Unclaimed Stocks, Bonds, Dividends & Interest Payments – Missing Mutual Fund Shares
The Securities & Exchange Commission estimates 3 million stockholders are entitled to unclaimed stock worth $10 billion. Additionally, $500 million in lost stock dividends are not cashed each year. A wave of corporate mergers, acquisitions, restructurings, share spin-offs and name changes has dramatically increased the amount of lost stock and unclaimed dividends.
► If you’re a stockholder in a company that merged or was acquired, you may be entitled to collect spin-off shares, cash distributions or dividends from the restructuring, even if shares were sold long ago. Former owners of AT&T, for example, may be eligible to receive shares in nearly a dozen other companies.
Perhaps the largest source of unclaimed stock over the last several years has resulted from the recent demutualizations of major life insurance companies, including Metropolitan Life (MetLife), Prudential, John Hancock and others. Demutualization is the process of converting a mutual life insurance company, which is owned by its policyholders, into a publicly traded stock company owned by shareholders.
► Literally millions of policyholders and heirs aren’t aware they are entitled to claim billions in demutualization compensation. When John Hancock demutualized, it did not have current addressed for 400,000 policyholders. Prudential could not find 1.2 million policyholders entitled to receive compensation, and Metropolitan Life has 60 million shares of stock – worth some $3 billion – that have gone unclaimed. Claims should be initiated as soon as possible, as unclaimed stock may be sold by government custodians.
► Did a deceased relative invest in stocks, bonds or mutual funds? Are dividend checks and bond interest payments missing? Were stock certificates lost or destroyed? In most cases they can be replaced. Even if a stock or mutual fund is no longer listed on an exchange do not assume it’s worthless – shares may still have significant value, even if a company filed for bankruptcy.