On January 26, 2017, the Delaware House approved comprehensive unclaimed property rewrite legislation (SB 13) that was passed by the Senate (with committee amendments) last week. Our summary of many of the key provisions of the bill (as introduced) is available here. Because the amended version of SB 13 has now passed both chambers of the General Assembly, it will be sent to Governor John C. Carney Jr. for signature, and will become effective immediately upon his approval. Rumors are circling that follow-up legislation is likely, and may be considered this session.
The Senate Amendment adopted by both chambers made relatively minor changes to the introduced legislation.
First, it struck all references to and the definition of “net card value” that was used to determine the amount presumed abandoned in the stored-value and gift card context. As passed today, “the amount unclaimed is amount representing the maximum cost to the issuer of the merchandise, goods, or services represented by the card.” The 5 year dormancy period tied to “the later of the date of purchase, the addition of funds to the stored-value card or gift card, a verification of the balance by the owner, or the last indication of interest in the property” was not changed.
Second, the amendment struck all references to and the definition of “virtual currency.” This is significant because the introduced version of the legislation expressly included an expansive definition of virtual currency in the definition of “property” subject to escheat. While the inclusion of virtual currency in the definition of “property” is consistent with the approach taken in the Revised Uniform Unclaimed Property Act (RUUPA) adopted by the Uniform Law Commission (ULC) last year, the introduced Delaware legislation definition of “virtual currency” omitted two exclusions (the software or protocols governing the transfer of the digital representation of value and game-related digital content) contained in the RUUPA definition that were included after careful consideration to limit the potentially vast scope. By removing virtual currency entirely from the Delaware legislation, it will not be presumed to be property subject to escheat.
Third, the Senate Amendment changes the timeframe that holders currently under audit have to submit a written application to participate in the Secretary of State VDA program or expedited audit process. As introduced, the Delaware legislation would have required these decisions to be made by July 1, 2017. As amended (and passed), this period would be extended to within 60 days from the date of the adoption of regulations pertaining to the methods of estimation used.
With the passage of this legislation, there is a lot for holders to consider. In particular, holders with an on-going audit will need to make the decision whether to: (1) make an election to join the Secretary of State VDA program; (2) expedite the audit; or (3) continue as-is. With new penalties and mandatory interest enacted as part of the legislation, securing waiver of penalties and interest should be a top priority and could result in significant savings. This must be balanced with the holder’s ability to timely comply with document request (required by expedited audit) and desire to appeal the final determination (prohibited for VDA program participants). Holders under audit should begin these important discussions now, as Delaware is expected to act quickly in preparing the estimation regulations that are tied to the holders decision deadline.