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Delaware, USA

While I was traveling around the world someone in Delaware, or a computer program operated by someone in Delaware, took possession of my Hewlitt Packard stock certificates. The stock was worth about 30,000 dollars at the time.

Then they sold the stock and kept the money. For several years, I have been trying to get it back.

The people who took my stock are employees of the State of Delaware.

At some point, someone in Delaware wrote a law, or a series of laws, which made it legal to take other people's stock, sell it and keep the money and use it until the rightful owners of the stock try to get it back.

Now many of the people who work for the State of Delaware are calling my money "unclaimed property.' They have also called it "abandoned property". Let's just say for now that we have different definitions of what "unclaimed property" and "abandoned property" are.

More Detail

The Letter

Abandoned Property

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More Detail

It seems the employees in Delaware were taking advantage of some Delaware laws dealing with what are called "inactive," "dormant" or "abandoned" accounts. These terms seem to be somewhat arbitrarily defined by lawmakers, bankers etc.

In my case it seems a computer program used by State of Delaware employees generated a letter that was mailed to me at an old address in Australia which I was using for a few years for some of my mail. This letter said I needed to return a form or my stock would be declared "abandoned". I didn't see the letter till a few years later when I went back to Australia and a friend of mine handed me a box of mail he had kept for me. The letter solved the mystery of what had happened to my stock.

I say "mystery" because at one point I called my stock broker to talk to him about my stock and he told me that it had all been sold. He could not give me any details except for saying someone turned in the certificates and sold them on the same day. This was extremely troubling to me since the stock certificates were being safely held for me in a lawyer's office in Australia. When I was back in Australia and I asked to see the certificates, they were still there. So in other words, the people who took my stock and sold it did not even need to have the original stock certificates. The laws in Delaware had evidently been written to give the state employees the power to do that.

So as far as I can tell the State basically forces the companies to turn over stock without the stock owner's permission, and I assume often without their knowledge. For example, there was not a second letter telling me that my stock had, in fact, been sold.

Update, Jan 23, 2018

I found a picture of the letter. It says it came from ComputerShare, but I think the address on the outside of the envelope was the State of Delaware address. I don't think I have a picture of the envelope. I am curious to know who actually printed and sent the letter.

I guess I will need to see what the laws are. Or what they were in 2007. In other words, did the state require Computershare to mail out the letters and then to receive the replies? Or did the state get the customer data from Computershare and then mail the letters using the Computershare logo and address? This seems less likely, but I really seem to remember seeing Delaware on the outside of the envelope before I opened it. But it was in 2011 when I actually first saw the letter, so it was 7 years ago.

Here is the letter

Abandoned Property

When I think about what the term "abandoned property" might mean, I think of a car which someone has left by the side of the road, with no plans to ever go back and get it again.

In that case, let's think about someone who found out who the owner was, and then they contacted them and said:

"My wife and I found your car by the side of the road. We took it to our place so we could keep it safe for you in case you didn't know where it was.

We didn't want someone to smash the windows, strip all the parts out of it, etc. Do you want it back or what do you want us to do with it? We think it is worth some money. We estimate it is worth xx dollars.

We would be happy to act as your agents and help you get some money for it, or help return it to you, whatever you want. Just let us know.

We are here to help you. We have plenty of our own money, by the way, so we don't feel a need to sell your car and use the money from it. We like helping people. But if you don't want it and don't want or need the money, we can sell it for whatever we can get for it and then we will use the money to keep helping other people. Please let us know what you want us to do. Thanks :)

By the way, we will keep it safe for you, in one of our garages, till we hear from you. In fact, we might even fix it up for you and get it running again!

We love doing this for people. It is our hobby now that we are retired."

So that is all I will write about this term "abandoned property" for now. I want to show this to some people and get their feedback.

S. Hein
Jan 11, 2018

Note - this story of the abandoned car was edited and expanded on Jan 23, 2018

Jan 14 - Images
Jan 23 Picture of letter uploaded

- New idea -- what if the people pass a law that says if the state is not actively pursuing the return of our money, then the state has to turn their salaries over to us!?