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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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Insights from the NAST Symposium, Part 3

Posted By By Christa DeOliveira and Michael Unger, Thursday, August 8, 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 three in a series about the topics discussed in the symposium sessions. Read part one hereRead part two here.

 

Securities

Securities have a unique set of challenges, including sometimes complex transfer steps; various corporate actions, such as dividends being declared and stock splits; and fluctuating values. During the the conference session about securities, the demands of securities maintenance were a central topic. 

 

Speakers discussed the pros and cons of immediately liquidating securities. Pros include: 

  • Requires less portfolio maintenance, including tracking and addressing corporate actions/dividends. 
  • No need to reregister shares, eliminating the associated costs and any confusion with claimants.
  • No perception of market play, if schedule is set up correctly with custodian, as it removes state staff from the liquidation process.
  • Lower custodial costs. 

Cons include: 

  • Claimant complaints regarding liquidated shares.
  • Fluctuating security prices.
  • Holder needs to make holder claims, such as needing to claim back property if there was a reporting error.

 

Speakers stressed that, even when immediate or early liquidation is pursued, states will still require a securities staff. There remains a need to publish shares on the website or liquidate before properties go on website, and conduct outreach to owners with shares – all under stringent policies and procedures. The session also included a discussion of holders liquidating securities before reporting. Because SEC regulations prohibit holders from liquidating securities in the name of the owner, this is a controversial topic for holders. 

 

While a very small portion of securities, worthless securities come with unique challenges, which were addressed during the session. Not all states accept worthless securities, but some do. Some states sell their worthless securities to Raymond James for $0.01 per position, and after one year any that have not returned to value are written off. At the time of the conference, 31 states engage in this service.

 

Finally, this session discussed that not all states update their owner/property records to reflect corporate actions. Rather, some states wait until there is a claim and then pay claims based off the original reported shares and any effects of corporate actions according to the state’s custodian’s records. 

 

Cryptocurrency

Like the 2018 symposium, there was considerable interest in cryptocurrencies at this year’s event. A session was dedicated to education on blockchain as a decentralized, digital ledger and blockchain transactions. There were comparisons made between longstanding markets and exchanges and crypto exchanges, citing both similarities and the differences. Similarly, there were parallels drawn to reporting, receiving and maintaining stock and how cryptocurrency could work. There was also some discussion of who are holders and not holders in the crypto context. 

 

There are distinct differences with cryptocurrency when compared to traditional markets. One such difference is that, in traditional markets, different entities fulfill the roles of broker, exchange, clearing house and custodian. Whereas, with cryptocurrency one company can fulfill all of these roles. Also, there is not a single DTCC number or single receiving account to transfer various currencies for custody and subsequent maintenance. Therefore, a state’s delivery instructions could be rather complicated. 

 

To transfer, holders need a receiving address, which can be an alphanumeric string or a QR code representing the string. Each currency has its own specific address format, which are different lengths. For example, a Bitcoin address is 42 characters and a Litecoin address is 34 characters. Additionally, while state unclaimed property systems support decimal places for shares, cryptocurrencies need to have more decimal places to properly report and remit.

 

There remain many unanswered questions or unresolved processes related to this property type. For example, in the current NAUPA reporting format, there are not fields able to accept the necessary information for reporting. What if property was received from an unknown party and there is not an ability to reconcile it, or duplicate remittances occurred? How could this be identified? Would property be returned? 

 

Other possible hurdles encompass whether states or NAUPA should endorse specific exchanges. What should states do to restore an owner’s property? For example, if a holder had to swap currencies to be able to report it to a state, does the state need to switch it back to the original to satisfy the claim? How would states handle safe deposit box contents that include a paper or hardware wallet? How would this be safeguarded? Would it be converted to cash or kept in its original state? How would states detect and thwart fraudulent claims?

 

No exchange deals with all of the more than 2,500 different cryptocurrencies. How would states handle reporting and remitting of any cryptocurrencies that a state does not or cannot hold? Should states have holders convert to a main currency before remitting or perhaps convert to U.S. dollars? States could have as many wallets as needed to cover all currencies, but would they pursue this? States could even have holders not report and remit this property or only over a certain value threshold? 

 

The educational workshops and sessions at the unclaimed property track of the recent NAST Symposium covered important insights on securities and cryptocurrency topics. 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.  

 

More information on this symposium will be available in a future blog post.

 

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

Tags:  cryptocurrency  NAST  NAUPA  securities  Unclaimed Property 

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Practical Insights and Deeper Dives Highlight Annual Conference Sessions

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, January 9, 2019

 

 

Unclaimed property continues to provide a maze of compliance challenges for the professionals charged with managing their companies’ escheatment responsibilities. This year’s UPPO Annual Conference agenda offers a wide variety of sessions designed to help navigate that maze and keep up with the latest trends.

 

Managing Relationships

If your company is using third-party agents for employee benefits, payroll, equity or other services, understanding the roles of each party and ensuring everyone is properly fulfilling their responsibilities is essential to the unclaimed property reporting process. The Managing Your Third-Party Administrator session will offer tips for managing this important relationship.

 

The Bridging the Gap session looks at another key relationship – the one between holders and the states. This session will help attendees gain insight into building positive relationships with state administrators and maintaining a compliance program that is mutually beneficial to the holder, the state and property owners.

 

Emerging Property and Account Types

Unclaimed property compliance involves much more than uncashed payroll checks and customer credits. Dive into the specific requirements and considerations for unique account types in the unclaimed property process during the Unique Accounts with Unique Requirements session. Attendees with explore developments related to traditional and nontraditional retirement/IRA accounts, beneficiary accounts, HSAs and FSAs, and the effects of linking activity between customer accounts. 

 

Another rapidly evolving area of unclaimed property compliance is the world of virtual currencies. The Virtual Reality, Real Unclaimed Property session will look at issues arising from virtual currencies, blockchain technologies and modern incentive programs. Attendees will get insight into regulatory changes and practical considerations related to cryptocurrencies, virtual wallets and customer loyalty programs. 

 

Audits and VDAs

Always hot topics, unclaimed property audits and voluntary disclosure agreements will take center stage in several sessions. 

 

Unclaimed property professionals who haven’t yet been fully exposed to the audit process can gain an understanding of the concepts, timelines and expectations at the Audit 101 session. This introduction to audits will explore the scope and methodologies used by states and their third-party auditors. 

 

Holders under examination or participating in a VDA may be subject to estimated liability. The Estimation Under Audits and VDAs session will explore estimation methodologies and considerations and examine how states differ in their estimation practices. 

 

With so many companies incorporated in Delaware, that state spends a lot of time in the unclaimed property spotlight, but other states can’t be neglected. The Non-Delaware Voluntary Compliance session will look at VDAs in other states and when an informal approach may be more beneficial than a formal VDA. 

 

Not all third-party auditors were created alike. In fact, their processes and procedures vary greatly. The Third-Party Auditor Differences session will walk through the many different document requests that holders can expect throughout the audit process and will examine conflicting auditor requests when under audit by multiple states using different firms. 

 

View complete details about educational sessions and other 2019 UPPO Annual Conference events. The early-bird registration deadline is Jan. 28, so register today for the best rate.

 

 

 

 

 

Tags:  audits  cryptocurrency  IRAs  state administrators  TPAs  UPPO Annual Conference  VDAs  virtual currency 

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Unclaimed Property News Roundup

Posted By Administration, Thursday, March 29, 2018

Unclaimed property continues to make headlines. Following is a recap of some recent stories getting news coverage from local and national media outlets.

 

Illinois bill raises debate about contingency fee audits

On March 12, The State Journal-Register discussed arguments for and against Illinois S.B. 2901, a bill that would, among other things, prohibit the state from hiring auditors on a contingency fee basis.

 

Minnesota Supreme Court tackles the state’s efforts to find owners and treatment of interest-bearing property

On March 7, 2018, Minnesota Public Radio’s NewsCut blog covered a Minnesota Supreme Court decision regarding the state’s handling of unclaimed funds. The court ruled that the state takes adequate steps to reunite owners with their property, but that it owes owners the interest they would have earned from property originating from interest-bearing accounts.

 

Bitcoin lawsuit raises issues about virtual currency as unclaimed property

In early March, numerous online publications, including Ars Technica, covered a series of lawsuits against cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase. One of the cases claims the company pocketed unclaimed virtual funds rather than escheating them to California.

 

New PBGC program provides new option for sponsors of terminating 401(k) plan

On Jan. 31, 2018, Bloomberg discussed a new program from the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation aimed at reuniting property owners with funds from terminated 401(k) plans.

 

Looking for your missing Donovan McNabb jersey?

Spurred by state treasurers’ efforts, local news outlets often remind readers to search unclaimed property lists for funds they may be owed. Using this year’s Super Bowl as an angle for drawing attention to unclaimed property, Pennsylvania’s treasurer received coverage in The Inquirer by focusing on unclaimed Philadelphia Eagles memorabilia, presumably from abandoned safe deposit boxes.  

 

Tags:  audits  cryptocurrency  retirement accounts  safe deposit boxes 

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Class Action Takes on Unclaimed Cryptocurrency

Posted By Administration, Thursday, March 22, 2018

Cryptocurrency has been plagued by negative headlines throughout its rise to prominence. Its volatility, ties to black market transactions on the “darknet,” and substantial thefts from cryptocurrency exchanges lead many to doubt proponents’ claims that cryptocurrency is the future of payment transactions.

 

Cryptocurrency’s latest foray into the news comes from its treatment – or lack thereof – as unclaimed property. On March 2, 2018, plaintiffs filed a class action lawsuit against Coinbase, a popular cryptocurrency exchange, for violating California’s Unclaimed Property Law.

 

At issue is Coinbase’s practice of allowing users to send cryptocurrency, including bitcoin, to email addresses rather than limiting transactions to exchanges between cryptocurrency wallets. Recipients of transactions sent to email addresses received instructions for creating Coinbase accounts and accessing their cryptocurrency. The complaint alleges that some recipients did not complete this process and, thus, never claimed their virtual funds.

 

Rather than advising senders that the funds were not claimed or escheating them to the state, Coinbase allegedly kept the cryptocurrency, violating California’s unclaimed property statute.

 

The lawsuit filing explains, “Imagine writing a cashier’s check to a friend. The bank withdraws funds from your account, but your friend never cashes the check. Does the bank get to keep the funds? The law clearly says no. But this is exactly what has happened with cryptocurrencies sent through Coinbase.com.”

 

The class action seeks to recover and return unclaimed cryptocurrency to the intended recipients. In the case of email addresses that are no longer active, the property would be escheated to California.

 

Recognizing the potential for such conflicts as nontraditional currencies become more popular, the Uniform Law Commission included virtual currency within the definition of “property” in the Revised Uniform Unclaimed Property Act of 2016. As states have introduced and adopted new unclaimed property statutes based on RUUPA, virtual currency holders face the same requirements as holders of other property types.

 

Although California’s Unclaimed Property Law does not specifically mention virtual currency, a 2017 analysis, “Treatment of Bitcoin Under U.S. Property Law” by Perkins Coie LLP, suggests cryptocurrency meets the state’s definition of “intangible property” covered by the law.

 

As more people and companies recognize bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as legitimate forms of payment, more unclaimed property issues will likely arise. UPPO will continue to monitor and report on the Coinbase class action and other noteworthy cases. 

Tags:  bitcoin  cryptocurrency  unclaimed property  virtual currency 

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