Justia Summary

The Disputed Instruments, prepaid financial instruments used to transfer funds to a named payee, are sold by banks on behalf of MoneyGram and others. When these instruments are not presented for payment within a certain period of time, they are deemed abandoned. MoneyGram applies the common-law escheatment practices outlined in 1965 by the Supreme Court: The proceeds of abandoned financial products should escheat to the state of the creditor’s last known address, or where such records are not kept, to the state in which the company holding the funds is incorporated. MoneyGram does not keep records of creditor addresses but transmits the abandoned proceeds to its state of incorporation. States invoked the Supreme Court’s original jurisdiction to determine whether the abandoned proceeds of the Disputed Instruments are governed by the Disposition of Abandoned Money Orders and Traveler’s Checks Act (FDA), which provides that a money order or “similar written instrument (other than a third-party bank check)” should generally escheat to the state in which the instrument was purchased, 12 U.S.C. 2503.

The Court held that the Disputed Instruments are sufficiently similar to money orders to fall within the FDA’s “similar written instrument” category. Being prepaid makes them likely to escheat. The FDA was passed to abrogate common law because, for instruments like money orders, the entities selling such products often did not keep records of creditor addresses, resulting in a “windfall” to the state of incorporation. Bank liability is not a trigger for exclusion, given that banks can be liable on money orders, which are expressly covered. Whatever the intended meaning of “third-party bank check,” it cannot be read broadly to exclude prepaid instruments that escheat inequitably due to the business practices of the company holding the funds.