Company Officers – You Can Now Sign Documents from a (Socially Appropriate) Distance!
The need for companies to be able to sign documents electronically has become more apparent than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic. With that, the Federal Treasurer has implemented some temporary, progressive changes to the signing provisions contained in the Corporations Act 2001 (the Corps Act).
Enter the Corporations (Coronavirus Economic Response) Determination (No.1) 2020 (the Determination), which now allows for company officers (i.e. Directors) to sign agreements and deeds in electronic format.
Previously, the Corps Act required company officers to physically sign a document in order for it to be valid and legally binding. Now, the Determination makes it possible for company officers to:
- sign a document in counterparts (eg. the officers do not need to sign the same copy); or
- use an electronic communication which reliably identifies the person signing and indicates the person’s intention in relation to the document.
The usual requirement remains that if there is more than one director of a company then two directors are required to sign, but the Determination makes it possible for this to occur from a (safe) distance.
Further, if electronic signatures are being used (i.e. copied and pasted signatures, signing using a stylus or finger on a tablet or laptop or DocuSign) the relevant thresholds will also apply. This includes:
- ensuring that the electronic signature is reliable as appropriate in the circumstances in order to identify each person signing the document; and
- that it is clear that it was the intention of each party who signed that they actually intended to sign the document.
Do not get too used to this process, however, as the changes are only temporary and intended to assist businesses in the wake of COVID-19.
The changes implemented by the Determination are only in effect for a six (6) month period commencing from 6 May 2020.
These changes will no doubt assist in the efficiency and practicality of company execution of documents, so here’s hoping the changes are here to stay but you will need to stay tuned to find out! We will be following the developments in this regard closely and as always will ensure that we keep our clients up to date on any permanent developments.
If your business needs any assistance navigating the changing landscape brought upon by COVID-19, contact the EL team today: