PROVIDENCE, RI – Secretary of State of State A. Ralph Mollis is warning Rhode Island business owners not to be misled by a direct mail solicitation from "Rhode Island Corporate Compliance (RICC)."
The official-looking letter cites a state law that requires corporations to keep records of accounts, minutes and the names and addresses of all shareholders and directs recipients to submit an "Annual Disclosure Statement" along with a "Document Fee" of $125.
But state law doesn't require Rhode Island companies to file those records with the Secretary of State's office or any state agency. Even more concerning, the mailing comes at the same time that Rhode Island's 30,000 for-profit corporations must file annual reports with Mollis.
"We are concerned that companies may file the form and pay the $125 because they believe they are filing their annual report with us. Don't be misled. That letter did not come from us. You must still file your annual report with us," said Mollis, who tracked down the return address on the RICC mailing to a postal box number at a UPS store in downtown Providence.
Mollis is warning business owners because failure to file an annual report can result in fines and the revocation of a corporation's Certificate of Incorporation or Certificate of Authority in Rhode Island. More than 110 business owners have called the Secretary of State's office with questions about the notice. At least one had already mailed a check to RICC.
"Too many people have been confused by the mailing. We're assuring them that it did not come from our office and this is not a required filing by any state office," said Mollis, who has taken steps to notify customers including posting a warning on his website and sending an e-alert to thousands of businesses.
Bert Rodrigues of Al's Liquor Store in Providence didn't think twice when he received the RICC solicitation in the mail. He filled out the form and mailed a check to RICC, but called the Secretary of State's office after having second thoughts.
"The letter looked legitimate, so it was easy to take a quick look and think it's just another one of those requirements that I need to do, mail a check and the paperwork," he said. After talking with Mollis' office, Rodrigues was able to stop payment on the check before it was cashed.
Mollis urges anyone with questions about the direct mail solicitation to contact his office at 222-3040 or email@example.com.
State law requires corporations to keep records of accounts, minutes and the names and addresses of all shareholders, and they can use third parties such as attorneys to assist them with preparation of documents that must be maintained pursuant to state law.
Most newly formed business entities in Rhode Island choose a corporate legal structure that requires filing annual reports with Mollis. In addition to its work with start-ups, the Secretary of State's office also oversees recording commercial liens, registering notaries public and protecting corporate trademarks.
Secretary of State Mollis is committed to making it easier for Rhode Islanders to vote, making it easier to do business in Rhode Island and making government more open and accessible. For more information about the programs and services the Secretary of State offers businesses, visit sos.ri.gov.
MEDIA CONTACT: Chris Barnett at 222-4293