Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Does your company conduct more in-depth research than a broker or brokerage firm would normally do?
A: Yes. A broker's main field of expertise lies in buying and selling securities on the current stock exchanges. We have thus found that the "research" done by a stock broker is often limited to trying to match the name appearing on your certificate with the one of a company trading on today's markets.
If the name or original trading symbol is no longer listed, the broker may assume that your old investment is valueless simply because it cannot be sold as is. As a matter of fact, brokerage houses such as Charles Schwab and Merrill Lynch are increasingly seeking our assistance when it comes to "delisted" securities because they don't have the time and/or the resources to do in-depth research.
Q: A broker did a search on my stock certificates and I was told that they were all worthless because their charters had been cancelled. Is there any reason to get a second opinion?
A: Yes. We base our final analysis of the potential worth of an old investment on three to five different sources of information. One of those, of course, consists of government records relating to the status of corporate charters. Since charters are automatically cancelled when corporate fees are not paid for three or more years, we consider these records as an indication that something happened to your company. This also partly explains why the company itself is no longer trading on the regular exchanges.
However, state governments do not record such valuable information as fund availability once a company is liquidated, shareholder compensation following a merger or buy-out, reincorporation in a different state, or amalgamation with an out-of-state corporation. We thus believe that a second opinion based on an in-depth investigation can turn a dead issue into an unsuspected recovery.
Q: What are the chances of recovering money from my old certificate?
A: Researching the potential value of old stocks and bonds should be considered as a gamble with favorable odds. More than 30 years of experience has taught us that one out of every 5 delisted investments we investigate show potential monetary benefits. To date, we have helped our clients recover close to six million U.S. dollars from certificates they thought were valueless!
Q: If you find that one of my stocks has value, may I proceed with the recovery myself?
A: Yes. If we establish through our research process that your securities have recoverable value, we will contact you by phone and let you know the approximate amount we believe is available. At that point, you can hire us to take control of the recovery negotiations or you can try to obtain the funds on your own.
There is no up-front cost for us to get involved. We will absorb all the expenses incurred and pay ourselves back by keeping a 20% retainer fee from the final amount recovered. If you decide to proceed by yourself, we will send you a summary report. You will then have a six month grace period during which time you can use our recovery services without having to pay a new research fee.
Q: Can a stock be researched even though I have lost the original certificate?
A: Yes, under specific conditions. We can research the current worth of your "lost" certificate as long as we know the exact name of the company, the approximate time of purchase and the name of the original shareholder. Whenever possible, the state of incorporation and number of shares involved could also prove useful to establish if your company has survived and if the shares in question are outstanding. Providing your certificate was registered to a specific name as opposed to a brokerage account, we may then be able to revive the investment by declaring the old shares lost and having new ones reissued.
Q: Can I claim payment on a certificate if it is not issued in my name?
A: Yes, under specific conditions. There are three potential scenarios when proceeding with a recovery where the owner of the certificate is not the actual shareholder, providing the investment itself has survived. The document you found is part of an estate, it is issued to a brokerage firm and endorsed on the back or it is issued to a total stranger.
If the certificate is issued in the name of a deceased relative and you know or are the executor of the estate, you can file a claim using a death certificate and letter testamentary. In the case of an investment issued in "street name," meaning it is issued to a brokerage firm and properly endorsed on the back, the certificate you hold is payable to the bearer (just like a check which has been signed over). This would also apply when the certificate is issued to and endorsed by an individual. Finally, if the securities belonged to a total stranger and were never endorsed, we can assist you by drafting an affidavit explaining why your claim should be considered. This legal letter, once signed under oath, shifts the payment liability from the company to you and has allowed us to negotiate a settlement with a 50% success rate.
No matter which scenario applies to you, just remember that the company and its transfer agent ask for these justifications to avoid paying twice on the same investment. The clearer the claim, the easier it is to recover the funds.
Q: Why do I need to send copy of my certificate?
A: We always prefer to receive a clean copy of the certificate you want us to trace because each document displays valuable information. We can thus begin our investigation knowing the exact spelling of your company's name, its state and date of incorporation, the names of its president and secretary, the actual date of purchase, the certificate number and the total number of shares involved. Being able to pinpoint your investment in place and time ensures that we are tracking the right company. The copy itself is also essential when it comes to appraising your certificate as a collectible item.
Q: If you establish that my certificate no longer has any value, do you refund the initial research fee?
A: No. When paying our research fee, you are using our services to establish the current value of your shares. Our "Money-Back Guarantee" specifies that, if we cannot trace your company and, therefore, are unable to assess the actual worth of your holdings, we will refund the research fee in full. Unfortunately, we cannot guarantee that every certificate we investigate has recoverable value.
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