Thursday, May 01, 2008

How to Verify that a Payment or Performance Bond Complies with Michigan's Public Bond Statute

Michigan's public works bond statute (MCL 129.201, et seq) requires that a principal contractor furnish a payment and performance bond executed by a surety authorized to do business in Michigan. Many contracts also require that the general contractor furnish payment and performance bonds, which are executed by a surety listed on Treasury Circular 570.

If you receive a contractor's payment and performance bond, how do you know whether it complies with these requirements? How do you check on a bonding company whose name doesn't sound familiar? How you verify the financial strength of a surety?

There are 3 easy ways to verify basic information about a surety --

Michigan

The State of Michigan, Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation (OFIR) maintains an online database of insurance companies that are registered to conduct business in the State of Michigan. The search interface is somewhat confusing, but if you search using the last field on the form, you should be able to find the surety you are looking for. If you don't find the surety, it means they are not registered to conduct business in Michigan. Take this finding as a red flag.

For insurance companies that are registered to conduct business in Michigan, you get the usual information about state of incorporation, and registered agent. Here's a sample report for Hartford Fire Insurance Company, a surety that is active in Michigan.

Treasury Circular 570

Treasury Circular 570 is a list of acceptable sureties on federal bonds maintained by the U.S. Department of Treasury. A surety that isn't on this list is probably very small, or one that should not be accepted or relied upon. It raises a red flag in my mind when I don't find a surety on this list.

Michigan law generally provides little recourse to potential bond claimants in the event that a contractor fails to furnish a bond, or furnishes one that fails to comply with the statute. Failure to furnish a bond that comports with the statute, however, would probably be grounds for an owner to terminate a general contract.

A.M. Best Company

A.M. Best issues financial-strength ratings measuring insurance companies’ ability to pay claims. If the contract requires that a surety bond be furnished by a surety with a particular rating (ie., AA or B+), you can verify this rating online through A.M. Best.


Update: My colleague Angie Greenslade referred me to the A. M. Best website. It provides information on the current financial strength of insurance companies, including sureties. Thanks Angie!

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