Surety Bonds: Pay Raise or Title?

Enjoy this scene from Cheers “Woody: Raise or Title?”

We laugh at Woody being duped.  He went after the wrong prize, just like some agents when it comes to commissions.

Agents face this choice: Commission percentage or commission dollars?

You might think a higher commission percentage automatically means higher dollars, but slow down Woody: It ain’t necessarily so! Let’s do the math.

Example 1) Bond Amount: $1,000,000

Premium rate: 2% = $20,000

Commission Percentage: 30%

Commission Dollars: $6,000  

Example 2) Bond Amount: $1,000,000

Premium rate: 2.5% = $25,000

Commission Percentage: 25%

Commission Dollars: $6,250  

Interesting! A lower commission rate can yield higher commission dollars when the premium rate is higher.  When the premium rate goes lower, the commission dollars drop even more.  A 1% rate with a 30% commission yields only $3,000 commission!

What about sliding scales?  At 30% commission, the 25/15/10 rate delivers only $4,050 in commission dollars.

OK so here’s the conclusion: Focus on commission percentage and you may end up being Senior Bartender like Woody. When calculating income, the bond rate makes you a winner!

Since 1979 FIA has been a dependable provider of Bid, Performance, Site and Subdivision Bonds.  Call us with your next one.

Steve Golia, Marketing Mgr. 856-304-7348

FIA Surety / First Indemnity of America Insurance Company, Morris Plains, NJ

We are currently licensed in: NJ, PA, DE, MD, VA, NC, SC, WV, TN,  FL, GA, AL, OK, TX

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Secrets of Bonding #73: Substitute Bid Bonds

substitute teacher

Remember how much fun it was to have a substitute teacher? Well, this is a little less exciting…

In Secret #49 we talked about bidding with a check.  This is a related topic. Substitute bid bonds are an odd part of what we do as surety professionals.  Here’s how you may run into one.

It is common for project specifications to offer a number of methods to provide the bid security that accompanies a contractors project proposal.  The options may include a check made out to the obligee, or a bid bond.

A substitute bid bond may be issued after bid security has already been given with the contractor’s proposal.  This bid bond will replace, or be substituted for the existing security – thus the name.

This may arise when the contractor has no surety at the time of the bid.  They bid with a check.  Now, with a surety in place, their first request is “How about helping us get our cash back?  It’s tied up with that bid.”

What a great way to start off by helping the new client. However, sureties are not always in favor of issuing these, and some refuse to do so under any circumstances.  Why?!

1. Bid Spread: In this case, the contractor is the low bidder, but they are too low. (Read Secret #16 to learn about unacceptable bid spreads.) The contractor may be in line for the project, but the surety does not want to issue the performance bond (aka final bond).  If the bonding company provides the substitute bid bond, they become obligated to issue the final bond or face a bid bond claim (two bad options!) “Sorry, we are not able to provide a substitute bid bond for that project.”

The fallout is that the contractor may blame the surety when they lose their bid security for failing to deliver the final bond. They will also lose the expected income from the project – pretty ugly.

2. Final Bond Optional: The specs may indicate that a Performance & Payment bond is not mandatory. It is optional at the obligee’s discretion. This amounts to adverse selection against the surety.  If the obligee thinks the contractor looks capable: No bond.  If there is some doubt about their ability to perform or the adequacy of the price, better pass the risk over to the bonding company.

For this reason, substitute bid bonds may be declined if a final bond is not mandatory.  Remember, final bonds are where sureties make their money.  Bid bonds are usually free.  The contractor will not lose anything as a result of the refusal to issue the substitute and they are already eligible to win the contract.

3. Not Low Bidder: This is similar to Number 2. Here the contractor is second or third bidder. The common practice is for obligees to hold the bid security of the second and third bidders in case they need to give them the project (maybe the low bidder can’t get their final bond issued?) The bid checks could be held for months!

From the surety’s perspective there is no question about the adequacy of the second or third bidder’s number.  This may be a well-priced contract. The problem is that they are unlikely to issue a final bond.  (Projects are rarely awarded to the second or third bidders.) This has even less chance of making money for them than a normal bid bond request.

To the contractor, a substitute bid bond may seem like a great idea. For the surety, the only desirable situation is when their client is low bidder with an acceptable bid spread and a mandatory final bond. Absent that, don’t be surprised if the surety only wants to get involved after the contract award takes place and the final bond is needed.


FIA Surety is your go-to market for Site & Subdivision bonds.

FIA Surety / First Indemnity of America Insurance Company
2740 Rt. 10 West, Suite 205
Morris Plains, NJ 07950
Office: 973-541-3417
Visit us: www.fiasurety.com
We are currently licensed in: NJ, PA, DE, MD, VA, NC, SC, WV, TN,  FL, GA, AL, OK, TX

Secrets of Bonding #51: Writing Bonds to Your Uncle

Sam, that is…

There are lots of federal bonds.  It’s a unique corner of the surety world with special requirements and mandatory bond forms.  Here is a general overview and some specific comments on Performance Bonds for federal contracts.

With so many federal forms for specific situations there’s bound to be some strange ones: Adulterated Butter Bond, Opium Smoking Bond and the Tobacco Tube Manufacturers Strengthening Bond to name a few!

The general categories are:

  • Official Bonds covering the actions of people in office
  • Immigrant Bonds covering foreign persons in the U.S.
  • Excise Bonds cover taxation
  • Customs Bonds relating to import and export

In addition to all the various small bonds, there are the Performance and Payment Bonds which often are for millions of dollars covering contracts for construction and services. Let’s talk about these.

For construction, the federal forms are Bid Bond #24, Performance Bond #25 and Payment Bond #25A.

Some unique aspects to note:

  • If issued by a corporate surety, they must appear on the current version of Circular 570 (T-List) for an amount sufficient to cover the bond in question.  You can refer to the current list here: http://www.fms.treas.gov/c570/c570.html
  • The use of 24, 25 and 25A is mandatory on contracts offered directly by a branch of the federal government. Projects that include federal funding, but are offered by a local non-federal entity, are governed by whatever bonding requirements they designate.
  • On Bid Bonds, the “Date Bond Executed” and “Bid Date” are not required to be identical, but the execution date cannot be after the bid date.
  • Federal bids bonds are normally for 20% of the proposal amount.
  • On the #24 Bid Bond, it is not necessary to fill in a dollar amount for the penal sum of the bid bond – as long as the Percent of Bid Price (such as 20%) has been indicated.  It is also not necessary or correct for the surety to indicate their T-List limit in the Penal Sum area or in the signing area “Surety A.”  The correct dollar amount of responsibility is automatically calculated based on the proposed contract amount.  Entering a dollar figure is only necessary if the surety wishes to cap the bid bond amount by setting a maximum value.  (Refer to Secret #8.  Call if you don’t have it. (856) 304-7348.
  • On 25 and 25A, it is not necessary to enter a dollar amount in the signing area “Surety A” unless there is a co-surety on the bond.  Liability Limit in the Surety A section is not asking for the T-list amount.
  • Federal bonds are always made out to the United States of America.  They do not name the actual governmental agency.
  • In the current edition, the nature of the work is listed on the Bid Bond, but not on the Performance or Payment Bond.  Only the contract number is indicated.
  • You can download the current edition of these Standard Forms here: http://www.gsa.gov/portal/forms/type/SF  That’s important because a bond can be rejected by the C.O. if an obsolete version of SFs are used.
  • In the current edition (2004), the form 24 Bid Bond says “Pervious edition is usable.”  Which, despite the poor spelling, means older versions are OK, same with the form 25A Payment bond.  Be sure to always read the printed details on the form which indicate the expiration date and other important facts.
  • Another “Ooops!” from Uncle: There is no typable field provided on the form to enter a bond number.  You need to do this manually. “Perviously” the form was not even typable.  Small steps!

There you have it.  Federal Bond forms are different, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still be friends.

Readers please note: These posts are for your entertainment and enjoyment.  We do not assume responsibility for your correct execution of bonds, nor are we responsible to any third parties.

FIA Surety is a NJ based bonding company (carrier) that has specialized in Site, Subdivision, Bid and Performance Bonds since 1979 – we’re good at it!  Call us with your next one.

Steve Golia, Marketing Mgr.: 856-304-7348

First Indemnity of America Ins. Co.

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Secrets of Bonding #29: When Federal Contracts Are Not

In bonding, like insurance, we are always careful to review specifications and requirements when bonding a new contract.  The specs will state if a bond is required, the amount, and other relevant aspects such as acceptable credentials for the surety, and the bond form.

When it comes to contract documents, it is immediately evident if a project is federal. The solicitation or award letter will identify it as such, and an entity like the Army Corps of Engineers, will be named. It would be clear that the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) apply and that you must have a 100% P&P bond on the federal bond form, issued by an acceptable T-Listed Corporate Surety.

So what are the bonding requirements on federally funded contracts? An example would be a local housing association project that has state and federal grant money. Is that a federal contract?  Do all the federal bonding requirements apply?

For the answer, we must review the solicitation or award and determine who is offering the work. A local housing association contract is just that – a local project, not federal. This is an important distinction because, at least partially, it answers the question about the bonding requirements.

  • True federal projects must follow the FAR. http://www.acquisition.gov/far/
  • Local or private contracts may follow aspects of the FAR if the obligee so choses, however it is voluntary.

This is an important distinction for agents to appreciate because it determines which sureties can be called upon to issue the bond.

For Federal, Corporate Sureties that appear on Circular 570 (the T-List) may be acceptable.

On non-federal projects, such as local contracts that include federal funding, the specs may vary – so no assumptions can be made. Chances are they will differ from the federal guidelines.  Only a review of the documents will reveal the answer.

Non-federal contracts can be local public work, such as a state or municipal job, or they could be private. Private contracts are all unique and as a long established surety, we have bonded many of them.  We have the flexibility to support a wide variety of special bond forms and other challenging aspects such as dual obligee riders that name lenders.  For more info about bonding private contracts, review Secret #18.


So when are federal contracts not?

You now know merely having federal funds does not make the contract “federal.”  It is only required to follow the FAR if offered by a direct branch of the federal government.

For non-federal contracts, you will not know the bonding requirements until you review the written requirements – and there is no predicting what you may find.

FIA Surety is a NJ based bonding company (carrier) that has specialized in Site, Subdivision, Bid and Performance Bonds since 1979 – we’re good at it!  Call us with your next one.

Steve Golia, Marketing Mgr.: 856-304-7348

First Indemnity of America Ins. Co.

(Don’t miss our next exciting article.  Click the “Follow” button at the top right.)