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4/3/20 6:09 PM

Delaware Issues Update Regarding Unclaimed Property VDA Notices

MarketSphere received correspondence on April 3, 2020 from the office of Delaware’s Secretary of State (SOS), regarding the latest round of VDA invitations mailed to companies in February 2020.  As a consequence of the COVID 19 pandemic, the SOS is extending the regular 60-day response deadline by 30 days.  Invited companies will now have until May 22, 2020 to respond to the SOS.  The correspondence also provides details regarding how best to communicate with the SOS during the current state of emergency.  

The correspondence states: 

Important update on the February 2020 invitations: The Secretary of State (“SOS”) ​is encouraging companies who know they want to enroll in the VDA Program to send in a completed VDA-1 within the prescribed 60-day timeframe.  Due to the current state of emergency declared by Governor John Carney as well as many other declarations made across the country and the world, the SOS, in consultation with the Department of Finance and the State Escheator, realizes that many companies have not had full access to their mail or the proper time to route the invitation to the appropriate individual(s).  As a result, holders who received an invitation from the SOS to join the VDA Program during February 2020 will be allowed to join the SOS VDA Program through May 22, 2020. After May 22, 2020, all companies that do not enroll in the SOS VDA will be referred to the State Escheator for examination.  Holders should be mindful that, under Delaware law, they may not join the VDA Program after a Notice of Examination has been mailed by the State Escheator.

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Topics: Delaware, Compliance, Reporting, Audit, Voluntary Disclosure Agreements

2/20/20 7:13 AM

Notices Being Sent For Delaware Unclaimed Property Voluntary Disclosure Agreement Program

Delaware continues to focus on unclaimed property compliance, with its’ Voluntary Disclosure Agreement (VDA) program at the forefront of this push.  Since the latter part of 2018, Delaware’s Secretary of State has been consistently mailing VDA invitations and continues this practice on an on-going basis. 

Based on correspondence that MarketSphere received from the office of Delaware’s Secretary of State, the latest round of VDA invitations will be mailed on February 20, 2020 to a number of Delaware incorporated companies.   

The correspondence states: 

On February 20, 2020, the Delaware Secretary of State’s Office will be mailing over 100 letters to various companies (individually referred to as “Holder”) that have been identified as likely being out of compliance with Delaware law, 12 Del. C. ch. 11, as it relates to reporting dormant, abandoned, or unclaimed property.  Pursuant to our state laws, Delaware cannot initiate new abandoned or unclaimed property examinations (audits) unless a company has first been notified in writing by the Secretary of State that it may enter into the SOS VDA Program.  The letter serves as such a notice to the Holder and strongly encourages participation in the SOS VDA Program, as an audit notice will be issued by the Delaware Department of Finance 60 days after the date of the mailing

As the correspondence notes, recipient companies must respond to these notices within 60 days or they will be referred to the Delaware Department of Finance, which would then have the option to commence an unclaimed property audit.

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Topics: Delaware, Compliance, Audit, Voluntary Disclosure Agreements

1/28/20 9:55 AM

Unclaimed Property Negative Reports

In any given year, it is not uncommon for a holder to have no unclaimed property to report to one or more states.  Does this mean you have no reporting obligation?  Not necessarily.  Some states still require that you file a “negative” report.  This negative report indicates to the state that the holder has no property to report for the given report year, while demonstrating ongoing compliance with the state’s unclaimed property requirements.

The states are split on the matter of negative reports, so it is important to check with the state(s) in question before filing.  Approximately half the states require negative reports to be submitted.  In these states, failing to submit even a negative report will cause the holder to be considered out of compliance.  Other states do not require negative reports but will accept them if they are filed., and a handful of states do not accept negative reports at all. 

A few examples can illustrate the variation in negative reporting requirements across the states:

  • Nevada requires negative reporting for three years after the submission of a positive report. After that, negative reports are not accepted.
  • In California, if a notice report is negative, a negative remittance report should not be filed. However, if the notice report is positive, a negative remittance report should be filed.
  • Connecticut requires a negative report only if the holder is domiciled in Connecticut.
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Topics: Compliance, Reporting, Best Practices

1/20/20 4:13 PM

Four Companies Challenge Delaware Unclaimed Property Program's Use of Contingent-Fee Auditors

In December of 2019, four companies (AT&T Capital Services, Inc., Eaton Corporation, Fruit of the Loom, Inc. and Siemens USA Holdings, Inc.) filed suit in federal district court challenging Delaware’s unclaimed property program. As part of their suits, each company submitted complaints alleging that the use of contingent-fee auditors violates procedural due process because companies are required to submit disputes to a self-interested party.[1]

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Topics: Delaware, Compliance, Audit

1/7/20 7:48 AM

Drinker Biddle & Reath at the Forefront of Multi-State Voluntary Review Programs

In a recent communication from Drinker Biddle & Reath (“DBR”), one of the state agents for the Delaware Secretary of State’s Unclaimed Property Voluntary Disclosure Agreement Program, we were informed that the states of Missouri and North Dakota have now engaged DBR to serve in a similar capacity as they currently serve for Delaware.

Agreements for the Missouri Voluntary Examination and North Dakota Contractor Assisted Self-Audit were provided by DBR for holder consideration. Similar to the Delaware Voluntary Disclosure Program, these agreements include the following holder requirements:

  • File a final report within two years of agreement execution
  • Disclose the entities reviewed
  • Perform due diligence prior to reporting
  • Assert as to the completeness of records
  • Report past due property for the last 10 report years
  • File annual reports prospectively
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Topics: Compliance, Audit, Voluntary Disclosure Agreements

12/18/19 8:29 AM

AT&T Sues Delaware Stating Unclaimed Property Audit Is Unconstitutional

On December 6, 2019, AT&T sued the state of Delaware alleging that Delaware’s Department of Finance is violating several clauses of the U.S. Constitution as part of an unclaimed property audit. 

The audit commenced in 2012 and was assigned to Kelmar Associates LLC.  In 2017, Delaware made significant changes to its unclaimed property statute, including the creation of an expedited audit process for existing audits.  AT&T entered the expedited audit process, hoping to finish the audit within the program’s two-year window.

However, just short of the two-year mark, Delaware terminated AT&T's participation in the expedited audit and issued a subpoena to request documents due last week.

In its suit, (AT&T Capital Services Inc. et al v. Richard Geisenberger et al, case number 1:19-cv-02238, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware), AT&T claimed that Delaware has contravened the Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.

According to AT&T, the state has demanded AT&T provide records related to “approximately 60 million transactions reflecting almost $100 billion of spend”, and claims the overall audit process violates its rights against unreasonable searches and seizures as well as its due process rights.

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Topics: Delaware, Audit, Voluntary Disclosure Agreements, U.P. Law

11/21/19 9:20 AM

Unclaimed Property Inactivity Mailing

Customer relationships are the foundation of a company’s success, but if customer assets are escheated to the states as unclaimed property, those relationships could be at risk.  Studies by Bain & Company show that acquiring a new customer can cost five times more than retaining an existing customer and increasing customer retention by 5% can significantly increase a company’s profits.

Millions of dollars are escheated annually. This results in angry customers and lost profits, especially when it is their retirement or savings account. It is therefore important to understand the steps a company can take to reduce the risk of escheatment and increase its’ customer retention rate.

Escheatment occurs when accounts are deemed dormant, which occurs when there has been no “owner-generated” activity on the account for a specified period of time (the dormancy period). If the account owner does not affirmatively act to remove the dormant status of an account, by law, the account must be escheated to the state of the owner’s address once the dormancy period for that type of property has expired. Generally speaking, dormancy periods range from 3 to 5 years.

A 3-year dormancy period may seem like sufficient time in which to reestablish contact with an account owner. However, the time-frame for action is actually shorter, as companies generally do not begin to initiate proactive communication with dormant account owners until the account has been inactive for at least 24 months. Leaving the account inactive until the performance of statutory due diligence (which occurs between 2 and 12 months before escheatment), generally results in up to 80% of those accounts being escheated.

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Topics: Due Diligence, Best Practices

11/12/19 9:35 AM

Consolidated Unclaimed Property Reporting

As a holder advocate, one of the most frequent questions we receive is whether a company with multiple subsidiaries and entities under its corporate umbrella can file consolidated unclaimed property reports.  The unclaimed property compliance environment is complex, frustrating, and demanding for corporate America, and complex organizational structures don’t make it any easier to navigate.  Conducting unclaimed property filings on a consolidated basis can create efficiencies for many holders.  However, a number of factors should be considered when determining the right approach for your particular organization. 

Consolidated unclaimed property filings are similar to other consolidated financial filings such as income tax filings and financial statements.  Consolidated unclaimed property filings consist of one report sent to each state or filing jurisdiction, usually by a parent company, on behalf of multiple subsidiaries.  This single report contains all property that would have been reported if separate reports had been prepared for each individual entity.

 

Consolidated reporting simplifies and streamlines the reporting process and tends to be more cost effective regardless of whether the filing process is managed internally or outsourced.   It is particularly beneficial for companies with a substantial number of subsidiaries that would otherwise consistently file zero or negative reports due to limited or no unclaimed property activity.  It may also be the simplest approach for companies who already consolidate financials or are running a common paymaster across its various entities. 

While there are  benefits of a simplified process, there are several factors to consider before deciding to file consolidated unclaimed property reports.

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Topics: Compliance, Reporting, Best Practices

10/8/19 8:23 AM

Unclaimed Property Audit - Are You At Risk?

This blog was originally created at the request of the Association for Financial Professionals (AFP) organization and posted to their website in August 2019 in a series dedicated to the education of its’ members and attendees of the 2019 AFP Annual Conference in Boston, Oct, 20-23.

The likelihood of an unclaimed property audit has increased in recent years due to several factors, including the proliferation of third-party auditors, realization by states that significant amounts are involved, and the escalation of unclaimed property litigation. Escheat compliance is no longer optional and being audited is not a matter of if, but when.

Situations and events that may bring an auditor to your door include:

  • Failure to file or filing late
  • Filing negative reports year after year
  • Filing incomplete reports or reports that don’t match remittance
  • Not filing in the state’s required format
  • Not reporting property types that are standard for your industry
  • Reporting much less than similar organizations
  • Filing to the incorrect state
  • Mergers and acquisitions
  • Claiming property without being compliant
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Topics: Compliance, Reporting, Audit, Best Practices

10/1/19 8:23 AM

Notices Continue for Delaware Unclaimed Property Voluntary Disclosure Agreement Program

Delaware continues to focus on unclaimed property compliance, with its’ Voluntary Disclosure Agreement (VDA) program at the forefront of this push.  Since the latter part of 2018, Delaware’s Secretary of State has been consistently mailing VDA invitations and continues this practice on an on-going basis. 

Based on correspondence that MarketSphere received on September 24, 2019 from the office of Delaware’s Secretary of State, the latest round of VDA invitations have recently been mailed to a number of Delaware incorporated companies.  Targeted companies now include middle market companies with annual revenues of $50M and above. Click here to see a sample correspondence from September 2019.   

The correspondence notes: 

Pursuant to 12 Del. C. §1173(b), the Delaware Secretary of State (SOS) recently sent out letters inviting companies to enter the Voluntary Disclosure Agreement (VDA) Program. Any company that receives a letter is encouraged to enroll in the SOS VDA Program to facilitate compliance with Delaware’s Abandoned or Unclaimed Property Law.

Invitees have 60 days from the date of the invitation to enroll in the SOS VDA Program by completing, executing and submitting Form VDA-1 Disclosure and Notice of Intent to Voluntarily Comply to the Secretary of State.  If an invitee does not enroll in the SOS VDA Program within 60 days of the invitation mailing, the company will be referred to the State Escheator for examination.

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Topics: Delaware, Compliance, Audit, Voluntary Disclosure Agreements