Here we are again, awaiting the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in another unclaimed property case. It has been a few decades since we were last here awaiting the Court’s decision in Delaware vs New York, the last in the trilogy of landmark cases that re-affirmed the rules governing which state has jurisdiction/priority over unclaimed funds. [Insert citation below]. Still, the tension now is just as palpable as it was then. The parties are the same – – Delaware and other states. In these consolidated cases, currently before the Court, referred to as the MoneyGram case, we have Delaware vs. Pennsylvania and other states versus Delaware.
This time, the central issue is about official checks issued by MoneyGram, but the basic question is the same – which state has priority over these funds? The ultimate forum is yet again the U.S. Supreme Court and the key person making a recommendation to the Court – – you guessed it – – is once again a Special Master appointed by the Court.
In 2021, the Special Master issued an interim report, which in essence recommended full victory to the states. In response, Delaware filed objections asking the Court to reject the Special Master’s recommendations to which the Court agreed to hear oral argument on the objections raised by Delaware.
The oral argument was heard by the full court on October 3, 2022, and appears to have swayed the Special Master, who on October 26, 2022, issued an order revising his earlier recommendations to the Court. The revised order is poised to provide some relief to Delaware for property identified as “tellers checks.” Funds associated with these checks, for which no owner information is maintained by MoneyGram, is determined to be reportable to Delaware. The remaining two property types identified as “agent checks” or “agent money orders,” these will fall within the jurisdiction and benefit of the states where the checks were procured.
In Delaware vs. New York, just a few decades ago, we saw the Court rejecting the recommendations of the Special Master and re-affirming its existing precedent in two earlier decisions. So, the key question that remains is – – What will the high Court do? Will it accept the Special Master’s revised recommendation granting some relief to Delaware, reject Delaware’s arguments outright granting relief and jurisdiction to the other states, or carve its own path in its ultimate decision? Stay tuned as we continue to watch for the final resolution of this important case.
For more information on this case and any other unclaimed property, issues contact Sonia Walwyn at [email protected].
Delaware v. New York, 507 U.S. 490 (1993) citation for above.