Wednesday, October 27, 2010

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Can You Notarize Or Certify An I-9 Employment Verification Form?

Notaries often get called to notarize or certify an I-9 employment verification form.  If you've ever seen the form, you'll notice that there's no place for it to be notarized and no notarial wording anywhere.  And since, at least in Michigan, notaries can not certify documents, you can't do anything with this form, right?  Well, maybe you can.

I've always turned these down due to the reasons above.  But I was recently edumacated by another notary about a process for handling these forms.  First, here's the wording on the I-9 where the person certifying it would sign:

I attest, under penalty of perjury, that I have examined the document(s) presented by the above named employee, that the above listed document(s) appear genuine and to relate to the employee named, that the employee began employment on ___________ and that to the best of my knowledge the employee is authorized to work in the United States.

You're then required to sign as the employer or authorized representative.  You clearly can't notarize this.  And you're not the employer or authorized rep.  But as my colleague so deftly points out, all that's required is for the employer to name you as an authorized representative.  So if the employer provided a letter or email authorizing you to act as their representative for the purpose of verifying and certifying the I-9, you're free to sign it.  The key to this is that you are not doing this in the capacity of a notary.  You're signing as a representative of the employer, which you would be with proper authorization.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Think Big Work Small

In 5 minutes a day, get your daily mortgage news in a highly entertaining and understandable manner:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

An Important Reminder From The NNA!

Many of you probably received an email last week from the National Notary Association entitled "To America's Notaries - Important Reminders From The National Notary Association."  The email lists 10 important rules for notaries to follow.  Unfortunately, many of those guidelines do not apply in certain states.

Number 2 on the list - "Always obtain proper ID - including a photo AND physical description of the signer."  Best practice?  Yes.  Most states require a photo ID, but not all.  Pennsylvania for one.

Number 3 - "Always make a complete record of your notarial act - including the signature of the signer in your journal."  A complete record?  Yes.  But several states do not require a journal.  Michigan is just one of many that does NOT require a journal.

My favorite, Number 4 - "ALWAYS ask for a thumbprint of the signer in your journal to help protect against impostures."  A thumbprint?  Again, many states do not require a journal OR thumbprints.  If you asked someone in Michigan for a thumbprint, you just might get thrown out on your can.  I can tell you that I would absolutely refuse if a Michigan notary asked for my thumbprint.

Number 7 - "Always notarize only those documents that are complete, no blanks."  Not all states have that stipulation, and here in Michigan, the lawmakers purposefully REMOVED that requirement from the Michigan Notary Act.

Number 8 - "Always use a seal."  Heavy sigh.  Again.....NOT ALL STATES REQUIRE A SEAL.  Michigan does not.

Now the one I absolutely agree with is number 10 - "Always remember that, as a notary public, you are a public official accountable in your notarizations TO THE STATE - AND TO NO ONE ELSE, including your employer."  Yeah, let me add that you're not accountable to the National Notary Association either.  You are responsible for following the guidelines set forth in your state notary handbook.  NOT the guidelines set forth by a for profit organization such as the NNA.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

So Much For A Thorough Review

Bank of America plans to resume foreclosures in 23 states after determining that "the basis for our foreclosure decisions is accurate."  Well there's a shocking revelation.  B of A's own review says they did nothing wrong.  Wow, who would have predicted THAT?

Update 10/20/2010: The FBI says "not so fast."  The FBI launches an investigation into the robo-signings.  At question is whether or not lenders were acting with criminal intent or merely overwhelmed by the number of foreclosures they've had to handle.  In addition, attorneys general, state judges, lawyers, and lawmakers have all jumped into the fray.  If Bank of America thought that a quick review and announcement that everything's peachy was going to be the end of it, they were grossly mistaken.  

Monday, October 18, 2010

Interstate Recognition of Notarizations Act - Much Ado About Nothing

The media hype is in full swing.  On Thursday, the White House announced that President Obama would not sign H.R. 3808, the Interstate Recognition of Notarizations Act of 2010, a one page innocuous little bill that was UNANIMOUSLY approved by both the House and Senate.  The bill will be returned to the House.  The media has been frothing over this bill, claiming that the bill might bail out banks from their foreclosure robo-signing troubles.  The bill requires the following: 

Each Federal court shall recognize any lawful notarization made by a notary public licensed or commissioned under the laws of a State other than the State where the Federal court is located if—

(1) such notarization occurs in or affects interstate commerce; and 

(2) (A) a seal of office, as symbol of the notary public’s authority, is used in the notarization; or
      (B) in the case of an electronic record, the seal information is securely attached to, or logically associated with, the electronic record so as to render the record tamper-resistant.

Guess what?  Notarizations are already recognized from state to state.  And notice the wording says LAWFUL notarizations.  Illegal acts are not something miraculously absolved under this bill.  The purpose of the bill was merely to recognize technological updates like e-signatures and e-notarizations.  

White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer released a statement saying "we believe it is necessary to have further deliberations about the intended and unintended impact of this bill on consumer protections, including those for mortgages, before this bill can be finalized."  Notice he didn't say there was any such unintended consequence of the bill, just that the White House wanted a further review.   

Personally, I do not support the bill only because it's pointless fluff. The National Association of Secretaries of State does not support the bill for similar reasons.  There's nothing in the bill that's new or isn't already covered in other laws.  But the outrage over this bill from people who seem to know little or nothing about notarizations is preposterous.  Ignore the mindless hype and read the bill yourself.  

Saturday, October 16, 2010

New Signing Agent Requirements - Notarizing In Front Of The Signer & The 4506 Form

Several title companies and lenders sent out emails this week about two new requirements for their closings.  The first requirement is something you should already be doing.  Lenders and title companies are now requiring that all documents be notarized in the presence of the signers. Many states already require this, but even in states where it is not required, it is certainly a sound practice to follow.  There's an added level of integrity and validity in notarizing every document in front of the signer.

In addition, lenders will now require that the dates on the 4506 form be handwritten instead of typed in as some lenders currently do.  You will see those pre-printed dates eventually removed so you'll have to make sure the borrowers are dating it themselves.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Financial Crisis Was An "Inside Job."

The much acclaimed documentary, "Inside Job," opens this week in selected theaters.  The film documents the relationship between government and the financial industry, starting first from the great depression, then from the the 80's where the roots of our current (and avoidable) financial crisis began. Unlike some documentaries, Director Charles Ferguson doesn't have a party agenda.  He points the finger at both Democrat and Republican administrations, from the Reagan era, through the current Obama administration:

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Michigan Notary Network Is Now On Facebook

So many of us use Facebook to stay in touch with friends.  We thought that Facebook would be a great way to stay connected with our fellow notaries, signing agents, title, & mortgage colleagues as well.  So here it is: The new Michigan Notary Network Facebook page.  Stop by, say hi, share some stories, & network with other industry professionals.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

And The Robo-Signing Tally Keeps On Growing...

Bank of America extends its freeze on foreclosures to all 50 states, and you can add PNC Financial and Litton Loan Servicing to the list as well.  Hang on folks, we're just getting started...

Update 10/10/2010: And now, state attorneys general offices are getting into the act.  Up to 40 states are planning a joint investigation into robo-signings.   

Friday, October 8, 2010

Vancura v Kinko's Overturned

Many notaries are familiar with the Illinois case of Vancura v Kinko's. Kinko's was held liable for notary misconduct by one of their employees, Gustavo Albear, after the employee notarized Vancura's signature on a document that Vancura claimed was not his signature. Due to the Vancura case, Kinko's stopped notary services at their stores. Yesterday, surprisingly I think, the Illinois Supreme Court overturned the verdict. In reversing the decision, the court supported Kinko's claim that it fulfilled its duty to ensure that its training program complied with the requirements of the Illinois Notary Public Act. Thus, the court reversed the finding of liability against Kinko's for negligent training.

The court ruled that Kinko's had only a duty to not consent to their employee's misconduct (That I can understand). The court stated that Kinko's was not under a duty to provide notary training classes taught exclusively by notaries (Fine, as long as the trainer still understood Illinois notary laws), was under no duty to train its notary employees to keep a notary journal (A notary journal is not required in Illinois), and was not under a duty to teach its notary employees that a photo ID was required (At the time, Illinois notaries were not required to check photo ID.  They are now).

And here's a black eye to the National Notary Association (NNA). Vancura also argued that the Kinko’s training didn't meet the standard set by the Model Notary Act, an act that, from my understanding, is basically an NNA creation.  Vancura argued that Kinko's wasn't just obligated to make sure the notary followed Illinois law, but that he also followed what was considered common notary practice (which is the basis of the Model Notary Act). Vancura used an expert witness that helped write the Model Notary Act, and speaks and writes for the NNA (he also recently received a lifetime achievement award from the NNA). And the NNA has cited the Vancura decision in lauding the act. Only the Model Notary Act was never adopted by Illinois so the court threw out that argument. Oops.

There's nothing online yet, but I have a copy of the court decision. If anyone wants it, you can email me at

Monday, October 4, 2010

Robo-signings And The New Mortgage Crisis

Bank of America, GMAC, and J.P. Morgan Chase have temporarily halted foreclosure proceedings in 23 states while they review the possible mishandling of those foreclosures.  The lenders are reviewing procedures involving tens of thousands of foreclosures that were possibly approved by employees of those lenders without actually reading or reviewing those cases.  The practice, known as robo-signing, is under heavy fire from critics.  NBC reports:

Update 10/04/2010 - Old Republic Title Insurance Company stops insuring homes foreclosed by Chase and GMAC until "the objectionable issues have been resolved."  Oh, this is not going to be pretty.