Thursday, June 09, 2011

Robosigning - the good kind

The term "robosigning" was much in the news during the past year. It was used to describe the practice by employees at several large national lenders of signing foreclosure-related affidavits, purportedly based on "personal knowledge" of the person signing, when in fact the person signing was in a remote office, with no personal knowledge of the facts stated in the affidavit.

A story in today's Herald informs us that Robosigning has now emerged in a different (and more acceptable) context. Citizens Bank is experimenting at some of its Massachusetts branches with a type of electro-mechanical device that allows a customer sitting in one place who is communicating with a bank employee at a distant location via teleconferencing, to apply a "wet" signature to a document at that distant location through the use of technology. When it comes time to sign, the customer uses a stylus and an electronic pad to sign, but that signature is automatically imprinted on the underlying document which is physically at that remote location.

I'm reminded of a past trip to Monticello, the estate of Thomas Jefferson. Our third president had devised a mechanical copying machine which consisted of one pen for him to grip that was attached to an arm and another pen attached to a parallel arm that would automatically mimic the writing motions of the person gripping the first pen. By this device, Jefferson would automatically produce an exact copy of all his written correspondence. Like so much of today's technology, people who came long before us came up with the idea; we just have the means of better executing those ideas. In this case, folks applying for bank loans can use the same technological concept as was employed by Jefferson centuries ago.

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