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US Supreme Court Consolidates Money Transfer Cases Against Delaware

SALT LAKE CITY October 6, 2016 — In a consolidation of two cases, the United States Supreme Court has agreed to take up a case involving a dispute between 23 states and Delaware over the disposition of abandoned monetary instruments (i.e. third-party bank checks, money orders, etc). The 23 states bringing the dispute before the Supreme Court, which includes Utah, claim that Delaware contravened the federal Disposition of Abandoned Money Orders and Traveler’s Checks Act by instructing MoneyGram to send at least $200M in abandoned instruments to Delaware instead of the states in which they were purchased.


Case Background

The dispute between the 21 plaintiff states and Delaware is about which state is entitled to abandoned and unclaimed “official checks” sold by MoneyGram, a money transfer services company that operates in all 50 states and internationally. With Delaware’s acquiescence, guidance and direction, millions of dollars in unclaimed “official checks” have been wrongfully escheated, or turned over, to the State of Delaware. This error was based on the mistaken belief that such abandoned and unclaimed property is supposed to be turned over to the issuing company’s state of incorporation, in this case, Delaware. Federal law and the law in each of the plaintiff states is clear that such abandoned and unclaimed property should be turned over to the state where the property was purchased.

The coalition asked the Supreme Court to declare that the plaintiff states, and not Delaware, are entitled to the hundreds of millions of dollars improperly turned over to Delaware and to all future similar abandoned and unclaimed property. The coalition is also asking the Court to order the appropriate repayment to plaintiff states by Delaware.

“This case is not about MoneyGram. I believe MoneyGram made payments in good faith based on what Delaware instructed it to do. This is a disagreement between states about the proper distribution of abandoned property,” said Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes. “Tens of millions of dollars have been inappropriately turned over to the State of Delaware instead of to states where the property was purchased. We believe, and a recent audit substantiates, that these dollars should be repaid by Delaware to Utah and other states joining this action.”

On Feb. 10, 2015, an independent auditor completed an examination of abandoned “official checks” from MoneyGram in a select group of states and concluded that nearly $200 million was owed to those states.

In agreeing to hear the case, the Supreme Court consolidated it with a similar dispute brought by Pennsylvania and Wisconsin against Delaware. In addition to Utah, the lawsuit is joined by Arkansas, Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia.

Assistant Solicitor General John Neilsen Named 2016 NAAG Supreme Court Fellow

SALT LAKE CITY May 11, 2016 –The Office of the Attorney General announced today that Assistant Solicitor General John Neilsen has been named as one of six Supreme Court Fellows with the National Association of Attorney Generals for the October 2016 Term of the Supreme Court of the United States.

“Congratulations to John Nielsen for being named a Supreme Court Fellow for the 2016 Supreme Court Term with the National Association of Attorneys General,” said Attorney General Sean Reyes. “As an Assistant Solicitor General in the Office of the Attorney General of Utah since 2011, John has been a great asset to our criminal appeals division, where he has served with distinction. We are confident that his experience as a Supreme Court Fellow will make him a greater asset to our office and the citizens of Utah.”

“We applaud John’s selection as a NAAG Supreme Court Fellow,” said Utah Solicitor General Tyler Green. “The expertise he has developed while representing the people of Utah for many years has prepared him well to represent our State in this uniquely intensive national program focused on furthering the States’ interests before the U.S. Supreme Court.”

“I’m excited for the chance to aid States in cases before the Supreme Court and learn from eminent practitioners from around the country,” said Neilsen.  “The experience will make me a better advocate for the people of Utah in defending criminal convictions and promoting the orderly development of the law.”

The Supreme Court Fellows Program, begun in 1986, is designed to give state lawyers an opportunity to obtain direct and intensive hands-on exposure to Supreme Court practice. The Fellowship is an opportunity for state appellate attorneys to obtain direct experience of Supreme Court advocacy by observing argument at the Court, participating in the Project’s moot courts, and writing a state amicus brief.

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