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New Delaware Unclaimed Property Decision Further Complicates Landscape

Another federal judge slams Delaware’s unclaimed property audit methodology but rejects the holder’s reliance on the priority rules as a defense to the audit demands. See Marathon Petroleum Corp. et al. v. Cook et al., No. 1:16-cv-00080-LPS (D. Del., Sept. 23, 2016). The court recognized the unjustness of Delaware’s audit approach, but followed a previous case finding the priority rules can only be raised by states with competing claims. Background Marathon Petroleum and its related entities are currently in the ninth year of an unclaimed property audit by Delaware (i.e., soon, the audit will have spanned three separate US presidents). According to the memorandum opinion, the auditor has not found any material or systemic noncompliance. Two of the Plaintiffs, Marathon Petroleum and Speedway LLC, are organized under Delaware law and these entities cooperated with the auditor’s document requests throughout the examination. However, after nine years of review,...

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Unclaimed Property Litigation Update – Spring 2016

Litigation over unclaimed property rules and obligations continues to accelerate. The first quarter of 2016 brought developments in several cases, including a much-watched contest over merchandise credits and a new battle between the states over which state gets the money. California Merchandise Credits Not Subject to Remittance as Unclaimed Property; Implicit Application of Derivative Rights Doctrine Prevails On March 4, 2016, a California superior court held in Bed Bath & Beyond, Inc. v John Chiang that unredeemed merchandise return certificates (certificates) issued by Bed Bath & Beyond (BB&B) to tis California customers are exempt “gift certificates” under the California Unclaimed Property Law—and not “intangible personal property” under the California catch-all provision. Like many retail stores, BB&B provides the certificates as credits to customers who return items without a receipt. While the certificates may be redeemed for...

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