Be careful who you authorise to sign company documents on your behalf, if you want to avoid a Gordon Ramsay-style kitchen nightmare.
That’s the message from Shropshire legal expert Graham Davies, who has been digesting the implications of the celebrity chef’s latest court case.
The TV cook and restaurateur has been landed with an estimated £1.6 million bill after losing a court fight to free himself from a pub contract.
Ramsay accused his father-in-law Chris Hutcheson of secretly signing a deal to make the chef personally liable for the pub’s £640,000 annual lease.
Mr Hutcheson used a ‘ghostwriter’ machine to replicate the chef’s signature, but the court found that he was acting within ‘the wide general authority conferred on him by Mr Ramsay’.
Graham Davies, from Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford, said the case raised important issues which ought to be acknowledged by Shropshire employers.
“It is clear from this ruling that a ghost signing machine can effectively sign a legally binding document.
“And so, if you give a member of staff authority to act on your behalf and use your ghost signature when a personal guarantee is required, you are likely to be bound by the terms of the guarantee.”
He added: “This case emphasises the importance of setting out exactly what an agent can and cannot do on your behalf, right from the outset.
“The ghost signature machines used to place Mr Ramsay’s signature on documents gave the appearance of a pen signature, with a fine nib being used.
“This judgement indicates that it would not be necessary to confirm that the person indeed made that signature with his own hand, which is a timely warning to all business people that they must take extra care over who has the right to authorise legal documents.”