How Much Damage Can One Little . Cause?
A Bunch, if It’s in the Wrong Place

An article in Bloomberg online last week caught my attention. It’s all about a . (a misplaced period). And it caused a $3-million problem. The headline is "J.P. Morgan Sued by Trader Over $3 Million Decimal Point." 

It seems the fellow in the story got an employment contract where the decimal was one little place to the right of where it was supposed to be. Guess he thought he was getting $3 million vs. $300,000. Maybe he thought he was worth that amount.

Did he read his contract and truly understand what it said? Did he have comments on anything else in it or did the contract amount look so attractive that he didn’t want to have to go through a bunch of other questions about the document?

It seems we should remember that our business is called contracting, and why. Maybe because contractors and their clients are supposed to have a contract? Take a hint from the names we use in our industry:

     • General Contractor
     • Subcontractor
     • Design-Build Contractor
     • Electrical Contractor
     • Concrete Contractor
     • Highway Contractor
     • Commercial Contractor

Every trade from the excavator to the landscaper is a contractor. And they all should read their contract and check to see if the decimals and everything else is in the right place. Might even want to do that on bid days when surprising numbers come in!

If you’re an owner or a GC, have you ever accepted a contract from a contractor, sub, or supplier that had an incredible number on it (likely too low?)

And then did you think, like the JP Morgan guy, that this is too good to be true but maybe they won’t notice? How did that job work out for you?

Have you ever taken a job without a contract or without carefully reviewing your contract? I have a general contractor client who recently started working for an owner he hasn’t worked for before. He also had to use new subs on the work. He really likes the subs who send his subcontract back to him with a bunch of comments and changes.

Why? Because he’s concerned that those who don’t have comments haven’t read his subcontract.

So, instead of getting into a job and then reading something in your contract that makes you think, “WTH (What the Hell),” wouldn’t it be better if you “RTC (Read the Contract)?”  

And then maybe you’ll need a new acronym to use in your texting and tweeting: “SBT (Sleep Better Tonight)."

Per Bloomberg’s update yesterday, Morgan won the suit, and the fellow has to pay 85,000 pounds ($135,644) in court costs. Would that amount encourage you to read a contract!