Friday, October 17, 2008

Billions of dollars have been lost. Could some of it be yours?

Billions of dollars have been lost. Could some of it be yours?

NAUPA is the association of the state unclaimed property programs, but the databases are located and maintained by each state, not NAUPA. However, most states participate in MissingMoney and we suggest that you search there. You may also link to all state databases individually from this Web site by clicking on Find Property and then choosing each state from the map or drop-down box where you wish to search, then scroll down to see the contact information and Web site link.

Answers to Questions about Unclaimed Property

What is unclaimed property?

Unclaimed property (sometimes referred to as abandoned) refers to accounts in financial institutions and companies that have had no activity generated or contact with the owner for one year or a longer period. Common forms of unclaimed property include savings or checking accounts, stocks, uncashed dividends or payroll checks, refunds, traveler’s checks, trust distributions, unredeemed money orders or gift certificates (in some states), insurance payments or refunds and life insurance policies, annuities, certificates of deposit, customer overpayments, utility security deposits, mineral royalty payments, and contents of safe deposit boxes.

What happens to these accounts that have no activity?

Acting in the best interest of consumers, each state has enacted an unclaimed property statute that protects your funds from reverting back to the company if you have lost contact with them. These laws instruct companies to turn forgotten funds over to a state official who will then make a diligent effort to find you or your heirs. Most states hold lost funds until you are found, returning them to you at no cost or for a nominal handling fee upon filing a claim form and verification of your identity. Since it is impossible to store and maintain all of the contents that are turned over from safe deposit boxes, most states hold periodic auctions and hold the funds obtained from the sale of the items for the owner. Some states also sell stocks and bonds and return the proceeds to the owner in the same manner.

How do states try to return this money?

State unclaimed property programs publish names of owners in newspapers, set up displays at state fairs, malls, and other public events, work with other public officials such as legislators and local librarians, and make searchable databases available via the Internet. Unclaimed property officials welcome opportunities to speak to the media and other groups.
In 2006, over 1.9 million claims were paid to owners totaling at least $1.7 billion.

Unclaimed Funds

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) provides deposit insurance to financial institutions and depositors of these institutions. If a financial institution is closed, by a regulatory agency, the FDIC is appointed as Receiver and is responsible for the payment of insured deposits and the liquidation of the remaining assets. If you did not claim your funds previously you now have another opportunity to do so. Review the "How to claim your funds" section below and complete the attached form.

Why does FDIC have unclaimed funds?

When a failed financial institution (bank or savings and loan) with federal deposit insurance is liquidated, the FDIC resolution division is responsible for paying:

Unclaimed insured deposits up to $100,000
Dividends declared on excess deposits over the $100,000 insured amount
Dividends declared on general creditor claims
Funds distributed to the shareholders of the failed institution
In many instances these funds remain unclaimed because:

The insured deposit is never claimed from the assuming financial institution
The dividend check on the excess deposit amount is not cashed
The dividend check on the general creditor claim is not cashed
The check to the shareholder is not cashed
A valid address is not on file and the dividend check has been returned to the FDIC
What funds are available?

The database for this site contains unclaimed funds for either unclaimed insured deposits (for receiverships established between January 1, 1989 and June 28, 1993), or for dividend checks issued which were undeliverable or never cashed. As receiverships are terminated, under Federal Law 12 U.S.C., 1822(e); see also Pub. L. No. 103-44, section 2(b) unclaimed insured funds can no longer be claimed and data will be removed from the website. Dividends, however, for uninsured portions of a deposit might be claimed post termination if a dividend check was returned for a bad address.

How to search for funds:

Before doing searches on unclaimed funds, please read the FDIC's general disclaimer.

Search options are first name only, last name only, first and last name, business name, or official item check number. To narrow your search you may enter additional information; i.e., Failed Institution Name, OR City, OR State. After you have entered your search criteria, click on submit. The results for name searches will return with all matches to your character string. Then you may review the results to determine if the FDIC holds funds for you. If you find your name and believe FDIC may be holding your funds, please follow the instructions in the "How to claim your funds" section below.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Crisis Opportunities - Interim Management

Such dire climates we are in right now will show what type of manager will float and who will drown. Many will, and this is therefore the right period for interim management.

An interim manager may apply unpopular measures that are not allowed under normal circumstances. Interim managers often use a "harder" approach to the organization, whereas normal - nice weather managers - apply a softer approach.

This is normal because under normal circumstances you should care for your popularity as a manager. In a negative economic climate there is often less space for a white gloves approach. The focus in on controlling costs and employees are portrayed as such (costs) whether in prosperity they are "our most valuable assets."

Interim management is exactly that, interim. You do not want this approach to rule for ever. But a good excuse to take unpopular measures is better done by others. Although credibility is at stake. Even better would it be to be able to fall back on a risk-fund; every organization should have a plan for such circumstances. But reserving funds is against the idea of optimizing shareholder value.

I have met one interim manager once, who used the complete opposite of this approach. He had a very social attitude and he tried to change the organization from within, having faith in the potential of the employees. Many were impressed by his focus on details and his communication skills. Yet his change path took too long and made the shareholders nervous. Or not even that, they didn't care whether the organization could change. They had already decided to diminish the head-count.

That is one of the problems with interim managers, they are often hired to do a job, and a possible potential of employees is not the first focus. The interim manager has a short term focus and is guided by a simple execution policy of higher management or stakeholder.

Is the Wall Street Bailout Affecting Credit Card Applications?

Americans have never been so in sync with the American economy. In fact, as a nation, we have never been as educated as to how our economy works, our place in the global economy and how changes to within our country's lending institutions affect us, on a personal level. As this isn't an economics lesson, I won't bore or condescend you with the same information that has been drilled into your head for the past week and a half. What I'd for you to take from this article is the real time, real life impact that a fiscal meltdown will have on you and your personal, day to day finances. At the heart of your potential fiscal woes may very well be the inability to use your credit cards or obtain new ones or even extend credit. As things trickle down, banks are coming up with less and less money to offer out for credit; that immediately translates to less available credit card offers. While it's not clear that you'll get less of them in the mail this week, the approval process is a door that may be swinging one way for a while. In terms of risk, lenders are extremely afraid of taking new risk on to add to their current risk portfolios. In fact, there has even been talk of acquiring banks eliminating the available credit for existing customers. As this is just rumor at this point, this is a very real possibility that banks can enact. It's simple, if you multiplied the number of customers that an acquiring bank has by the available balances on their credit cards, you will have one hell of a risk for that lending institution. With a slow economy, high unemployment and winter as well as the holidays coming, the possibility that banks will incur more bad debt without even welcoming any new debt, is a reality.

The chances that we'll ever see a creditless society are seemingly non-existent; however, as credit tightens up, the available credit that individuals have at their disposal becomes less. This credit becomes redistributed as credit Americans begin to use credit for everyday needs and even to pay bills, versus convenience and luxury items. Merchants, especially ecommerce merchants will suffer in a slow market like this, as items purchased online tend to be more a want and less need based. To combat this type of thing from happening, the ecommerce and more specifically credit card processing industry has acted as they have acted before when there has been a fear of increases in government regulations or a change in policy, as well as an ever changing economic landscape. Lately, moves offshore to international lenders have proven to be successful, profitable and secure for merchants. Those are three words that came if only at a steep price to those same merchants by doing business domestically. For processors and merchant service providers, the ability to source the cheapest, safest and simplest transaction processing for their clients is an entire industry in itself. As we move forward, as our economy transitions into whatever it will be and as new challenges arise, for business owners and credit card holders, the ability to process monetary transactions electronically is an capability that we cannot afford to lose.

Last Bank Standing - The Wall Street Mega-Crash

Dateline Washington, October 19th (get it?) 2010: the Peoples Bank & Trust of America has now established itself as the only bank of any kind in the USA, totally owned and managed by the US House of Representatives.

A 2/3 majority must now approve all investment banking transactions; your district representative's staff reviews individual mortgage applications; and all 401(k), IRA, and remaining employer pension assets have been rolled into the Social Security Slush Fund.

Only federal and state elected officials are exempt from the 45% all purpose Income Tax. The estimated time to bring new companies public is 4.5 years; all individual account dividends and interest are paid directly into your IRS "grabber" account; CEO's salaries are limited to 50% of the amount paid to a first year congressman, and any government budget shortfalls are withdrawn from corporate earnings before any corporate obligations can be dealt with.

All employees receive the federal mandated minimum wage, except senior executives who are limited as mentioned above. Scary? This is a scenario that could play out if Congress (or the SEC) does not come to the rescue of the credit markets. You missed your opportunity to help stop it, but chances are a fix is on its way.

How many more businesses, jobs, and hopes will be killed by this irresponsible Congress? When will the average blogger realize that when a corporation fails, we all suffer? One would think that the informed and enlightened could take time out from their texting for a little research and education. Instead, they show their power by influencing public opinion numbers and the marshmallow politicians who worship them.

As economist Irwin Kellner and I have pointed out, this is no bailout and we are not nearly approaching a recession. Kellner's September 28th Market Watch article points out ten major differences between now and then: (1) In 1929, the DJIA plunged 40% in two months vs. around 30% in about a year.

(2) In 1933, the jobless rate was 33% vs. 6% today. (3) The GDP shrank 25% then, but has increased 6% now. (4) Consumer prices actually fell 30% then but haven't ever since. (5) Home prices dropped 30% then, but only 16% from the recent bubbly highs.

(6) 40% of all mortgages were in default then vs. only 4% now. (7) 9,000 banks failed in the 1930s compared with just 25 or so (bigger and broader based ones) recently. (8) The Federal Reserve reduced the money supply, (9) raised interest rates, and (10) raised taxes on foreign imports.

Further, Kellner points out, we now have automatic stabilizers, deposit insurances, and market trading restrictions as protective elements. Today's Congress however, has never been good at connecting dots, has accomplished nothing under an unpopular president, and is ignoring its role as the primary creative force in today's problems.

This transfusion is needed because: bad laws have obscured the values on financial institution balance sheets, and have created a clot in the credit arteries that keep the economy alive.

Educate yourselves on the Accounting Rule's that require institutions to book paying assets at pennies on the dollar. Find out why institutions are afraid to loan money to one another--- over night, at any rate of interest--- strangling the credit markets.

Doing nothing is killing jobs, killing companies, and deferring retirements for those who were counting on 401(k) and IRA dollars to provide them with income. Congress, of course has an old-fashioned pension plan, so it is unaffected by such financial realities.

Investigate the relaxation of lending standards that Congress orchestrated over the past few administrations, before blaming the companies that then extended credit to many speculators and other buyers who falsified application papers. Learn how the SEC was prohibited from regulating the CDOs and other multiple-leveraged credit market speculations. There are as many culprits outside the corporate executive suite as in it.

Congress is bursting with pride over bringing some of the Rich and Famous to their knees, and capping some of their obscene compensation arrangements at still shareholder pillaging levels. I've spoken often about how these salaries need to be controlled. But the multi-level-mortgage-marketing schemes that Congress encouraged must be unbundled somehow, and a buy out is the proper vehicle.

Congress has punished the entire world with its attack on Wall Street, and both parties are to blame. Representatives of the states listed below voted "no" to the credit transfusion, causing death and destruction that, in many instances, cannot be recouped. We have to replace them with better decision makers, representatives who can think in economic terms when they have to.

The number and letter code after the state designation indicates the number of representatives and their party: AL-1R, AK-1R, AZ-4D4R, CA-15D9R, CO-2D2R, CT-1D, FL-1D13R, GA-4D7R, HI-2D, ID-1R, IL-4D5R, IN-3D3R, IA-1D2R, KS-1D2R, KY-2D2R, LA-2D3R, ME-1D, MD-2D1R, MA-3D, MI-3D6R, MN-2D2R, MS-3D, MO-2D3R, MT-1R, NE-3R, NV-1D1R, NH-2D, NJ-3D4R, NM-1D1R, NY-3D1R, NC-3D5R, OH-3D7R, OK-3R, OR-3D, PA-3D7R, SC-1R, SD-1D, TN-1D4R, TX-8D14R, UT-1D1R, VT-1D, VA-1D5R, WA-1D3R, WV-1R, WI-1D2R (Names withheld, but available from the author.)

On Friday evening, candidates Obama and McCain gave their support to the Capital infusion, but neither bothered to explain why--- a huge audience was ready to soak up the information. Over the weekend, both attended meetings to support the plan and to generate support from their respective parties.

Is there enough time left to find a hero?