Lawyer Trust Accounts and Unclaimed Property

Lawyer Trust Accounts and Unclaimed Property

I've had several discussions with fellow lawyers recently about unclaimed property and about whether unclaimed property laws apply to lawyer trust accounts. And nothing like a good networking event question to trigger a blog post, right? Not to mention, one of the fastest and easiest ways to get disbarred is to inappropriately manage your IOLTA account or other client funds. What is Unclaimed Property? Unclaimed property is a set of state laws that govern checks, bank accounts, and other financial assets that are abandoned. Meaning that you do not know the rightful owner of the funds or cannot find the rightful owner if you do know who they are. Or just cannot make the owner cash the check, no matter what. Instead of a holder, in this case a lawyer,…
Read More
New York Legislation on Gift Cards Passes Senate

New York Legislation on Gift Cards Passes Senate

On July 15, 2020, New York State Senator Shelley Mayer introduced a new bill that would change how gift cards are sold in New York. On July 23, 2020, SB 8780 passed the Senate and has been sent to the Assembly for their debate. Fees Would Be Prohibited Senate Bill 8780 would prohibit most fees associated with closed-loop gift cards, including activation, redemption, monthly, dormancy, latency, administrative, access, re-loading fees (and quite a few more similar fees). This would change the 2016 law that changed the time from 13 to 25 months before a fee could be imposed. Open-loop gift cards (those branded with Visa, AMEX, or similar banks that are redeemable wherever credit cards are taken) would be able to charge an initial one-time activation or issuance fee. The…
Read More
How Do False Claims Act Laws Impact Unclaimed Property?

How Do False Claims Act Laws Impact Unclaimed Property?

Recent cases have showcased a novel way to attack a company's unclaimed property compliance efforts. Or highlight the lack of unclaimed property compliance in some cases. Find out what you can do to reduce your risk from False Claims Act lawsuits, their treble damages and private right of actions. Yes, that's right - plaintiffs don't have to wait until a state administrator comes after you. If someone has knowledge that your company is not in compliance, they can bring the lawsuit themselves. And recover handsomely for doing so. What is a False Claims Act? According to the Legal Information Institute, run by the Cornell Law School, a False Claims Act is a "statute setting criminal and civil penalties for falsely billing the government, over-representing the amount of a delivered product,…
Read More
Is Braille Required on Gift Cards? Court Says No

Is Braille Required on Gift Cards? Court Says No

With more than half of all gift cards sold in the fourth quarter alone, the latest round of lawsuits is a big wake-up call for many retailers that issue gift cards. On October 24, 2019, a well-known plaintiff's class-action law firm sued dozens of gift card issuers because their gift cards allegedly did not comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and two other similar New York state laws. The lawsuits soon expanded to California as well. Specifically, the lawsuits say that the gift cards did not contain Braille print, and thus discriminated against visually impaired individuals. On April 23, 2020, the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York said that retailers do not have to provide Braille on gift cards. Does the Lack of Braille…
Read More
Illinois Bill to Amend Unclaimed Property Laws, Including Cryptocurrency

Illinois Bill to Amend Unclaimed Property Laws, Including Cryptocurrency

A new bill out of the Illinois legislature is looking to make several changes to the Illinois unclaimed property laws. The changes would affect cryptocurrency and virtual currency, retirement accounts, holders' negative reporting requirements, and more. The Illinois bill is House Bill 4573 (opens externally). HB 4573 was introduced on February 5, 2020 and was then assigned to committee on March 12, 2020. Check back for more updates as the bill progresses (or dies). Illinois and Unclaimed Virtual Currencies One of the newest forms of intangible personal property to hit the world is cryptocurrency. And as one would expect, the state laws regulating anything new are lagging behind. HB 4573 defines virtual currency as "any type of a digital unit, including cryptocurrency, used as a medium of exchange, unit of…
Read More
Maine Gift Cards to Be Exempt by 2022

Maine Gift Cards to Be Exempt by 2022

On January 30, 2020, Maine's governor Janet T. Mills signed into law HP 1164/LD 1612 which affects the amounts reportable as abandoned gift cards. Over the next three years, the reportable amount will be eliminated. Maine Gift Cards as Abandoned Property Previously, Maine required 60% of the outstanding gift card obligation to be reported as unclaimed property once it had been abandoned for two years (see Section 2067). By 2022, that amount will be zero. Under Public Law 553, the reportable obligation is reduced in 2020 to 40% and then again in 2021 to 20%. Finally, in 2022, no amounts will be reportable for unclaimed gift cards in Maine. The law previously exempted gift cards sold by a single issuer if the issuer sold less than $250,000 in gift cards…
Read More
SECURE Act and Unclaimed Property

SECURE Act and Unclaimed Property

Effective January 1, 2020, the SECURE Act ("Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act”) makes some significant changes to how financial institutions handle retirement plans in unclaimed property. Specifically, there are three major provisions of the SECURE Act which you need to be aware of: Required Minimum Distribution Age The RMD age moves from 70 1/2 to 72. Inherited IRAs Inherited IRAs must be distributed within 10 years of the owner's death. Maximum Deductible Contributions Age The upper age limit to make deductible contributions is removed. How These Changes Affect Unclaimed Property Required Minimum Distribution Age Typically, dormancy is triggered on individual retirement accounts (IRAs) when the account owner reaches the RMD age plus the requisite inactivity period (usually 3 or 5 years). For those that reach 70 1/2…
Read More
October Was a Busy Month for Unclaimed Property

October Was a Busy Month for Unclaimed Property

Whew! I just looked at the calendar and realized that October is over! Hope you were able to get home and enjoy the Trick or Treaters on Halloween. Late September and all of October are always busy times for unclaimed property holders. You've got compliance deadlines, audit demands, and just general business things to take care of. But this September and October were especially busy in the world of unclaimed property. Let's take a look at everything that happened. Unclaimed Property Compliance Never Stops Forty-four jurisdictions have reports due between October 31 and November 1. That means holders are always compiling the reports, making last minute changes, getting said reports approved, signed, and paid, and issuing the remaining checks or payments in response to due diligence letters this month. This…
Read More
New Texas Unclaimed Property Reporting Procedures

New Texas Unclaimed Property Reporting Procedures

On June 10, 2019, Texas passed changes to how unclaimed property is reported in the state in HB 3598, as well as provisions relating to audits and owner claims. The law is effective immediately. New Texas Consolidated Reporting The biggest change that will be noticed immediately for holders is the new consolidated reporting requirement. Under the new law, all companies of an affiliated group must file one report for the entire affiliated group. This is commonly referred to as "consolidated reporting" within the industry. An affiliated group is "one or more entities in which a controlling interest is owned by a common owner, either corporate or noncorporate, or by one or more of the member entities." For unclaimed property purposes, controlling interests means more than 50 percent interest - voting…
Read More
Hawaii to Require Cash Back on Gift Cards

Hawaii to Require Cash Back on Gift Cards

Update: The law was approved and signed by the governor on July 5, and is effective January 1, 2020. The Hawaii legislature has sent legislation to the governor for signature that would require retailers and restaurants to provide cash back to gift card owners for balances under $5. Hawaii Gift Cards Hawaii permits retailers to sell gift cards to consumers so long as there are no service fees, including dormancy or inactivity. Hawaii also limits activation fees to the lesser of 10% of the gift certificate or $5. In accordance with the CARD Act, Hawaii also prohibits expiration dates less than five years after the date of issuance for gift cards. In the case of paper only gift certificates, the state does permit a two year expiration date. Awards, loyalty,…
Read More