Breaking Down Barriers

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Last year the Property Records Industry Association (PRIA) prepared a white paper to provide all recording jurisdictions with confidence that the concept of electronic notarization is valid and acceptable in the process of recording documents in the public record.

This paper was limited to the discussion of electronic notarial acts as related to land records and recordable documents. PRIA has subject matter expertise in this area. It seeks to answer key questions and dispel misperceptions surrounding notarization in general and electronic notarization.

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Traditionally, and to this day, for paper documents to be recorded, the notary’s ink signature (and seal or stamp, where required) must be affixed to the document to provide physical, visible proof that the formalities of notarization occurred. However, once the paper document leaves the presence of the notary, he or she has no control over document alteration.

Electronic signature technology can heighten document security by making electronic documents tamper-evident. Utilizing technology that heightens document security allows the public land records industry to have more confidence in the authenticity and validity of recorded documents.

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Many parties rely on the veracity of the documents in a real estate transaction. In addition to the seller and buyer, lenders, title companies and investors all must have confidence in the transaction’s documentation. In the paper world that confidence comes, in part, from the fact that multiple stakeholders are involved in completing the transaction. A real estate agent, an appraiser, a lender, a home inspector, a title examiner, a closing agent and a notary all have essential roles in the transaction. Together, they comprise what some call a “web of trust.”

In the electronic world, these parties can be aided by automated systems with audit trails that show who interacted with the documents, and when. Secure methods of transmission and tamper-evident seals allow us to verify that documents were received unaltered. Thus, the confidence we gain from the knowledge that a web of stakeholder parties reviewed the transaction is bolstered by the digital forensic evidence that is inherent in electronic document transactions.

Non-repudiation essentially means that enough process control and evidence exists to defend against a borrower saying, “I admit that that document was signed, but it wasn’t actually me who signed it,” or claiming that the document was altered after they signed it. Technologists and attorneys may view this concept differently.

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Because of the availability of audit trails and other electronic evidence, technologists claim a greater level of non-repudiation for electronically signed documents. We can log which computer the document was signed on, and which user ID and password were used to log into the eSignature system and access the document. And while this is certainly true, attorneys might argue that we still don’t know who was sitting at the keyboard pressing the Enter key, or what their state of mind was at the time of the event. Some eSignature systems also validate the borrower’s identity by asking several “out-of-wallet” questions (things that only the borrower should know about previous addresses or loan payment amounts), and/or record a video log of the signing event.

The audit trails and electronic evidence that these automated systems can provide are best understood as reinforcements to the traditional web of trust created by the multiple stakeholder parties that touch the transaction. The notarial event within that web of trust is one that can be bolstered by these technologies, building even greater confidence than was ever available with paper documents.

PRIA suggests that the authority granted by ESIGN and UETA simply provides notaries a new method—an electronic signature—of affixing the notary’s official signature to the notarial certificate on an electronic document. PRIA encourages states to adopt regulations that help notaries comply with fundamental requirements applicable to all notarial acts, paper-based or electronic, while allowing the broadest possible range of electronic signature technologies.

And today innovative vendors are making it easier for lenders to embrace this strategy. For example, World Wide Notary LLC (WWN), a leading eNotarization solution provider, announced a major partnership with NotaryGO, the leading signing service across the nation.

The new partnership will provide NotaryGO’s more than 71,000 notaries, title notary attorneys, and mobile notaries with access to WWN and its partners’ technology.

The management team at NotaryGO has been in the signing service industry since 1986. During that time they have signed millions of residential loans, auto loans and structured settlements. The NotaryGO signing agent database includes thousands of bilingual certified, reverse mortgage certified and eClose certified signing agents. The company’s signing agents are all background checked and hold the proper licensing per state guidelines. The company can deliver a consistent signing in all 50 states, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, which takes organization, planning, structure and most of all effort. NotaryGO is the nationwide signing solution.

Currently WWN and NotaryGO are and will be soliciting targeted closing attorneys, notaries and mobile notaries that are the best of the best. These notaries will have access to WWN’s DigaSign eClosing system and the capability to service eMortgage lenders and title with fully eMortgage closings in their specific cities and states.

“The mortgage industry is increasingly adopting the eMortgage process. Lenders, banks and title companies are looking to move to a complete electronic process,” said Bob Rice, CEO of WWN. “We are successfully leveraging the DigaSign eNotary integration with our strategic business partner DocMagic, which offers a comprehensive TRID, document preparation, eSigning, eDelivery and eMortgage technology. We integrated our eNotarization system with DocMagic’s platform through a secure eClosing room that is MERS registry eVault compliant. We are please to bring these electronic tools to the industry while increasing compliance, decreasing errors and saving significant amounts of time and money.”

Based in Vernon, Texas and founded in 2003, WWN has developed DigaSign, an innovative, simple, Internet-based service that expedites the signing and/or notarization of documents by utilizing electronic and digital signatures and electronic notarizations. WWN completed the first fully electronic, mortgage closing in California in 2008 and the first electronic real estate closing in Texas in 2004. Pioneering electronic signatures, as early as 1996, WWN’s management team has many years of experience working with stringent Federal mandates, such as HIPAA, E-SIGN, UETA and NASS regarding security and the use of electronic journals, digital signatures and electronic seals.

Rice continued: “These are just a few of the benefits that WWN/DigaSign will be able to provide to the NotaryGO eClosing notary network. NotaryGO can now place a DigaSign eNotary anywhere a title or mortgage company needs a fully eMortgage and eClosing process.”

The DigaSign solution allows borrowers, lenders, settlement agents and mobile notaries to eSign documents and eNotarize — both online and offline. As a result, the entire closing process is streamlined, paper is eliminated, costs are reduced and compliance is ensured

WWN is one of the most dominant eNotarization companies and has long been at the forefront of educating and lobbying the state Attorneys General and Secretaries of State to accept eNotaries in a variety of different industries. The company’s technology has been certified by multiple Secretaries of State under the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) eNotary standards; and, in all states that have approved the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA).

A number of efficiencies accompany WWN’s DigaSign eNotary technology that includes dramatically speeding up the notary process on mortgage documents, with Internet connection or without, ensuring strict compliance adherence is met, establishing detailed audit trails, reducing errors, slashing processing costs, reducing risk, and enhancing the overall borrower closing experience. The solution centralizes and streamlines the entire eNotarization process. Now it’s time for lenders to use this and other technologies to simplify the entire lending process.

About The Author

Tony Garritano
Tony Garritano is chairman and founder at PROGRESS in Lending Association. As a speaker Tony has worked hard to inform executives about how technology should be a tool used to further business objectives. For over 10 years he has worked as a journalist, researcher and speaker in the mortgage technology space. Starting this association was the next step for someone like Tony, who has dedicated his career to providing mortgage executives with the information needed to make informed technology decisions. He can be reached via e-mail at tony@progressinlending.com.