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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 Advocacy Year in Review

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, January 8, 2020

UPPO’s Government Relations and Advocacy Committee (GRAC) had another busy year in 2019. 

Following is a review of key highlights of the advocacy work by GRAC and the Holders Coalition, a group of organizations, including and administered by UPPO, whose members hold or represent owners of property.

 

January

The GRAC Priority Issue Workgroups developed talking points and single-page position papers about key issues. These materials were designed to help consistently demonstrate support or opposition of state legislation that is likely to affect unclaimed property compliance. 

 

March

On March 31, 2019, UPPO along with organizations representing life insurers, bankers, shareholder services professionals and transfer agents submitted a letter regarding RUUPA-inspired legislation to the Minnesota Department of Commerce. The coalition raised several concerns with Article 13 of H.F. 2208 and companion bill S.B. 2611. The Minnesota legislature adjourned without action on these bills.

 

April

Seeking to refine its processes and operate as efficiently as possible, GRAC implemented a new structure consisting of four sections. The committee established responsibilities for each section and a process for section leaders to report to the GRAC co-chairs. The four GRAC sections are:

  • Issue Identification: Identifies important issues and determines legislative, regulatory and legal issues to address.
  • Strategy Implementation: Determines and ensures the execution of the strategy for addressing identified issues, working with legislators, regulators and other officials to promote UPPO’s position.
  • Position and Policy Drafting: Creates work product to support the strategy to promote UPPO’s position.  
  • Communication: Works with UPPO staff to update members and other stakeholders about advocacy initiatives.

 

June

With most state legislatures recessing or adjourning for the year, GRAC and the Holders Coalition continued to work on federal issues, including the Internal Revenue Service’s position on individual retirement account escheatment, the tax treatment of unclaimed 401(k) accounts highlighted by the recent GAO report, and the SECURE Act. GRAC also continued its work promoting introduction of a voluntary disclosure program in California

 

September

To make it easier for members to submit ideas and issues for the committee’s consideration, UPPO has added a form to the advocacy web page. Please use this form to share advocacy suggestions, ideas and issues for GRAC to consider. 

 

October

On Oct. 3, 2019, Bloomberg Tax published an article outlining potential unclaimed property issues that could result from a whistleblower case brought against JPMorgan Chase & Co., regarding the company’s unclaimed property practices. UPPO shared its concerns in the article about unintended consequences that could harm unclaimed property holders.

 

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 contained in H.B. 3598. 

 

UPPO received a prompt response, accepting a request to discuss UPPO’s concerns. A subsequent call was held on Oct. 30, 2019, and additional email follow-up discussions have occurred, with Texas soliciting UPPO’s insight regarding its new unclaimed property holder website.

 

November

The Holders Coalition submitted comments on Nov. 19, 2019, to Internal Revenue Service and Department of Treasury officials regarding IRS Revenue Ruling 2018-17. The comments seek clarification and guidance regarding compliance with the ruling, issued by the IRS on May 29, 2018.

 

The Minnesota ULC commissioners convened a work group, including representatives from the Commerce Department, the unclaimed property administrator and stakeholders, to explore a state RUUPA bill. Holding discussions with all affected parties in this manner before an unclaimed property bill is introduced is rare. UPPO appreciates Minnesota taking this action and will continue to participate in these meetings.  

 

December

In response to California’s adoption of S.B. 109, UPPO submitted comments to the comptroller’s office regarding the law’s provision requiring development of a “one-time unclaimed property amnesty, or other options to increase compliance with unclaimed property law in lieu of an amnesty program, and options for increasing the return of unclaimed property to rightful owners.” UPPO spelled out reasons the state would benefit from an ongoing voluntary disclosure agreement program.

 

On Dec. 12, 2019, the Holders Coalition submitted comments to Colorado officials, highlighting practical issues and recommendations regarding implementation of S.B. 88, RUUPA-inspired legislation that goes into effect on July 1, 2020.

 

Let Your Voice Be Heard

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 advocacy network. 

 

Responses will give us the ability to better provide you with the information you want and need, and will allow us to mobilize UPPO members when we are faced with legislative and regulatory challenges and opportunities. 

Tags:  advocacy 

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UPPO members play an essential role in growing membership

Posted By Administration, Thursday, October 12, 2017

The value of a professional organization like UPPO comes from strength in numbers. As membership grows, more knowledgeable individuals share their experiences and work to tackle common issues. So, it makes sense that recruiting new members is viewed as an essential, unending task for the organization.

 

Potential members often learn about UPPO from current members who are eager to spread the word about the organization’s benefits.

 

“The best individuals to sell the value that UPPO delivers are the members who have experienced it themselves,” said Chris Jensen, director of abandoned and unclaimed property compliance for Ryan. “Members can provide real-life examples about how they rely on other members to get questions answered or to come up with ideas to improve processes.”

 

When speaking with potential members, Jensen often touts three specific areas where UPPO shines:

  • Education: Webinars and the annual conference provide high quality education for professionals at all levels of experience.
  • Networking: Unclaimed property is such a niche profession that only those who are involved in it fully understand it. The ability to tap into that group’s knowledge is invaluable.
  • Advocacy: More than ever, holders and service providers need a voice fighting for them. Increasingly, UPPO gives them that voice.

James Santivanez, president and co-founder of JMS Advisory Group, believes encouraging client holders to become members builds greater trust.

 

“When our clients talk to other holders in their specific industry, they quickly learn that our advice and counsel is substantive and in line with what they’re learning,” he said. “That validation builds confidence and trust. If you have interested and engaged clients, you want them to be educated and to build their own knowledge base.”

 

Some of the other benefits that often resonate with potential members include tools and resources available on the UPPO website, including the Jurisdiction Resource Guide; and legislative and regulatory tracking via govWATCH.

 

“Any organization is going to be more valuable with as many intelligent inputs as you can gather,” Santivanez said. “It’s such an inclusive organization, whether you want to get involved in leadership, volunteer for committees, or just show up and quietly learn.”

 

As a token of appreciate for members who refer new members and to encourage member references, UPPO thanks recruiting members with a $100 gift card. To learn more about UPPO’s Membership Recruitment Program, access a digital version of the UPPO member packet or request printed copies, visit UPPO’s member referral web page.

 

 

Tags:  advocacy  education  membership  networking  recruitment  UPPO 

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The Holders Coalition: Strength in Numbers

Posted By Administration, Thursday, August 31, 2017

As state legislatures and regulators turn out more and more unclaimed property bills and proposed regulations, UPPO’s advocacy efforts have become increasingly important. The Government Relations and Advocacy Committee constantly monitors and responds to legislation and proposed regulations that could be problematic for unclaimed property holders. In an effort to amplify the holder community’s voice, UPPO has joined with other organizations to form the Holders Coalition. 

 

During the creation of the Revised Uniform Unclaimed Property Act (RUUPA), the American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI) developed the Holders Coalition to encourage a consistent, unified voice on behalf of holders when working with the RUUPA Drafting Committee. The coalition brought together holders and their associations to work together on common interests. Following adoption of the RUUPA last summer, coalition members decided it would be beneficial to continue their work as other opportunities for collaboration arise. 

 

“The coalition format allows UPPO to maintain our independent voice while working closely with like-minded groups on select, common interests,” said UPPO Executive Director Toni Nuernberg. “In fact, UPPO’s strategic plan calls for the development of coalition relationships with other organizations, so participation in the Holders Coalition aligns with our long-term goals.” 

 

As the coalition has evolved, ACLI recently asked whether UPPO would consider facilitating the group, and the UPPO Board of Directors agreed. UPPO’s new role involves arranging monthly conference calls, creating the agenda and hosting the calls. UPPO also created a web page for coalition members to access documents related to the group’s work.

 

“UPPO is well-suited to take on a leadership role within the coalition,” Nuernberg said. “We are in the unique position of representing holders who work across all industries, so facilitating the coalition is a natural fit.”

 

Currently, the coalition is working on a plan to address problematic provisions of Illinois S.B. 9, which is scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2018. 

Tags:  advocacy  holders coalition  unclaimed property 

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2016 Trends are sure to Shape 2017

Posted By Administration, Thursday, December 22, 2016

With 2016 coming to an end, the approaching new year offers a good opportunity to look at some of the major trends shaping the unclaimed property landscape. Over the past year, we’ve seen some significant litigation, a slowdown in new legislation and the Uniform Law Commission’s (ULC) release of the 2016 Uniform Unclaimed Property Act (UUPA). All of these noteworthy trends set the stage for what is sure to be an interesting and action-packed 2017 for unclaimed property professionals.

 

Legislation

Unclaimed property professionals have become accustom to a high volume of legislation affecting state unclaimed property statutes. While 2016 wasn’t completely absent of noteworthy bills working their way through the nation’s statehouses, there was a significant slowdown in legislative activity compared to the previous few years.

 

“Looking back at the year, I was struck by the low level of legislative activity,” says Michelle Andre, managing member of Tre Towers Advisory Group LLC. “This may have resulted from 2016 being an election year combined with states knowing the Uniform Law Commission was finalizing the 2016 Uniform Unclaimed Property Act.”

 

Some of the bills that did arise this year added to trends that have been building over the past several years. For example, states continue to modify their gift card rules. Some states that have exemptions from reporting unredeemed balance on gift cards are requiring issuers to provide cash refunds to card owners if the value of the card meets certain dollar amount thresholds. New York recently revised its gift card rules, effective on Dec. 25, delaying the trigger for when issuers can assess a service fee from after the 12th month of dormancy to after the 24th month. Another state, Wyoming removed a sunset provision allowing its gift card exemption to become permanent.

 

States are also continuing to enact provisions requiring life insurance companies to perform routine Death Master File searches. Five states passed such legislation in 2016. Although modeled loosely after the National Conference of Insurance Legislators’ Unclaimed Life Insurance Benefits Act, each of the laws are different. Florida’s law, for example, has a longer reach-back period than most states.

 

Technology has also played a role in some statute revisions as states account for increasing surge in electronic transactions and communication. California, for example revised its unclaimed property law to include electronic transactions as official contacts that prevent accounts from becoming dormant.

 

State laws are finally recognizing that people are communicating electronically rather than by snail mail or phone calls,” Andre says. “Increasingly, people stay in touch with investments via the internet rather than by making a call or waiting for a statement in the mail.”

 

Pennsylvania also included electronic communications provisions within unclaimed property statute revisions that were tucked into a budget bill. However, its treatment of owners who receive electronic communication is inconsistent with owners who receive communication through traditional means.

 

“Pennsylvania’s new statute pertaining to fiduciary accounts and IRAs states that if a holder doesn’t communicate with an owner through U.S. mail but rather electronic mail, then the holder is required to send an email notice to the owner,” says Karen Anderson, senior manager at KPMG. “If the email bounces back or there is no response, then the holder must send a due diligence letter via the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). If that mailing is returned as undelivered, the property would be reportable three years after the last owner activity. On the other hand, if the holder communicates with the owner of such accounts via US mail the account isn’t reportable until three years after the second returned USPS mailing. So, depending upon the holder’s method of communication with owners of these accounts, the Pennsylvania statute requires different due diligence treatment and a different dormancy trigger.”

 

Despite the recent decline in legislative activity, 2017 is likely to bring an immediate surge in new bills as a result of the ULC’s adoption of the 2016 UUPA.

 

“You could tell from recent activity that some states are aware of the language in the new UUPA,” Andre says. “Because the revised act addresses so many new areas addressed and is a true modernization of the act, I expect to see a flurry of activity resulting from it. States have been reviewing the act and planning what they’ll do, so there will likely be a lot of activity in early 2017.”

 

Some of the provisions that could gain traction address jurisdictional standards and triggers for property types not previously included in the act, such as health savings accounts and 529 college savings plans. The popularity among states of other areas remain less certain.

 

“It’s difficult to say whether state legislatures will adopt the transparency measures pertaining to audits that were built into the 2016 Uniform Unclaimed Property Act,” Anderson says. “Some of these provisions include reporting certain statistics regarding use of auditors. I’m not sure whether states will adopt those provisions as they may consider them too intrusive to their process.”

 

Litigation

While legislation slowed in 2016, noteworthy litigation didn’t show any signs of decreasing. Some of the most noteworthy areas being reviewed by ongoing and recently decided cases include:

  • Foreign property: JLI Invest S.A. et al. v. Cook et al. tackles the interplay between federal securities law, international law and Delaware state law. 
  • Derivative rights: “The Bed Bath and Beyond case will give some renewed emphasis to holders that they can assert derivative rights concepts in demonstrating that items states think are unclaimed property are actually not,” says Diann Smith, state and local tax attorney at McDermott Will & Emery. “So we could see similar types of litigation in other states, and derivative rights asserted in other property types beyond merchandise credits.”
  • Gift cards: Delaware ex rel. French v. Card Compliant LLC raises the question whether property holders can shift their liability via a contractual arrangement with another company.
  • Jurisdictional issues: Multiple cases involving MoneyGram consider whether certain unclaimed funds are governed by the general priority rules or by the specific rules of the Federal Disposition Act.
  • Benefit plans: “States frequently take the position that while the Employee Retirement Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) may preempt them from claiming property in ERISA-covered plans, they still have the authority to audit them,” Smith says. “So ERISA continues to be a problem that will likely play out via litigation.”
  • Savings bonds: States are increasingly looking to the U.S. government for unclaimed property funds in the form of unredeemed savings bonds. Especially noteworthy is Florida’s use of estimation to claim the United States owes the state $1 billion from unredeemed savings bonds.

 

As expected going into 2016, Temple-Inland Inc. v. Cook proved to be the most intriguing case of the year. On June 28, 2016, the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware issued an opinion granting Temple-Inland’s request for summary judgment. The court called several aspects of Delaware’s audit practices “troubling.” On Aug. 5, 2016, Temple-Inland and the defendants filed a joint motion to dismiss the case, signaling a settlement and ending the dispute. 

 

Audits/VDAs

The full ripple effect from Temple-Inland on audits and estimation practices remains to be seen, but the settlement immediately triggered changes to Delaware’s voluntary disclosure agreement (VDA) program. Delaware reduced the look-back period for VDAs to 10 years plus dormancy, rather than the previous static date of 1996. The Delaware Department of Finance also is recommending changes to the state’s record revision provision for unclaimed property.

 

“There is more uncertainty now in terms of where things are going with both Delaware audits and the VDA program than I’ve seen before,” says Susan Han, principal, abandoned and unclaimed property consulting for Ryan. “This comes on the heels of the Temple-Inland decision and subsequent settlement, as well as changes we anticipate when the new legislative session begins in January.”

 

In the meantime, audit activity involving estimations in Delaware has essentially come to a halt, according to Troy Wangen, director of unclaimed property for True Partners Consulting LLC.

 

I think Temple-Inland is going to be game-changing for years to come,” he says. “Will other states look to benefit from this? Do holders look to benefit from it? Is there a potential for refunds? This all depends on what happens with estimation in that state in 2017. It could significantly change things.”

 

Another noteworthy audit trend is an increase in the number of audit firms in the unclaimed property marketplace. Particularly in Delaware, where a large percentage of audits have traditionally been handled by a single company, multiple firms are now auditing holders.

 

“Litigation shined a light on Delaware’s practice of giving most of its audit business to one firm,” Han says. “So the state enacted S.B. 11, which provides that no audit firm can be assigned more than 50 percent of all examinations commenced after Jan. 1, 2015. As a result, we are seeing both established and newer third-party auditors becoming much more active in unclaimed property.”

 

Looking Ahead

As 2017 unfolds, UPPO will continue to track and report on these and other developing trends. Watch this blog for updates and attend UPPO educational events to help you adapt to the ever-evolving unclaimed property environment.

 

 

Tags:  advocacy  audits  legislation  litigation  RUUPA  ULC  unclaimed property 

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UPPO members play essential role in growing membership

Posted By Administration, Thursday, October 27, 2016

Whether it’s educating holders, working to ensure fair regulation or bringing unclaimed property professionals together, UPPO’s initiatives depend on a large, active membership. Growing membership helps strengthen the organization and the profession it represents, so recruiting new members is an unending task.

 

Fortunately, many potential members learn about UPPO from current members who recognize the benefits of bringing more people into the organization.

 

Mike Ryan, senior vice president at Georgeson, has recruited several UPPO members. He often speaks to industry groups about unclaimed property issues, and includes a discussion about UPPO and its resources for holders within his presentations. Individual conversations with attendees at these events also often include encouragement to join.

 

“The greatest thing about UPPO is the networking—the sharing of ideas and things that work and don’t work,” Ryan says. “The more members we have, the more experiences we can tap into.”

 

Ryan finds that potential members are often intrigued by the ability to connect with peers who share similar issues and speak the same industry jargon. He frequently shares the benefit of the industry breakout groups at the UPPO Annual Conference and the online member forum.

 

“If someone handling unclaimed property for a bank, for example, knows the annual conference will likely be attended by peers from 20 other banks who understand the issues they’re dealing with and are willing to share, they want to be there too,” Ryan says.

 

Randy Hotz, president of Choice Plus LLC, recently referred a new member to UPPO. They first met at a Michigan Senate finance committee hearing and had a series of subsequent conversations. Several times, while talking about unclaimed property issues, Hotz mentioned UPPO’s work and encouraged membership.

 

He focused on the association’s long track record of advocacy, professional reputation and positive standing among stakeholders, including holders, the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, individual state administrators, the American Bar Association and the Uniform Law Commission. Soon, his encouragement paid off in the form of a new UPPO member.

 

“For people truly interested in getting involved, it’s not that difficult to sell them on the benefit of membership,” Hotz says. The trick is identifying those people who are a little more active and motivated.”

 

In addition to the networking, conference and advocacy benefits, some of the other benefits that often resonate with potential members include:

  • Educational webinars and events
  • Tools and resources available on the website, including the Jurisdiction Resource Guide
  • Legislative and regulatory tracking via govWATCH  

 

As a token of appreciation for members who refer new members and to encourage member references, UPPO thanks referrals with a $100 gift card. To learn more about UPPO’s Membership Referral Program, access a digital version of the UPPO member packet or request printed copies, visit UPPO’s member referral web page.

 

 

Tags:  advocacy  education  membership  networking  recruitment  UPPO 

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