In a Rare Decision On Abandoned Property Law, The US Supreme Court Rules Against Delaware

In a Rare Decision On Abandoned Property Law, The US Supreme Court Rules Against Delaware

On February 28, 2023, the US Supreme Court docket issued its final decision in the abandoned home lawsuit, Delaware v. Pennsylvania (see

The concern dealt with by the Courtroom centered on which state was entitled to accumulate unclaimed home, which arose from  two money products marketed by banking institutions on behalf of Moneygram: Agent Checks and Teller’s Checks (collectively, the “Checks”).

Next the framework founded in the seminal scenario of Texas v. New Jersey, 379 U. S. 674 (1965), since Moneygram did not have the name and tackle of the homeowners of the Checks, Moneygram experienced been escheating (that is, having to pay in excess of to the state) the money fundamental these dormant Checks to its point out of incorporation, Delaware. 

That rule, paying unclaimed house to the point out of incorporation in occasions the place the identify and deal with of the individual residence owner is not regarded, broadly applies to most residence, apart from for dollars orders and tourists checks.   This exception occurs from a 1974 federal regulation, the Federal Disposition Act (“FDA”), 12 USC  § 2501 et seq), which involves holders of money underlying unused funds orders and vacationers checks (and other identical instruments) to remit these funds to the point out in which the instruments ended up procured, not the holder’s point out of incorporation.

For that reason, the Supreme Courtroom centered on  no matter whether the Checks should be subject to the Texas v. New Jersey framework or regardless of whether they had been similar adequate to income orders so that they, also, as soon as deserted, really should be paid out to the point out where ordered and not the point out of incorporation. 

The Supreme Courtroom held, in the first the vast majority impression penned by new Supreme Courtroom Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, that the Checks were being in fact similar to revenue orders, and should be escheated to the point out of acquire below the Food and drug administration, and not the condition of incorporation:

When a money solution operates like a dollars order— i.e., when it is a prepaid prepared instrument employed to transmit cash to a named payee—and when it would also escheat inequitably entirely to the Condition of incorporation of the business keeping the funds below our popular-law policies because of to recordkeeping gaps, then it is sufficiently “similar” to a dollars buy to slide presumptively inside the Food and drug administration.  (598 U.S. __ slip op. at 22)

This is viewed as a much more equitable rule, allowing for the assets to be dispersed among a number of states where the industrial exercise happened.

There was a large total of revenue at stake: some estimate Delaware will owe far more than $400 million to the other states based mostly on the outcome in this lawsuit.

The bigger concern is regardless of whether, now that the definition of “money orders” (and related instruments) below the Fda has been widened to include the Checks, will other financial solutions and devices also be topic to a identical resolve?  We foresee that lots of states will be using a closer appear at “prepaid created devices used to transmit money” in order to maximize their deserted assets collections.