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Heather Gabell

Heather spearheads the monitoring of legislative and regulatory activity related to unclaimed property. Utilizing her expertise, she is specifically focused on interpreting, tracking and communicating changes to the unclaimed property laws both internally and externally to ensure compliance in all reporting jurisdictions. Furthermore, she monitors legislation and regulatory activity related to privacy concerns and data security. Heather holds a law degree from Villanova University School of Law and is a member of the UPPO, SSA, STA, and NICSA organizations.

Recent Posts

7/14/21 8:48 AM

Unclaimed Property Legislative Alert: A Deep Dive Into DE SB 104

Delaware incorporated or domiciled entities should be cognizant of a newly enacted Delaware unclaimed property statute that may significantly impact their unclaimed property situations.

Delaware SB 104, enacted on June 30, 2021, has an effective date of August 1, 2021, though specific provisions related to claims, audits, and pending litigation as of the effective date will apply retroactively. Though the intent of the bill is to provide clarification for holders, confirm current examination practices, and address recent litigation, some of the provisions appear to expand the state’s enforcement capabilities, while others contract the protections afforded to holders under the current law.

A summary of the relevant changes made to the Delaware unclaimed property law as a result of DE S 104 follows:

  • Revised VDA and Audit Provisions
    • Response Time to VDA Invite Extended. The timing to respond to a VDA invitation is increased from 60 to 90 days. Holders who receive an invitation may enter the VDA program or request to enter the expedited audit program (see below).
    • Audit Records Scope. The State Escheator can examine the records of the holder or a subsidiary or affiliate of the holder to verify the completeness and accuracy of the records, even if the records may not identify property reportable to Delaware. The state is under no obligation to provide a reason or justification for the examination of records, other than that it relates to determining compliance.
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Topics: Delaware, Compliance, Audit, Best Practices

7/9/21 10:02 AM

Unclaimed Property Bills Related to Virtual Currency Continue To Pass

DE S 103, which was signed into law on June 30, 2021, and becomes effective on August 1, 2021, is the latest bill to define virtual currency and include it in the definition of “property” as a property type eligible for escheat. Virtual currency is presumed abandoned 5 years after the owner’s last indication of interest and holders must liquidate it within 90 days of filing an unclaimed property report and remit the proceeds to the administrator. As we have seen in similar bills pending in the unclaimed property space, owners have no recourse against the holder or the state for any gains in value post liquidation.

As the use and popularity of virtual currencies rise and become accepted, the states are similarly stepping up their legislation to bring virtual currency within the scope of escheatable property by introducing bills like DE S 103. States are also looking to the holder to liquidate the virtual currency as they are presently unable to take custody of cryptocurrencies in their native form.

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Topics: Delaware, Compliance, Reporting, Best Practices

6/10/21 7:51 AM

UPDATE: Delaware's Next Round of VDA Invitations Scheduled for June 11, 2021

The Delaware Secretary of State (SOS) had previously indicated its intent to mail the latest round of VDA invitations on or about May 28, 2021. However, this date has changed to June 11, 2021.

Under Delaware law, the state cannot initiate an unclaimed property examination (audit) unless a company has first been notified in writing by the SOS that it may enter into the SOS VDA Program. Holders who do not enroll in the VDA Program within the 60-day notice period set forth in the letter will be referred to the Department of Finance for an unclaimed property audit.

As VDA invitations may be addressed to senior corporate executives, they often do not reach the person or group responsible for unclaimed property compliance in time to meet the 60-day deadline to prevent an audit.

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Topics: Delaware, Audit, Best Practices, Voluntary Disclosure Agreements

5/27/21 7:51 AM

Target Date for Delaware's Next Round of VDA Invitations: May 28, 2021

Unclaimed property holders need to stay vigilant about checking the mail. The DE Secretary of State (SOS) has indicated its intent to send out the latest round of VDA invitations on or about May 28, 2021. VDA invitations are sent several times per year to companies that are identified by the state as “likely being out of compliance” with Delaware’s unclaimed property law. 

Under Delaware law, the state cannot initiate an unclaimed property examination (audit) unless a company has first been notified in writing by the SOS that it may enter into the SOS VDA Program. Holders who do not enroll in the VDA Program within the 60-day notice period set forth in the letter will be referred to the Department of Finance for an unclaimed property audit.

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Topics: Delaware, Audit, Best Practices, Voluntary Disclosure Agreements

4/21/21 10:11 AM

The Unclaimed Property Reporting Cycle and Holder Compliance

Businesses are required to report unclaimed property on an annual basis. States differ as to when particular property types are subject to escheat, the type and timing of the due diligence notices that holders must send to property owners before escheating the property, and how and when the property should be reported to the states. The risks of non-compliance can result in penalty and interest assessments and can subject a company to a lengthy unclaimed property audit. Businesses should conduct regular reviews of their unclaimed property processes to ensure compliance with all state unclaimed property laws.

A holder’s obligations during a typical unclaimed property reporting cycle can be summarized as follows, with each step discussed further below:

▪️ Identify dormant property; collect data and review records

▪️ Analyze and apply applicable state laws;

▪️ Perform state-mandated due diligence;

▪️ Report and remit unclaimed property to the states; and

▪️ Retain supporting documentation.

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Topics: Compliance, Due Diligence, Reporting, Recordkeeping, Best Practices

4/13/21 10:30 AM

Check Your Mail: Unclaimed Property Outreach From Maine & Massachusetts

We recently posted about the importance of checking the mail for letters inviting holders to participate in the Delaware Secretary of State’s Voluntary Disclosure Agreement (VDA) program. Delaware is scheduled to mail a new round of VDA invitations on May 14th. More states are beginning to join this outreach trend. Maine and Massachusetts appear to be joining states like Nevada and Washington in mailing targeted outreach to holders regarding their compliance with the unclaimed property laws, which can take the form of self-audit questionnaires or invitations to self-audit books and records, and often disclose that they will be assisted by a third-party auditor in the process.

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Topics: Compliance, Audit, Voluntary Disclosure Agreements, Massachusetts

4/2/21 10:30 AM

Phishing Email Leads to Data Breach at the California State Controller’s Office

The California State Controller’s Office (SCO) Unclaimed Property Division recently experienced a data breach after an employee clicked on a phishing email. According to the Notice of Data Breach posted on the SCO’s webpage, an unauthorized user had access to the employee’s email account from March 18, 2021 at 1:42pm to March 19, 2021 at 3:19pm.

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Topics: Risk, California, Fraud

2/26/21 8:43 AM

Spring 2021: Unclaimed Property Due Diligence, Reporting Tips, and Updates

As we find ourselves preparing for Spring reporting (corporations must start the Spring season by submitting reports to Delaware by March 1st), it is worth highlighting several aspects of the due diligence and reporting processes.

Due Diligence Notices. The due diligence letter is a state mandated requirement that the holder provide notice to the owner before the property is reported and remitted to the state as unclaimed property and is also the holder’s last attempt to establish contact with the owner of dormant property before escheatment.

Method, Timing and Content of the Notice. Typically, a first-class mailing must be sent to the owner 60 to 120 days prior to filing the report, though as is common in unclaimed property, time frames vary state to state. Moreover, certified mail may be required in lieu of, or in addition to, first-class mail (e.g., New York: certified mail for property valued at $1000 or more and for all dividend reinvestment plans). Publication is also required for certain holders in New York, where requirements vary by property type). Many states also provide an exception for mailing to a known bad address, but again, this varies by state.

In states that have adopted a law based on the 2016 Revised Uniform Property Act (“RUUPA”), the time frame for mailing is generally 60-180 days before filing the report, though there are outliers here as well (e.g., Illinois requires notice to be sent 60 days to 1 year prior to the report, and by certified mail for securities valued at $1000 or more, 60 days prior to filing the report). These states have also adopted specific header and language requirements for the notice.

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Topics: Delaware, Due Diligence, Reporting, Best Practices, Vermont

2/9/21 12:39 PM

Target Date for Delaware's Next Round of VDA Invitations: February 19, 2021

Delaware continues to focus on unclaimed property compliance, with its’ Voluntary Disclosure Agreement (VDA) program at the forefront of this push.  The DE Secretary of State (SOS) has indicated its intent to mail the latest round of VDA invitations on or about February 19, 2021. VDA invitations are sent several times per year to companies that are identified by the state as “likely being out of compliance” with Delaware’s unclaimed property law. 

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Topics: Delaware, Best Practices, Voluntary Disclosure Agreements

1/29/21 10:59 AM

Unclaimed Property Holder Alert: Delaware Updating Payment Instructions

Delaware’s Office of Unclaimed Property (OUP) has updated its payment instructions for wire and ACH payments, in advance of the upcoming March 1, 2021 Spring reporting deadline. 

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Topics: Delaware, Reporting, Best Practices