Don’t Abandon the Abandoned Property Law. You May Lose Interest.
Busybodies, like whistleblowers, can sue to collect money fraudulently withheld from New York State, and share in the recovery if they win. In 2015, a data analytics company sued J.P. Morgan for allegedly fraudulently delaying the date when it was required to pay abandoned property to the Comptroller, and not paying interest during the delay. In August 2019, the court held that interest was required to be paid.
The plaintiff claimed that J.P. Morgan inaccurately described the date of its last contact with a depositor, thereby delaying the commencement of the measurement period to determine abandonment, and then compounded the problem by waiting extra years to pay the deposit to the Comptroller. The plaintiffs claimed that J.P. Morgan reported its last contact with one owner six years after the owner died and in another case didn’t pay money over to the Comptroller until three years after the end of the dormancy waiting period. The plaintiff argued that 10% per annum interest was payable on all abandoned property that was turned over late, and the court agreed.
Today’s Takeaway? Make sure that you employ rigorous procedures to track and log the most recent customer contact for Abandoned Property Law purposes. Know the rules and if the property is deemed abandoned, pay it to the Comptroller on time. No ifs, ands or buts. If the depositor is a well-known customer who ignores your warning letters and you don’t want to pay a deposit to the Comptroller, have a bank employee pick up the telephone and document the depositor’s knowledge of the existence of the account. Otherwise, you are liable to have a data analytics company run the Comptroller’s public reports through their computer model and find yourself in the same position as J.P. Morgan.