Treasury Department Sued For $16 Billion in Unclaimed Bonds

Cheryl Phillips's picture

Most American families bought at least one bond during WWII and never cashed them in. These "Series E" war bonds continued to be sold by the federal government until 1980. Now more than $16 billion worth of the bonds are unclaimed and state attorney generals are suing the Treasury Department saying that they made no effort to find the people who owned the bonds for many years.

These unclaimed bonds date back to the patriotic fundraising efforts of World War II. Sparked by a huge advertising campaign to buy bonds during WWII, most families bought at least one and held on to them -- the maturity date was 40 years. Many were never cashed in due to being either lost or the owner passing away.

The first Series E Bond was sold to President Franklin D. Roosevelt by Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau on May 1, 1941. These were marketed first as "defense bonds", then later as "war bonds".
During World War II the "drive" technique used during World War I was replaced in part by a continual campaign using a payroll deduction plan. However, eight different drives were conducted during the campaign, in total raising $185.7 million from 85 million Americans, more than in any other country during the war.

It is estimated that there are over $16 million in bonds out there that were never cashed. The Treasury Department never set up an unclaimed money system for these war bonds, so there is a lot of money out there that the federal government got to hold on to.

The state attorneys general suing the Treasury Department want the money given to the states. These states have a legal system in place for finding the owners of unclaimed funds.

The complaint was first filed in Federal court in New Jersey in 2004 with New Jersey and North Carolina as the plaintiffs. Montana, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Missouri later joined the case. All states would benefit if the lawsuit is successful.

The Treasury Department, however, doesn't agree with the lawsuit. Apparently there is a Web site where people cam simply type in their Social Security number to see if they have one. In addition, the Treasury Department wants people to know the money is not laying around in a pot of gold.

Joyce Harris, with the Bureau of Public Debt stated that most of the unclaimed bonds are far more recent than the original World War II era bonds. And overall, 99 percent of people claim their bonds.
And those who don't cash them often choose to do so for tax reasons, or perhaps out of a sense of patriotism.

Arguments for the case will be made later this year. Attorneys for the federal government are arguing the states don't have standing on what they see as a contract issue between the original purchasers and the Treasury Department.

If you have a Series E war bond, you can head to the Treasury Department's Bureau of Public Debt website to find out more about your bond:

Cheryl Phillips
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source: AP, Bureau of Public Debt, Wikipedia


Submitted by James T. Rigsby Jr. (not verified) on
At one time I had a bunch of bonds and they were tore up. I reported it to thepolice and even went to omaha to try to find out more information. It was a time when I was trying to intice investors to my company "Landfill Intercept" I do not know the Fed. ID # but it would have been in the company name or mine with SS098368081. ... if this is the case I may be able to pay off my student loans and clear your books for some major dollars.. please check it out.. Thsnks

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