Delaware unclaimed property law
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Victory? Delaware Suggests an End to Contingency Compensation for Unclaimed Property Contract Auditors

For years, Delaware has used contract audit firms to enforce their unclaimed property laws and paid them based, at least partially, on the amount recovered. Motivated by this financial reward and empowered as an agent of the state, the contract-auditing firms with the State’s complicity harass holders, inflate liabilities by deploying aggressive estimation techniques and engage in other questionable practices to maximize their bounty.

Maybe not anymore. In a federal court filing on January 10, Delaware’s brief appended as an exhibit its most recent contract signed December 31, 2019, with Kelmar, one of the more notorious unclaimed property contract audit firms. The new contract states that Kelmar will be paid at set hourly rates for general ledger work, instead of their prior compensation, which was largely seen to be contingent upon recovery. (Securities-related work remains contingency-based.)

It will be welcome news if this heralds an end to the madness of contingency compensation for contract auditors. Holders have voiced complaints for decades, often forced to litigate to prove Kelmar’s method incorrect. The US Chamber has detailed the flaws of using contract auditors and urged a ban to the practice, and judges have tried to rein in their behavior. The National Conference of State Legislatures adopted a resolution disapproving of the practice. After all of these years and horror stories, the message might have finally gotten through.




Holders Beware: Delaware Department of State Notices to be Mailed in Two Weeks!

In two weeks, the Delaware Secretary of State (SOS) will begin mailing notices to holders who have been identified as likely being out of compliance with Delaware unclaimed property law. Holders that do not enroll in the SOS Voluntary Disclosure Agreement Program (VDA Program) within 60 days of the mailing of this notice will be referred to the State Escheator for examination. Once an audit notice is issued, the SOS will have no legal ability to accept a holder into its VDA Program.

The VDA Program was put in place to respond to concerns about Delaware’s audit program and allow holders to come into compliance through a “self-audit” that is administered by the holder, as opposed to the State Escheator. The audit is overseen by a third-party provider that must approve the steps taken by the holder, but allows more flexibility in terms of the details and deadlines than a traditional audit. Delaware law requires that every company be provided with an opportunity to voluntarily comply prior to being issued an audit notice. For holders that receive a notice from the SOS in a little over two weeks, this letter will be their one opportunity to voluntarily come forward and enroll in the VDA Program and requires prompt decision making and evaluation, given the 60 days deadline and potentially significant implications.

It is still expected that the final Department of Finance (DOF) regulation required by SB 13 will be included in the October 1, 2017 Register of Regulations. If this holds true, companies currently under a Delaware audit authorized by the State Escheator on or before July 22, 2015, will have 60 days from October 1 (i.e., until November 30, 2017) to convert to the SOS VDA Program. Again, the same analysis and implications are at stake.

Practice Note

There is a lot for holders to consider in a very short period of time. Holders should be aware that there are may be more than the single, historic third-party provider in charge of administering the SOS VDA Program. Adding new providers creates uncertainty in the process and it is not clear how holders will be assigned to each provider.

Holders in need of advice on whether to enroll in the SOS VDA Program should reach out to the authors to discuss their options. Stay tuned for our analysis of the final DOF regulation, which will be posted shortly after publication.




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