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Step 2. Where's my stock? (And what happened to my options?)
This is Step 2 of our Stock Recovery process. There is a link to the next step at the end of this page. If you haven't gone through the previous steps, start here: Employee Stock
(Updated Jul 24, 2020.) Questions or comments to: email@example.com
Stock plan administrators and stock brokerages vary (sometimes dramatically) in how they make gain/loss and cost basis calculations and in what they report to the IRS. Each of the 236 NYSE member firms (and others around the world) is expected to read SEC filings, analyze corporate actions, and update the records they maintain on behalf of their clients.
Finding your stock
If you received a "Potential Private Retirement Benefit Information" notice from Social Security, it is usually based on outdated information about a retirement plan or an employee stock fund. Note the "Year Reported" date on the form included in the body of the notice. Here's how to decode it: https://www.hpalumni.org/PotentialBenefitLetter
No one but you really cares about your employment-related stock. Employers do not keep track of your stock and options -- they pay specialized companies to track and administer them, which change from time to time. (HP-related companies have used at least 13 U.S. stock administrators.) As with any property you own, you are expected to keep records.
Your employee-related stock may be held in your name by the company's Transfer Agent, or in various employee benefit plans -- each of which is managed by a Plan Administrator hired by the company -- or your shares may be held by a Brokerage you pay yourself.
Given the spinoffs over the years (Agilent, Keysight, HPE, DXC, Micro Focus, and Perspecta) -- and the number of Transfer Agents and Plan Administrators involved (not to mention any Brokerages that you may have used) -- it is very possible that your employee stock is not all in one place. For example, spinoff shares don't always all wind up in the same place as the parent shares.
Members report that a Plan Administrator or Brokerage may turn stock over to a state government as unclaimed property -- which can be very difficult to retrieve. (Checking your accounts online every month does not prevent this.)
If you moved your stock to a Brokerage other than one used by the company, date and cost basis for each lot will have been lost unless you made a special effort to input your cost basis for each lot.
The very complex issue of cost basis is usually not a factor for heirs: "The basis of property inherited from a decedent is generally... the fair market value of the property on the date of the decedent's death." See Gifts & Inheritances on IRS website and Kiplinger website.
Different divisions of the same financial companies -- Fidelity, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, etc. -- have performed Transfer Agent or Plan Administrator roles at various times for the HP-related companies. This affects how (or if) they track your cost-basis information, how they handle spinoffs, and how (or if) they report transactions in your account to the IRS.
As detailed below, you need to look closely at the full legal name given on the statement for each account to determine the role that the specific account plays in your shareholdings.
A company's Transfer Agent
Every company that issues stock has a Stock Transfer Agent that the company pays to keep track of all the shares. If you have shares in "Direct Registration" -- you are a "stockholder of record" with the company's Transfer Agent. The Agent's name will include words like "trust" or "shareowner."
- Shares are registered in your name in book-entry form at the Transfer Agent. (In the past, you may have been mailed paper certificates.)
- Your point of contact is the Transfer Agent, not the company. Dividend payments and stockholder communications are sent to you at the address on file with the Transfer Agent. The company will not update that address for you.
- The Transfer Agent has limited lot and cost-basis data.
- After you leave the company, those shares will stay with the Transfer Agent -- at no charge to you. You may move the shares to a personal account you pay for at a Brokerage -- which provides more flexibility in selling shares.
- Spinoff shares will be in a new direct-registration account administered by the new company's Transfer Agent, as listed below.
Transfer Agents as of April 2020:
- HPInc. Current Transfer Agent is Equiniti (formerly the "Shareowner Services" division of Wells Fargo, which still has a separate local-office-based retail Brokerage division called "Wells Fargo Advisors.") Long-time Hewlett-Packard Company employees will have old statements from HP's previous Transfer Agents: Harris Trust, Computershare, and Mellon, then Computershare again (they bought Mellon.) HPInc Investor Relations [scroll down] HPAA on obtaining stock records The Equiniti website https://www.shareowneronline.com includes a "Sale Request / Certificate Deposit" form.
- Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company (HPE) Current Transfer Agent is Equiniti (formerly the "Shareowner Services" division of Wells Fargo, which still has a separate local-office-based retail Brokerage division called "Wells Fargo Advisors.") HPE Investor Relations [scroll down] HPAA on obtaining stock records The Equiniti website https://www.shareowneronline.com includes a "Sale Request / Certificate Deposit" form.
- DXC Technology. Current Transfer Agent is Equiniti. DXC Investor Relations [select "CONTACT US" from the row of buttons under the illustration.] HPAA on obtaining stock records The Equiniti website https://www.shareowneronline.com includes a "Sale Request / Certificate Deposit" form.
- Perspecta. Current Transfer Agent for Perspecta (and Distribution Agent for the spin/merge) is Equiniti Perspecta spinoff.
What a Transfer Agent does: Transfer Agent Overview (pdf on Computershare site.)
A Plan Administrator for one of a company's employee benefit plans
An employer generally hires different Plan Administrators for stock acquired in different ways, such as employee purchase, options or equity awards, or retirement plan.
- Your points of contact are the various Plan Administrators, not the company or the company's Transfer Agent. The company's Transfer Agent knows only the grand total holding by all clients of each Plan Administrator.
- Dividend payments and stockholder communications are sent to you at the address on file with each Plan Administrator. Even if still employed by the company, the company may not update those addresses for you.
- Plan Administrators have lot-and-cost records -- however, members report that the data may be lost when the company changes Plan Administrators.
- After leaving, your shares are generally automatically moved from an employer-paid account -- such as the "NetBenefits" division of Fidelity or the "MyBenefits" division of Merrill Lynch -- to a personal account at a different division of the same financial conglomerate. See details below under "After leaving a company."
- Spinoff shares should show up in your account at each Plan Administrator.
- Stock options have an expiration date and a vesting schedule, as specified in the original Option Grant document. If not vested or not exercised by that date, stock options expire. Investopedia article
- To find the official contact page for former HPInc employees worldwide. HPInc Worldwide HR Support Country Selector If country is not listed, contact regional headquarters: HPInc Offices Worldwide or HPInc Corporate Headquarters
- To find the official contact page for HPE retirees and former employees worldwide. HPE Worldwide HR Support Country Selector [Page comes up very slowly.] If country is not listed, contact regional headquarters: HPE Offices Worldwide or HPE Corporate Headquarters [scroll down]
a. Employee stock purchase plan. Shares purchased and held are administered by the company's ESPP Plan Administrator.
As of September 2, 2018:
- HPInc: Current U.S. ESPP Administrator is the NetBenefits division of Fidelity. Prior to April 2015, the Administrator was Computershare Shareowner Services. Check both official pages: HP Employee Stock (Scroll down.) HP Total Rewards Member advice on HPAA on obtaining stock records Fidelity stock issues reported by members
- HPE: Current U.S. ESPP Administrator is the NetBenefits division of Fidelity. Check both official pages: HPE Employee Stock (Scroll down.) HPE Total Rewards Fidelity stock issues reported by members
- Agilent: Current ESPP Administrator TBD
b. Stock options or other equity awards. Unvested and vested shares -- and spinoff shares for shares already vested -- are administered by the company's Stock Award Administrator.
Note: If you have vested options, they are of no value unless you take action to exercise the options before the options expire (if the option price is above the current stock price.) The Investopedia website has a detailed explanation of how stock options work: https://www.investopedia.com/terms/e/eso.asp
- HPInc: Current U.S. Stock Award Administrator is the MyBenefits division of Merrill Lynch. Check both official pages for worldwide phone numbers and website: HP Employee Stock (Scroll down.) HP Total Rewards Merrill Lynch issues reported by members
- HPE: Current U.S. Stock Award Administrator is the MyBenefits division of Merrill Lynch. Check both official pages for worldwide phone numbers and website: HPE Employee Stock (Scroll down.) HPE Total Rewards Merrill Lynch issues reported by members
c. Retirement plan. If you elected to have your retirement plan invest in stock of a current or former employer, the shares are administered by the company's Retirement Plan Administrator
As of April 5, 2018:
Other predecessor companies, including Indigo, Mercury, Opsware, and Peregrine: Predecessor company stock
Your own account at a Brokerage
Indirect registration at a Brokerage that you have selected. You are a "beneficial owner" of those shares in an account at a Brokerage, trustee, or other nominee.
- Your point of contact is the Brokerage, not the company. The company's Transfer Agent knows only the grand total holding by all clients of the Brokerage.
- Dividend payments and stockholder communications are sent to you at the address on file with the Brokerage.
- Multiple roles played by different divisions of these financial companies can be confusing. For example, "Wells Fargo Shareowner Services" (now Equiniti) was a Transfer Agent -- a different company from the Brokerage called "Wells Fargo Advisors."
- Spinoff shares should show up in the same Brokerage account as the corresponding parent shares.
- General issues reported by members with specific Plan Administrators and Brokerages: Merrill Lynch issues reported by members Morgan Stanley issues reported by members Fidelity stock issues reported by members
Obtaining stock records
Member advice on How to obtain stock records
After leaving a company:
- After leaving, your shares are generally automatically moved from an employer-paid account -- such as the "NetBenefits" division of Fidelity or the "MyBenefits" division of Merrill Lynch -- to a personal account at a different division of the same financial conglomerate. (Merrill Lynch calls the two accounts "Employer Sponsored Plan" and "Individual Investor Account.") The new account will use a different website, login, and account number. Since your employer is no longer paying for the account, you will probably be billed an annual fee (which may be higher than you might expect.) Lot-and-cost data for your lots should have been preserved if you move between "benefits" and "retail" divisions of the same brokerage. If you move the shares to a different brokerage, the shares of each company will be moved in a single lot -- you will have to use your own records to enter date and purchase price for each lot into the second broker's system.
- No one but you really cares about your employment-related stock. Your former employer does not have records of the date, quantity, and cost basis of your shares -- and the current Plan Administrators and Brokerages may not have the correct values.
- You must keep each Brokerage and Administrator up-to-date with your current postal and email addresses. Your current or former employer does not handle employee-stock-related address changes.
- You must make direct contact with each Brokerage and Administrator at least once a year. Otherwise, depending on state laws and the Brokerage or Administrator's policies, members report that your stock may be turned over to a state as unclaimed property -- which can be very difficult to retrieve. Members report that checking your statements online doesn't count.
- Given the large number of financial companies involved in employee stock -- which change from time to time and may not have passed along the date and cost basis information for each of our stock lots -- you must preserve your own copies of your records.
- At some point, you may want to sell some stock -- which could include shares in HP, HPE, Agilent, Keysight, DXC, Perspecta, and Micro Focus. The Brokerage will use the cost basis in their records (which may be $0) to report your apparent profit to the IRS. You could pay taxes twice on the same income!
- It it is very possible that your employee stock is not all in one place. For example, spinoff shares don't always all wind up in the same place as the parent shares. You or your heirs could lose some of the stock or dividends as "abandoned." How to check for lost stock, dividends, and other unclaimed property
Stray transactions due to spinoffs
In addition to the important transactions, members report receiving 1099-B forms for small amounts, 34-cent dividend checks, and other notifications of low-dollar-value stray transactions referring to either a temporary "SpinCo" company or the new spinoff company. These come from either the Administrator of your existing employee shares or from the new company's Transfer Agent. (In the case of Micro Focus, the Transfer Agent is "American Stock Transfer.") If you get a trivial 1099-B, report it on your tax -- no matter how small. (Unlike 1099-INT's, there is no minimum reportable amount for a 1099-B.)
Next: Step 3. Lost Stock and Dividends
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