Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Signatures, Dates, and Fines, Oh My!

By Gissou Gotlieb, Field Suitability Compliance Officer

As independent producers in financial services, you are likely in business for yourself or work for another small business owner. You may feel that you are the captain of your ship, and as such, you make all decisions, judgements, and executions. In your daily life, how do you view yourself and balance your different responsibilities? When at work, are you primarily representing the interests of your family since you have to put food on the table, your clients because they rely on your help with their financial goals, or the financial institutions because you are licensed/registered to represent them? While you have to juggle all of these responsibilities, how you respond to this question may be the key to what is your guiding principle in how you deal with legally gray areas in the course of doing business.

Every month there are reports of disciplinary actions against producers who forged a client’s signature on official documents. It may have been done maliciously for the producer’s personal gain without the client’s consent or knowledge, or, it could have been with the client’s knowledge and consent to help them lock in a special rate or meet a deadline. In either case, it is wrong and financial institutions would take issue with that agent’s conduct regardless of how beneficial their actions were to the client. Remember, the producer is supposed to uphold the rules of the financial company they represent. By forging a signature, they are not being truthful. They are also opening the door to their motives, ethics, and judgement being questioned across all lines of their business. Having the client’s interest in mind when breaking the rules does not absolve a producer of wrongdoing.

Another example of altering can be dating a formal document, usually associated with the date/time/place the document was signed, on behalf of a client. Although signature forgery is usually the topic that creates more of a buzz, the completion of any material part of official paperwork by someone other than the intended person is ill-advised. Clients should be dating and signing forms only after all relevant parts of the formal document(s) have been completed. Signing a new account form, annuity contract, or life insurance application can be a legal matter and should receive due care. When a document is signed, the signor is attesting to the information as of a particular date and that date should be properly noted by the appropriate person. It is hard to know when a signature or a date will come into question in legal documents, so it should be your practice to always get the right people to sign and date in all the right places and to never assert your writing in place of another’s, even if it’s at the express direction of another.

There are many gray areas in between black and white. Rather than fighting the rules that have been clearly laid out for your conduct, make your life easier and help boost your image as a trustworthy producer by abiding by the rules. When the gray areas make some situations more challenging, consult the rule books, but don’t fight the black and white.  

Gissou Gotlieb | Field Suitability Compliance Officer
Ann Arbor Annuity Exchange
Ph: 800.321.3924 x134 | Dir: 734.786.6134

Ann Arbor Annuity Exchange and its representatives do not give tax or legal advice. Please consult your tax advisor or attorney.

Designed for Financial Professionals.