unclaimed property,” LaTurner said in a statement. “The Kansas Treasurer’s Office is looking forward to returning the money in question to Kansans at the appropriate time. Kansas is leading the effort with many other states to hold the U.S. Treasury accountable. Not only is this a victory for the bond owners in Kansas but for bond owners across the country.”

 

Several other states have taken similar actions against the U.S. Treasury over their citizens’ portion of an estimated $19 billion to $23 billion in unredeemed bonds. 

 

Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis called Kaplan’s ruling, “a victory for Kansas and for Florida.” He wrote in his monthly newsletter that the ruling allows Florida to move forward with its efforts to reunite residents with proceeds from unredeemed bonds because the decision “addressed several of the same arguments that we have made.” The state estimates Florida citizens are owed approximately $1 billion for unredeemed bonds. 

 

Mississippi filed suit against the U.S. Treasury in 2016, seeking approximately $155 million. Judge Kaplan stayed that case while considering the Kansas case. 

 

In addition to legal action against the federal government, several states have passed legislation requiring unredeemed U.S. savings bonds to be escheated as unclaimed property. In 2015 and 2016 alone, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Rhode Island and Wisconsin passed such bills into law. 

Tags:  Florida  Kansas  Mississippi  savings bonds  unclaimed property 

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