One of my favorite things about being a CPA to successful business owners and investors is that I get to see a lot of “real world” experience. I just learned, for example, how using the right pen can mean all the difference if you ever have to go to court to prove or disprove a contract.
In this particular case, a contract surfaced that was allegedly signed by one partner in a company. But the partner vehemently denied he ever signed that contract, and said he had signed another contract in a meeting with the other contracting company. The representative from the other company was supposed to then sign the contract, but decided not to, at the last minute. He needed to think about it, he said. It was only after the meeting was over that the first partner realized the other representative had pocketed the agreement. It disturbed him that the other side would do that, but at the time he didn’t think it was anything more than an annoyance.
The partner called the other party to follow up on the contract. The other party said he couldn’t agree to it and so the deal died. About a week later the partner sent one more email just wondering what the other guy wanted to do. He received a cryptic response and that was the end of that – or so he thought.
Now fast forward 4 months: The partner and his company receive a certified letter stating that they had breached an agreement. They gave the matter over to their lawyer, who basically responded with a glorified version of “Huh?” That’s when the other party’s attorney sent a letter along with a faxed copy she had of an agreement with the partner’s signature on it, along with the other party’s signature. But here’s the kicker – it was NOT the agreement the partner had signed. It was another agreement entirely – one that he would never have agreed to. But it sure looked like his signature and it was dated the date of the initial meeting.
After a couple of months (and numerous requests), the other party produced a copy of the agreement. Sure enough, there was an original inked signature by the partner on an agreement he swears he never signed.
At this point, the whole thing is probably going into binding arbitration. Without the email and some other documents supporting the partner’s position, the good guys could be in trouble here. As it is, they’ll win their case. But, what if they hadn’t had the email and other supporting documentation? Well, the other saving grace is that the partner always used a particular type of pen to sign documents. The original inked document allegedly signed by the partner doesn’t have that type of pen. So in this case, it looks like the pen is mightier than the crook after all!
Here’s the lesson at the end of this long story: ALWAYS use the same pen when you sign documents. Even better, make sure it’s a blue felt pen. I use, for example, Sharpie pens. That way if someone attempts to trace my signature and they understand the point about using the same type pen, the signature still won’t be exactly the same. It will be a fatter line, because your hand moves slower when you trace, meaning more ink absorbs into the paper.