Any idea how many crores of rupees worth of dividend lying in accounts of companies unclaimed in India? Well over Rs8,000 crores ($1.3 billion) is lying in IEPF accounts. If the amount of dividend is this much, then the value of the shares unclaimed should be to the tune of Rs5 lakh crores ie close to $85 billion!
The corporate companies regularly send dividend to the address given, for seven years even if the amount is unclaimed. The dividend warrant is either returned or received by an unknown person who is not the owner of the shares. There is a Malayali namboothiri, who after dabbling in the stock market for three decades, has taken up the hobby of finding the owners of the shares and helping to get them what is rightfully their's. His name is to be kept secret as he is not interested in publicising it nor does he enjoy unfamiliar people calling him up. Once he finds a chunk of shares unclaimed, he would contact the owner or his nominees and not the other way around.
He takes nothing in return for the service. But he gives an account number of a dilapidated temple now undergoing renovation, so that if the nominee or the descendents who benefited from getting the shares and dividend, so wishes he can contribute a fraction of the amount he received to this temple account. There are people who contribute even 50 per cent of the unexpected boon. Anyway God ordained that they get a huge amount,why not give a little back to God? Nice logic ain't so?
There are billions lying around unclaimed in Bank accounts too. But in the case of shares, if divided is unclaimed, it has to be kept in an escro account for seven years. After that, the money goes to investor education protection fund (IEPF). It's in this fund that Rs8,000 crore is lying unclaimed.
Most of these shares belong to the era before dematisation. Father or Grandfather bought the shares long ago, and the successors never heard of it. Generations have changed just as addresses and locations.
Recently Mr. Namboothiri contacted a son whose father had bought ITC shares, 55,000 in number, long ago. The shares were worth Rs 1.93 crores. The son didn't believe it when Namboothiri called him. It was dismissed as one of those Nigerian frauds. What do you want in return was his next question. Nothing was the reply. His father died suddenly in 1981. The address given was a certain post box number in Bombay. That P.O. box number got cancelled in 1989. His family of wife and two children had shifted to Kerala. Finally when father's death certificate and succession certificate were submitted along with other documents, they got their father's legacy back.
In another case the only address given was 14, Pali Hill, Bandra. When Namboothiri went there, there was a 14 story building in the same number. The owner of the shares was traced to a Parsi who was never married, and who was no more. He had no siblings either. He was still getting 32 lakh dividend from the shares he owned.
Biggest problem in tracing out the successors and returning their shares is wealth dispute within the family, says Namboothiri. Daughters may have been married off. But the money can't divided among sons only. Whoever is nominee is bound to get it.
Out of millions of reliance shares, about 42000 have no owners. Dividend warrants are returned every year. Tell your family about your investments is the advice given by Namboothiri. If not, in the event of sudden death, the family may not know about it, and the investment that could otherwise save the family's future may go unclaimed. Those having demat shares should make sure to connect it to a bank account through electronic transfer.
Last post. How does Namboothiri get wind of the unclaimed windfalls? That too is a secret. The key could be in the ministry of corporate affairs.