Senate Bill 104
151st General Assembly (2021 - 2022)
The General Assembly has ended, the current status is the final status.
AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 12 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO UNCLAIMED PROPERTY.
This Act clarifies various aspects of the State’s procedures to operate its unclaimed property program, including promoting and determining holder compliance, processing owner claims, and preventing fraudulent claims. Sections 1, 13, and 15 confirm current examination practice and address recent court decisions that, to determine a holder’s compliance, the State Escheator may request and review records to verify the completeness and accuracy of the holder’s records, even if such records may not identify property reportable to the State, and that the State may initiate an examination to determine compliance for any reason and is under no obligation to provide a detailed or specific reason or justification. Section 2 clarifies that the dormancy period for various types of bonds is 3 years, which confirms current practice to treat these property types similar to securities-related property. This section also clarifies and addresses recent changes made by the SECURE Act that impact the escheatment of Individual Retirement Accounts. This Section takes effect on August 1, 2021, for the next annual reporting period. Section 3 clarifies that holders whose business is described in 30 Del. C. § 2906 (“the business of operating a restaurant, snack bar, soda fountain, take-out food service, catering service, private eating or drinking club, or other eating establishment or service”) do not have to report and remit unredeemed gift card property that had an original issue amount of $5 or less. This Section further clarifies that no report is required from any holder for unredeemed gift cards having an aggregate face value of less than $5000 for the reporting period. Sections 4 and 13 clarify and confirm current practice that owner notification (“due diligence”) letters may be sent at any time during an examination at the holder’s initiative or at the direction of the State Escheator. Section 13 expressly allows the State to mail owner notification letters during an examination. Sections 5 and 24 clarify and confirm current practice that the State Escheator is only required to publish or provide upon request only last known address identifiers, which currently is considered city and state, rather than a property owner’s full address. Section 6 limits the scope of the State’s holder indemnification to property claimed by other jurisdictions and excludes penalties, as defined, imposed by other jurisdictions from the State’s indemnification obligations. Sections 7 and 14 clarify and confirm current practice by aligning the scope (included years and legal entities) of a Voluntary Disclosure Agreement (“VDA”) or a subsequent examination, which is to be determined as of the earlier of the following: the date the VDA invitation letter is delivered, the date a holder elects to enter the VDA program, or the date the notice of examination is delivered. Sections 8 and 9 clarify and confirm current practice related to the return of securities-related property to owners. Section 8 makes a technical correction to change the imprecise 18-month time limit to an exact time period of 558 days (31 days multiplied by 18 months), to allow owners the maximum amount of time under the law to file a claim to recover their securities or market value as of the date of the claim, rather than the liquidated cash value. Because an owner’s right may be significantly altered after the expiration of this time period, precise calculation of this time period to the owner’s benefit is necessary. The 558-day period is the current standard applied by the State Escheator to determine the return of securities or market value as of the date of the claim versus liquidated cash value, and codification of the 558-day period avoids additional software development costs. This Section also clarifies that claimants receive any dividends that the State received while it held the security. Sections 8 and 9 clarify that the 558-day time limit begins to run based on the notice provided as required by the statute in effect when the property was delivered to the State and ends based on the claimant’s first documented contact with the State if the claim is made within 60 days of such contact. Section 10 clarifies procedures for the denial of a claim and the investigation of potentially fraudulent claims. Section 11 makes a technical correction to change the imprecise 4-month time limit to an exact time period of 120 days for claimant appeals to the Tax Appeal Board. Section 12 clarifies that the State may send Verified Report and Compliance Review notices to the appropriate legal entity, which may include an agent, affiliate, or subsidiary of the reporting legal entity. Section 14 establishes a permanent expedited examination program for any company whose examination began after February 2, 2017. Companies who complete their examinations within the parameters of the permanent expedited examination program will receive the benefit of a waiver of penalties and interest, except for a nominal, non-waivable 1% interest assessment. Companies who receive a notice of examination after August 1, 2021, and who do not complete an expedited examination are subject to a minimum, non-waivable 20% interest assessment, up to an assessment of full interest and penalties under the statute. Section 16 clarifies that the Secretary of State may send notices inviting holders to participate in the VDA program by any commercially reasonable means that includes evidence of delivery. This Section establishes that holders will have a 90-day period during which holders may enter the VDA program or may request to expedite their examination conducted by the State Escheator. Holders who neither enter the VDA program nor elect to expedite their examination will be referred to the State Escheator for a conventional examination. Section 17 prohibits the use of documents obtained in an examination initiated by Delaware to be used in a multistate examination, unless the holder agrees to such use in writing. This Section applies to examinations initiated after August 1, 2021. Sections 18 and 20 make a technical correction for consistent nomenclature of the “statement of findings” and “request for payment” issued at the conclusion of an examination. Section 19 requires exclusively hourly compensation to be paid to third-party audit firms, except for examinations of accounts or policies of insurance and securities-related property. This Section also requires third-party audit firms to comply with the State’s standard non-disclosure agreement requirements, regardless of whether the holder under examination agrees to such requirements. Finally, this section clarifies which senior unclaimed property positions in the Department of Finance are prohibited from vendor employment for a 2-year period. Sections 21 and 22 simplify and clarify the application and possible waivers of interest and penalties for past-due property. To encourage voluntary annual compliance and participation in the Secretary of State’s VDA program, under this Act, interest and penalties may be waived by the State Escheator, or Secretary of State for VDAs, in all circumstances, except the following: 1) Past-due property determined in an expedited examination as established by the Act will be subject to a nominal, non-waivable 1% per incident interest assessment; and 2) Past-due property determined in a conventional, non-expedited examination initiated after August 1, 2021, will be subject to a minimum, non-waivable 20% per incident interest assessment. Section 23 clarifies and confirms current practice regarding limitations on finder agreements to locate property. Section 24 expressly applies the confidentiality requirements of § 1189 to state contractors, such as third-party audit firms. This Section also excludes policies and procedures related to the determination of claims and fraud prevention measures from disclosure as a public record under the Freedom of Information Act. Sections 1, 4, 9, 10, 11, 13, 15, 18, 20, and 22 of this Act shall apply retroactively to any claims, examinations, or litigation pending as of the effective date of this legislation. Sections 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 12, 14, 16, 17, 19, 21, 23, and 24 of this Act take effect on August 1, 2021. This bill also makes technical corrections to conform existing law to the standards of the Delaware Legislative Drafting Manual.