Check signatories, or check signers, are individuals authorized to sign checks for businesses, companies and corporations. They are responsible for ensuring that checks presented for signature are legitimate and prepared according to their organizations' accounting procedures. Depending on the structure of their organizations, check signatories may be business owners, accounting supervisors or corporate officers. Although large companies may prepare checks with printed signatures, checks for amounts larger than a specified amount may require a "live" signature, or multiple signatures.

Signing Checks: Putting Your Name on the Line

Check signatories are responsible for verifying that each check they sign is properly prepared and represents a legitimate business expense. Signatories can be held liable or subject to criminal investigation for signing checks drawn fraudulently or illegally. When signing business checks, consider each check you sign as if it was your own. Ask questions if you have concerns about any check you are asked to sign. Follow your organization's procedures for reporting suspected check fraud.

Business Checks 101

Business organizations may use one operating account, or use multiple accounts for different types of expenses. Check signatories for a business using multiple accounts are responsible for knowing which accounts are used for paying specific expenses. Examples of accounts include a general account for general operating expenses, payroll accounts, escrow accounts for holding clients' funds, and accounts used for marketing and advertising. Although an accounting supervisor may be required to verify that proper accounts are used, signing business checks represents your approval of each check signed.

Verifying Check Payees and Amounts

Do not sign blank checks; if they are lost or stolen, you could be held liable. Review each check you're signing for verifying the payee and the amount being paid. If you are not familiar with a payee, request documentation to back up the payment. Payments to vendors should be accompanied by original invoices. Match the written amount with the numerical amount shown on each check. Verify that the amount of each check falls within your signing authority.

Preventing Fraud and Accounting Problems

Check signatories must know and follow company accounting procedures. They are responsible for flagging checks issued improperly. Ask questions if you are not satisfied with any aspect of a check presented for signature. Do not risk signing a check that may later be questioned or found to be fraudulently issued. Consult with colleagues and/or superiors as appropriate when suspicious checks are presented for signature. Keeping a log of checks signed and noting any issues with checks presented for signature and subsequent actions taken can help to clear you from involvement in alleged criminal activity.