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Continued: Minnesota Department of Commerce holding $606M in unclaimed assets

  • Article by: JENNIFER BJORHUS , Star Tribune
  • Last update: September 2, 2014 - 2:42 PM

Topping the list is a company called Hark & Co, somehow separated from $763,671 related to shares in St. Jude Medical.

The ZIP code with the most people and businesses due money (1,343) as well as the largest sum of lost funds ($7 million), is 55402 in downtown Minneapolis. In terms of the number people and companies with unclaimed assets, the next is 55104, which includes St. Paul’s Hamline-Midway area, and 55416, covering parts of St. Louis Park, Edina and Golden Valley.

Prudential, MetLife, U.S. Bancorp, Wells Fargo & Co. and the state’s own Revenue Department are among the entities sending in the most assets.

There are many reasons property goes unclaimed, experts say. Families are unaware of the assets of deceased loved ones. People move. Life insurance companies fail to find the beneficiaries of deceased policyholders. Shareholders don’t cash dividend checks or respond to proxy notices, and then find their stock has been deemed unclaimed and transferred to the state where it will be liquidated.

After her mother died in 2010, LaDonn Jonsen lost a $17,000 check the bank sent her from one of her mother’s CDs. The bank ultimately sent the money to Commerce. When Jonsen found herself on MissingMoney.com, Commerce asked for the original check, she said. It wasn’t easy because she had retired and moved from Minneapolis to Decorah, Iowa. But she chanced upon it one day while digging in a banker’s box in her office.

“I was like, oh my! I can’t believe it!” Jonsen said. “Part of it was my own fault; if I’d had a better filing system, this all wouldn’t have happened. I was absolutely certain I had deposited it.”

A Twin Cities couple owed a large sum are suffering from mental illness and Alzheimer’s, making it difficult for their only child to retrieve the money from Commerce.

Last year, after the Legislature pressed it to step up its notification efforts, Commerce took out occasional newspaper ads that urge readers to check MissingMoney.com or call 651-539-1545. House Commerce Committee chair Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights, said the number of Minnesotans who had money returned in fiscal 2013-14 more than doubled from fiscal 2011-12.

“This being said, we are still trying to find cost-effective ways to do this even better,” Atkins said. “Not everybody gets their information from a computer screen, including my mom.”

Apparently Prince, Jesson, Klobuchar and Sid Hartman don’t, either.

A Prince associate said he wasn’t aware Prince was in the MissingMoney.com database. Klobuchar didn’t know she was, either. Human Services Commissioner Jesson, who is due money from the Bank of New York and Bethlehem Steel Corp., said she was “pleasantly surprised” when told she was listed on MissingMoney.com.

“I’ve lived at the same address for 26 years,” Jesson said.

Hartman said he was “shocked” and wanted to know who to call.

A typical measure of success is comparing the money returned to people in a year to the total the state took in for the year. Commerce’s return rate has risen from 26 percent in fiscal 2005 to 43 percent in fiscal 2014. Johnson said the national average is about 31 percent.

Yet the returns remain a small and shrinking fraction of the growing $606 million balance. Commerce estimates that about half the recent growth has come from the life insurance companies it has targeted. A series of investigations has resulted in three settlements with MetLife, Prudential and Transamerica. Commerce has also hired four new auditors to go through company books to hunt missing money.

 

Jennifer Bjorhus • 612-673-4683



 

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  • Claim your money

    Claim your money

    To see if you have unclaimed property, check the database at www.startribune.com/missingmoney, or go to www.MissingMoney.com. For more information contact Commerce at 651-539-1545.

    Tips to avoid “losing” property

    • Cash all refund, rebate and dividend checks.

    • Respond to shareholder service requests for action.

    • Keep a list of your accounts and include it in your will.

    • Notify companies when you move.

    • Set up automatic withdrawal for safe-deposit box rental fees.

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