It appears our previous article on the Shasta Signing raised a few more questions that need to be addressed.
I have to say we have been impressed with the feedback and questions. We love we are surrounded by so many as engrossed in this business as Sunshine is. And while this is an outlandish situation, and it is not going to happen to most notaries, it is one of those weird things to be aware of.
We do wish we have more answers, but we will address what we can, and maybe that will help shine a little more light on the situation.
Conspiracy to Commit Fraud
In our previous article, we said that the notary had been accused of conspiracy to commit fraud. This brought up a lot of questions, but there was something in this that we want to make clear.
No law enforcement agency has accused the notary of conspiracy.
Beyond that, we just don’t know. We do know accusations happened on social media. We do know that people made it sound like the accusations were coming from someone related to the victims, be it themselves, family, friends, or attorney. But, we have no proof who levied the accusations. We have no idea if the person or persons did it out of belief or anger at the situation. And we would prefer for solid facts to be released before we make any further comment on the situation.
So, we are going to leave it at this point, and if we get further documentation in the future that changes what we know, we’ll let everyone know at that time.
Criminal versus Civil and Your Reputation
A person or entity does not need to be charged criminally to face a civil lawsuit. Even when an extreme claim is made. And we definitely believe an accusation of fraud is an extreme claim that needs to be backed up by serious evidence. And while, absent of serious evidence, the notary will prevail, the damage to their reputation may already be done.
We never post the names of any notary accused of anything, or even convicted of something. We value the relationship we’ve built with notaries all over the country over the last decade, and we do not believe it is our job, or our ethics, to damage the reputation of a notary.
Unfortunately, we are not the only ones who report or comment on events. Names get thrown in newspaper articles, web postings, tweets. The really sad part is this normally happens when the true details of a situation are not known. And when the notary gets vindicated, none (or very few) of these previous postings get corrected.
In other words, a notary does not have to do anything wrong to take a hit to their reputation. Again, this is unlikely to ever happen to you, but it is something we all need to be aware of.
The Best Way to Protect Your Reputation in Today’s Age
We just talked about how a story comes quickly. We live in an age of a 24 hour news cycle and social media.
And we also talked about how initial stories tend to have incomplete, or incorrect details.
If somehow you get involved in a signing that becomes controversial, you need to get out in front of it. Make sure those original stories are complete with facts from you (or an anonymous source with knowledge of how you think, lol). Know which local reporters you should call, and make sure to call anyone that publishes an article without speaking with you first.
You will probably want to get advice from an attorney about this. While we want to get out in front of the story, we do want to make sure we do so without asserting something we should not.
Remember, in today’s environment, protecting our reputation is an active pursuit. Sitting idly by is not an option.
What About My E&O Insurance?
By now we should all know what E&O Insurance is. It protects the notary from any errors or omissions in a signing. It is a vital insurance for a notary to have, both to protect their personal or business liability, but also to establish trust with clients.
Here is the issue, and we have not been able to get anyone to directly verify that E&O Insurance would protect against allegations such as these. And no one who is willing to speak on the record. That’s a bit troubling, but they are probably just making sure they stay on the safe side. *If there is anyone out there willing to speak on the record about this, we’d love to talk to you.*
The issue is simple, an error versus an intentional fraud.
The part that is not simple, is this is a giant mass of gray. You can be accused of fraud over a simple error, or for nothing you did wrong at all. And this is where the confusion sets in. And as much as we wish we could tell you in certain terms what this all means to you, at this time we cannot, and from the conversations we have had, we are not sure we ever will.
Further complicating the matter are differing laws in different states. And differences between policies that each notary holds.
There seems to be no easy answer to this, though we would love to be proven wrong.
As you can see, the Shasta Signing is fascinating, and while something like that is unlikely to ever happen to us, it raises questions we may not have encountered or have answers for.
At this point we are hoping the accusations against the notary are baseless, and that the accusations were just made by an upset victim or someone close to them.
If that is true, this story may have an uneventful end for notaries. But, if it is not, it may raise some serious new questions for notaries across the country, and may provide some answers to lingering questions.
*Please remember that we are notaries, not lawyers. We do our best to keep you informed, but please do not consider what we say as legal advice, as we are not qualified to do so.*
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