The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency consent orders have made clear that exercising oversight and ensuring compliance with the law is the new operational norm for institutions that employ notary publics. This newsletter provides guidance for managers of notary public employees seeking to implement or improve upon their institutions’ oversight procedures. The first-tier practices articulated below should be in use or implemented immediately, whereas second-tier practices should be implemented as needed. A full discussion of these issues can be found in iNotary’s white paper entitled “Managerial Primer: What Management Needs to Know about Managing Notary Employees.”
Company handbooks that address notary employees.
Company handbooks should be updated to reflect policies by which notaries are bound. Topics addressed should include keeping notary commissions current, required training, resignation procedures, leaving employment procedures, and disciplinary measures should a notary commit misconduct. iNotary can provide a sample of annotated company handbook sections upon request.
Bonding and errors and omissions insurance.
Most states do not require that a notary public be bonded or require insurance of any kind. However, many businesses currently have errors and omissions insurance that might cover notarizations performed during business hours. Institutions should inquire as to whether their policies cover notarizations and, if not, consider obtaining errors and omissions insurance for their notary public employees.
Required use of a notary journal regardless of state legal requirements.
Notary journals are the best method of limiting liability exposure by ensuring that the notary retains pertinent information about his or her client and the documents being notarized. In many instances, a notary journal serves as “best evidence” in a court of law. Several states require its use, but more states do not. Every state that does not place the notary journal requirement in statute emphatically indicates its importance in that state’s notary public handbook. Furthermore, given the quasi-governmental nature of notarizing documents, maintaining a record is simply a sound business practice.
Required training for new and existing notaries.
Notary public laws are constantly evolving. However, many institutions provide little to no training on how to perform proper notarizations and offer no continuing education. Our experience training notaries public suggests that front-line staff feel general discomfort regarding the performance of notarial acts (most likely because performing notarizations is not a core task of the job but rather an add-on). Furthermore, because notary training is a fairly new phenomenon, existing notaries have typically not been trained and have subsequently adopted bad practices. These bad practices become the norm in the workplace and can lead to widespread defective notarizations. Continuing education including question and answer sessions breeds confidence in the process of performing compliant notarial acts and should deliver confidence to the employer that liability exposure is being limited.
The following measures should be implemented to demonstrate that the institution has taken all reasonable steps to exercise oversight of its notary publics and ensure continual compliance. For a full discussion, go to iNotary’s white paper entitled “Managerial Primer: What Management Needs to Know about Managing Notary Employees.”
iNotary is a compliance company helping institutions stay compliant with new and evolving government regulations. iNotary’s digital journal ensures that notary public employees are getting the right information to comply with state laws while allowing banks, credit unions and mortgage companies to easily measure compliance, audit entries and recall old records. For more information, please visit us at MyiNotary.com.
- Periodic audits of notary journals
- Managers staying abreast of evolving notary law in their states and regions of responsibility
- Procedures in place for notarizations done and not done for the public at large