2020 sees the start of a new decade. For businesses of any size, the year also brings with it a potential risk management issue.
During 2020 there is a risk when dating your documents for which there is a simple solution. When dating documents during this year you should always use the full year, 2020, rather than simply the final two digits, 20. Thus a date would be written/typed as 6.4.2020/ 6th April 2020 rather than 6.4.20/6th April 20. This avoids the risk of any third party, or a former disgruntled employee, supplier or customer, adding two additional digits to the year and in so doing purportedly changing the date of a key document e.g. changing 6.4.20 to 6.4.2018. A mischievous change of date of a document could change the complexion of the chronology of a transaction or course of dealings and cost you and your business a significant sum of money if only to prove when the document was actually signed or intended to take effect.
By way of example, a business engaged a construction company to build a new warehouse but the project was not proceeding as the business was expecting. There were delays. A detailed time line for performance of individual elements of the project was put in place in discussion between the company and the building company. Regular review meetings took place, but the construction did not proceed as expected. Defects arose in the building during the build project and the delay continued. These caused significant disruption to the business and financial loss. The company terminated the contract with the construction company and engaged another builder to address the defects and finish the project. The dispute between the business and the first construction company became heated and led to litigation. The court looked at the dates of the documents evidencing the instructions, concerns and complaints delivered by the employing business to the building company. The court needed to assess whether the company had acted in accordance with the construction contract as well as being fair and reasonable in its approach in dismissing the builder. The chronology of that documentary evidence was key to the company’s success at court.
In business the chronology of events and documents comes under the spotlight particularly when relationships come under strain. Differences arise between businesses and their suppliers or with customers. It is a feature of business. Others may be asked to seek to assist to resolve the differences and in doing so will look at the chronology of the documents as key evidence. The courts are a prime example of exercising such scrutiny.
Don’t let others change history for your business documents!