In an age when we increasingly transact business electronically, when people use smartphones to keep reminders, instead of a paper and pen, and when some school districts have stopped teaching cursive writing, the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals has issued a reminder about the importance of the handwritten signature.
Under the standard Disputes clause in Federal Acquisition Regulation 52.233-1, a contractor submitting a claim exceeding $100,000 must certify as follows:
“I certify that the claim is made in good faith; that the supporting data are accurate and complete to the best of my knowledge and belief; that the amount requested accurately reflects the contract adjustment for which the Contractor believes the Government is liable; and that I am authorized to certify the claim on behalf of the Contractor.”
Note that the certification says “I” — in other words, it must be signed by a specific person who is authorized to certify the claim on behalf of the Contractor and who certifies that it meets the other requirements stated in the certification language.
Why? In large part, so that the Government has someone to come after, maybe even to throw in jail, if the claim is false.
In ABS Dev. Corp., ASBCA, Nos. 60022 (Nov. 17, 2016), the contractor’s signature on the certification was typed. More specifically, on the “Name and Signature” lines of the certifications was typed “Yossi Carmely ,” in what appeared to be Times New Roman font; above that, the same name was typed in a font intended to mimic handwriting (the ASBCA speculated that it was Lucida Handwriting font). The Armed Services Board said:
A signature is a discrete, verifiable symbol that is sufficiently distinguishable to authenticate that the certification was issued with the purported author’s knowledge and consent or to establish his intent to certify, and, therefore, cannot be easily disavowed by the purported author. Here we are not confronted with an issue of “electronic signatures”; rather, we are confronted with several typewritings of a name (presumably typewritten by electronic means), purporting to be signatures. However, a typewritten name, even one typewritten in Lucida Handwriting font, cannot be authenticated, and, therefore, is not a signature.
Therefore, the ASBCA dismissed the appeals relating to the claims that were thus “signed.”
This is important, of course, if you want to submit a claim. But, it is also important as a reminder of the purpose of the certification and the potential consequences to the contractor and the individual certifier of signing and submitting a claim that should not be signed or submitted.