Journal Staff

Philip J. Flores, president and CEO of BankPacific, said large amounts from inactive bank accounts
Journal file photo

As each year comes closer to a close, an annual list of inactive bank accounts holders on island is published in daily newspapers. Every November and December, those papers publish the names and addresses of the holders.

The government of Guam’s communication team previously told the Journal that, on average, more than $200,000 per year is drained from the pockets of Guam residents due to lack of attention and inactive bank accounts.

For Coast360, the remitted funds generally remain low. “Typically, the amounts are less than $1,000,” said Monica L. Pido, chief operations officer for the bank. “Large balance accounts are usually claimed after publication.”

Bank of Guam experiences typically small figures in inactive accounts. 

“The amount varies widely from $25 to a few thousand dollars,” said Joaquin P.L.G. Cook, president and CEO of Bank of Guam.

In total, according to Cook, this year’s numbers are less for BOG than previously. As of Nov. 30, BOG had a total of 82 inactive bank accounts, totaling $92,000. Last year $172,000 from 56 accounts was escheated, and the year before that was $100,000 from 34 accounts.

According to Journal files, most banks on the island follow the procedure for the transfer of inactive accounts described in the Guam Code Annotated Section 106119, Article 1, Chapter 106 of Title 11.

It states that, for savings accounts, if there has been no activity of deposits or withdrawals and there has been no contact by the savings account holder for 10 years, the bank shall transfer the balance of the account to the Treasurer of Guam. The same goes for checking accounts, but with a shortened two-year limit of inactivity, as opposed to 10.

“The process of escheatment is required by law,” Cook said. “Based on the amounts we ultimately end up remitting, it does not affect our balance sheet by much; It definitely does not “free up assets.” This is also done in other regions where we have branches as well, but the laws differ slightly.”

Philip J. Flores, president and CEO of BankPacific, said the majority of the time the accounts posted in the papers are held by groups.

“Quite a few of them are organizations or societies that were started years ago,” he said, “and the people who put them together are no longer on island.”

Flores also recalled one instance when an account holder didn’t remember she had an account.

“There are times when people forget they have money in those accounts too. I remember one time, this lady in Agat had $75,000, and she completely forgot about it,” he said.

There is a required notification process for banks prior to the transfer — they must send a written notice to the depositor’s last known address, if the account holds $25 or more, as well as publish a notice of inactive accounts in a newspaper of general circulation on both Nov. 1 and Dec. 1 entitled “Notice of Inactive Bank Accounts” containing the names, addresses and statement of funds to be transferred for all eligible inactive accounts.

“Very seldom do we have those large amounts escheated,” Flores said.

“We have experienced a continual decline in the number of accounts escheated to the government. We attribute this to our regular communications and education with our members in managing their accounts with us,” Pido said.

Flores said while BankPacific tries to notify account holders before their accounts become dormant; once an account is dormant, and posted in the papers, the holders can come in and reactivate accounts before the money goes to the government.

“One thing about dormant accounts and reactivating them — when they’re not active, they’re more susceptible to fraud,” he said. “Someone pretends to be their brother or father and say it’s their account. We need identification and all of the things you need when you open a new account.”

All is not lost if funds have gone to the government.

The law does state,“The Treasurer of Guam shall maintain accurate records of such sums in accordance with regulations adopted by the board. Such sums may be claimed at any time by the rightful owner or owners of such sums upon furnishing proof satisfactory to the Treasurer of Guam of their right to such funds.” mbj