Receiving Found Money

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

During my morning routine prior to work, I was taking a break when the phone rang. At the other end was a gentleman telling me he had found money for me. From there my day changed.

I sat up and listened. Who wouldn’t? I am getting free legal money not handed out by a loathsome politician acting like it was theirs in the first place. Of course, it was my money, but it was still a find.

The call was from Bernstein, a private wealth management firm. I left there about five years ago when my financial advisor departed unannounced. I promptly moved my accounts elsewhere. It certainly was possible that some earnings/dividends might have been transferred to them after my departure. At any rate, it was nice to hear they had some of my moola.

The young man then proudly told me they were sending me a check for 11 cents. Yes, you read that correctly. They had contacted me because they were holding 11 cents of my money to be deposited into my IRA account. He wanted to know if he should send it to me or to my new investment advisor.

Then I started to harangue him. “You didn’t really contact me about 11 cents, did you? No, you are not going to send me a check for 11 cents. This is amazingly stupid.” Then it hit me – this is our government at work one more time.

You may remember I wrote a column a while back about the Unclaimed Property Program that California runs. There are similar programs in other states. The Controller’s office operates this program which started in 1959. Recently, the controller’s office has stepped up the pursuit of finding these unclaimed assets. They have sent threatening letters to businesses telling them to hand over these unclaimed assets. Starting this year, businesses must answer a question on their California tax returns about whether they have complied with the law. As always, there are penalties for noncompliance. There are always penalties.

People do find assets that they abandoned. No question about it. And the assets are supposedly held into perpetuity. Yet somehow in 2018 California state government had swept $378 million into the general fund and in 2017 $399 million from unclaimed assets. Obviously, the state is not running this program benevolently.

After realizing the evil force behind this call, I stopped berating the young man. I realized his bosses were forcing him to do this because financial firms are heavily regulated and they want to be in compliance with state law even if it is moronic.

Why do I say it is moronic? Because there is obviously no level of asset held or check uncashed that does not need to be turned over by the rules of this program. Bernstein was spending valuable assets to locate people like me, produce a check, and then mail it to me (they sent it FedEx). All for 11 cents.

If the legislators had anything but contempt for their constituents, they would have added a de minimis clause into the statute to handle this matter. Since half of these people are failed lawyers, they know the de minimis means small, minor, or insignificant. That would stop this folly from continuing. Let’s put it at $100 because that is the cost of labor and fees to search out these items and return them to their rightful owners. It is even disrespectful to the people of the state as they most likely are not going to chase after a $47 amount owed to them because of the extensive paperwork to get it back and then the significant labor on the part of the state employees to return the asset.

In the meantime, Bernstein has spent meaningful resources and out-of-pocket costs to get me the check for 11 cents. I then must put a stamp on the envelope costing 60 cents to send to my investment advisor. My investment advisor has to then process the check.

I thought about putting the check in my drawer with the other “meaningful” checks I have received from those class action suits. Then I realized the entire cycle would start all over again.

And our elected officials wonder why they are so reviled.


This article was published by FlashReport and is reproduced with permission from the author.


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