US State governments have escheated tens of millions of assets worth tens of billions of dollars belonging to both domestic and foreign owners. An analysis of US State escheatment databases indicates that billions of dollars’ worth of dormant assets belonging to foreign owners in over 230 countries around the world have been transferred to US State treasuries over the past couple of decades. Foreign owners are at a great disadvantage in locating and recovering their lost assets in some US states and deserve the same consumer protection as is granted to domestic owners in the US and as US asset owners would expect to be granted when recovering their own assets internationally.
Of course, unclaimed funds can only be recovered for those assets that are publicly disclosed by state unclaimed property programs. When UP officials mysteriously fail to disclose assets for any reason, consumer protection rights are compromised, and state governments are unfairly benefiting.
For instance, from extensive analysis of publicly-available unclaimed property data provided by the Office of the New York State Comptroller, it appears foreign assets are vastly under-reported in their online searchable database. This is unacceptable as foreign owners of assets being held in New York (of which there are likely tens of thousands) will never be able to locate or recover their money.
This analysis shows that only about 3,000 international assets have “slipped through” into New York’s data pool of over 10 million records posted since 1985. This extremely low rate of international record prevalence is statistically too low to be a correct representation of the number of foreign-owned assets held in a jurisdiction such as New York, where international transactions are commonplace and numerous. This stands out even further when compared with other states, which do not have the level of international financial and business activity that exists in New York.
Unclaimed Property in New Zealand is governed by the Unclaimed Money Act 1971. Unclaimed Money is transferred to the Crown Treasury or the Inland Revenue Department, or the Public Trust depending on the type of asset.
The Inland Revenue Department (IRD) publishes an Unclaimed Money list of the unclaimed money that it holds on their website. The Crown Treasury publishes a statement of the monies held in the trust account in the New Zealand Gazette at the end of each financial year. The Public Trust can be contacted with enquiries if believed to be holding one’s assets.
Australia has moderately robust Unclaimed Property statutes in place consisting of 9 unclaimed property laws: One federal, six state, and two territories.
Unclaimed property is federally governed under the Banking Act (1959) and most recently amended as per the “Banking Amendment (Unclaimed Money) Act 2013”. Changes include:
• Dormancy periods shortened for most property types from 7 years to 3 years
• Interest now paid on claims retroactive to July 1, 2013
The Australian Securities & Investment Commission (ASIC) is the primary federal custodian of dormant bank accounts, credit union and building society accounts, insurance policies, company shares, lottery prizes, and company deregistration proceeds. Some other asset types are governed by Provinces and Territories each with their own Unclaimed Property division:
• NSW – New South Wales
• QLD – Queensland
• SA – South Australia
• TAS – Tasmania
• VIC – Victoria
• ACT – Australian Capital Territory
• NT – Northern Territory
Japan’s parliament approved a law as of November 2016 which allows dormant funds to be managed by a newly formed nonprofit group with a mission of supporting groups that address social problems. The funds will be held and utilized by this group under government monitoring until rightful owners of the assets come forward.
More than 80 billion yen ($700 million) in bank accounts becomes dormant each year in Japan. Up until now, bank accounts left dormant for ten years were being accepted by the banks as profit if the owner could not be found.
The new law could revitalize Japan’s relatively small nonprofit sector which has trouble raising funds in part because tax laws make it harder than in the U.S. to get deductions for charitable contributions. Using dormant funds to support nonprofits could be a chance for Japan’s donation culture to grow significantly!
AssetMine Global Unclaimed Property Experts are industry leaders in the location and recovery of dormant financial assets worldwide. The AssetMine proprietary database, which is constantly being updated and refreshed, contains over 150 million financial assets worth an estimated $55 billion belonging to individuals, corporations, and governments around the world.
The database contains assets that belong to owners in 245 different countries including small or remote countries such as North Korea, Bhutan, Tuvalu, Nauru, Palau, Pitcairn Islands, etc!
AssetMine works with a global network of partners to help reunite owners with their lost assets. See the AssetMine Global Unclaimed Property Map for details on the number of assets and estimated $ amount of dormant financial assets in each geographic region of the world.
AssetMine Global’s team of Unclaimed Property Experts are the international leaders in the global location and recovery of dormant financial assets. Through our worldwide network and association with experienced unclaimed property partners in the United States, Europe, Canada, the Caribbean, Central and South America, Southeast Asia, Southern Africa, Australia and Oceania, we are able to offer a unique global service to locate and recover dormant financial assets around the world for our clients and connect with foreign owners in order to successfully claim and return their property to them.
In Central America, AssetMine Global partners with Carrillo & Asociados based in Guatemala City. Local and foreign peers, as well as loyal clients recognize the firm’s aptness and efficiency to conform result–oriented work teams to successfully handle complex cases. The firm heavily invests in technology as well as in the specialization of its talented professionals.
Carrillo & Asociados is privileged to be involved in a very high percentage of the largest and most sophisticated cross-border transactions in Central America. It has maintained its solid reputation in asset recovery, M&A and other specialized corporate practice, and has been developing a unique expertise in bankruptcy practice. Carillo & Asociados offers a wide variety of services in this area, including investigations, forensic services, and asset recovery supported by state-of-the-art technology platforms and experienced specialized professionals.
Together, AssetMine and Carrillo & Asociados are working to locate and reunite Central American individuals, business entities, and governmental agencies that are the owners of more than $10 Million of global unclaimed property.
AssetMine Global Unclaimed Property Experts are industry leaders in the location and recovery of dormant financial assets worldwide. One of our mandates is to track down assets for Federal and Provincial Governments.
In addition to assets that are addressed directly to Government ministries, Receivers General, or Tax entities, Governments are often entitled to assets that belonged to companies struck from national corporate registries as well.
Governments around the world register thousands of companies annually. Many of the companies over time become struck from corporate registries due to non-payment of taxes/annual fees or because they have gone bankrupt. In many countries, the law establishes that local governments become the successor or beneficial owner of these companies after they legally cease to exist.
Every year on behalf of Governments, AssetMine successfully recovers millions of dollars worth of assets held in the names of struck companies.
This sounds like an exciting breakthrough – finally opening up the closed world of Swiss banks, right? Not so fast…..
As of January 1, 2015, Swiss banks were required by law to publish lists of dormant bank accounts in their keeping; finally in December of 2015, the online, searchable list was made available, with annual updates planned. This sounds very promising, but isn’t the great breakthrough it appears to be. Read on to find out how consumers have been let down yet again when it comes to discovering their unclaimed financial assets in Switzerland.
- The total value as of December 2016, of all published Swiss accounts is approximately CHF44 million (USD7 million or CAD62 million). This is a paltry sum for a reputed leading global financial jurisdiction and is equivalent to what many large US banks identify annually in the US as dormant accounts.
- The value held in each account published is either unknown, or at least CHF500 (approximately USD500 or CAD700), however, individual values are not provided.
- There is a claim processing fee of CHF100 (about USD100 or CAD140) per account which is one of the highest fees in the world to recover one’s own money
- Published accounts have a minimum of 60 years of dormancy which means that they have not been active for at least 60 years and possibly as long as 100 years or more. It is expected that the majority of the original legal owners of these accounts may be deceased for many years.
- New names are added on an ongoing basis as the accounts reach the 60-year threshold.
If that was not challenging enough, here is where it gets confusing and disappoints the average person who might be legally entitled to lost funds as owner, heir or successor:
- The various web pages on the dormant accounts site look open and transparent but the information is minimal, confusing, and even seems contradictory in some details as compared to the other global websites of dormant accounts from around the world.
- The “SIX Dormant Accounts” website says: “The deadline for submitting requests is one year from the date of publication or, in the case of assets for which the last customer contact was in 1954 or earlier, five years.” This means five years for only the first year of publication (2016, because 1954 was over 60 years ago) and then reduces to just one year from 2017 onwards! This threshold of compliance is almost impossible to meet and is considered by experts as highly problematic for the account owners or heirs.
- Safe deposit boxes are included and the contents will be liquidated on expiry of the publication period, then “transferred to the Swiss federal government if no beneficiary has submitted a justified request within a given delay” – the so-called “given delay” is just one year!
- All customer rights are null and void after the expiry date. This is very unusual as the international standard for owner rights of dormant accounts is usually decades or in many cases in perpetuity.
- Bank accounts with 10 years of no owner contact (the dormancy period per the Banking Ordinance) are recorded in a central database that is accessible only by submitting a search request through the Banking Ombudsman. A form must be completed and documentation uploaded; there is no online self-search option available. Experts agree that this is a process used simply as a barrier and disincentive for the rightful owners to locate their assets.
- Costs are assessed for 10-50 year dormant account searches that are deemed not legitimate but there is no information on what constitutes a “legitimate” search. Family history of immigration would be a perfectly appropriate reason to search, when documents have been lost or destroyed, but it is unclear what the “rules” are and when a cost might be assessed.
Bottom line: this money has been held by Swiss banks out of public view for 60 years or more and when access is finally provided, multiple barriers and unrealistic requirements of compliance and claiming (i.e. within one year) are imposed. And looking for lost accounts that have been dormant for 10-50 years might cost you money after the fact, if it is decided that your request for a search is not legitimate.
Doesn’t seem so exciting after all, does it?
The 60-year list can be found here (scroll down this page until the button for “Publications” is visible and click on it)
It is fairly common practice for foreign corporations and individuals to open bank accounts in other countries for safe keeping of their assets. When foreigners open bank accounts in the US, they should be aware of Unclaimed Property laws in that jurisdiction because they may find their asset deemed Unclaimed and escheated to the US government.
In the US, Unclaimed property laws are advanced and rigid, and they have been in place for over 50 years. The government recognizes Unclaimed Property as a revenue supplement, taking advantage of the opportunity to invest the pool of funds for public gain. For this reason, litigation trends have shown dormancy periods getting shorter and the types of assets included becoming broader so that governments can hold on to more money!
As a result, foreigners who tend to leave their accounts inactive for years often find themselves searching for Unclaimed Property. Since they are foreigners, it is more difficult for them to find and claim their assets due to proximity and communication barriers among others. The best practice for foreigners in this situation is to engage AssetMine Global Unclaimed Property Experts who specialize in the efficient location and recovery of financial assets.
The aggressive escheatment laws in North America, Australia, New Zealand and the UK have transferred billions of dollars of dormant financial assets belonging to people and companies in over 230 countries to the treasury departments of these major western governments.
These western governments not only hold assets belonging to their own citizens, but they also hold billions of dollars belonging to citizens and companies in foreign countries.
It is estimated that US state and federal governments are holding up to $1 billion in assets belonging to Canadian families and companies.
Have you or a relative ever lived or operated a business in North America? Do you frequently transact with North American companies? If so, you should consider the possibility that a North American federal, state or provincial government entity may be holding unclaimed property in your name.
The top 25 foreign nations with owners of international unclaimed property that has been surrendered to western governments are:
*As of January 2016 and excludes owners in the US
AssetMine maintains the largest global database of unclaimed financial assets consisting of approximately 150 million assets valued at $55 billion.