Construction project professionals routinely send e-mails with “signatures,” which typically include the sender’s typewritten name, title, contact information, and/or company logo. But, this sort of e-mail “signature” is not enough to certify a claim to the Government.
A recent decision of the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals dismissed an appeal by finding the claimant’s typical e-mail signature was not enough to properly certify a claim. The Board stated proper signatures could have been handwritten or digital (as applied in a pdf).
On a project for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Manas International Airport, Kyrgyzstan, the Contractor submitted a claim by attaching it to an e-mail. The Contractor properly included all the words certifying the claim in the body of the transmittal e-mail. The “Director” for the Contractor “signed” the e-mail with his typewritten name, title, and contact information (a typical e-mail “signature” block).
Under FAR § 2.101, a proper signature is “a discrete, verifiable symbol of an individual.” Under this Board decision, there are two proper signatures:
- A handwritten signature or
- Digital signature (as in a pdf).
But, other types of proper signatures could include:
- Fingerprint or
- Photograph of your face (think about unlocking an iPhoneX).
These other types were not addressed by this Board decision, but could be considered “discrete, verifiable symbol(s) of an individual.” Nevertheless, I would stick with the tried and true handwritten signature.
Interestingly, the Board did not discuss how a password necessary to digitally sign a pdf compares to the password access necessary to send an e-mail. If the two are comparably secure, then a typewritten e-mail signature block should be as effective as digitally signing a pdf.