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Question

Are there other countries than Chile where private institutions and government alike require people to sign a debt acknowledgement with date and amount in blank (sometimes validated at the notary), to be filled some time after the signing?

Related: I posted a distinct but similar question on https://academia.stackexchange.com/questions/193376/research-funding-conditionned-to-the-signing-of-a-debt-acknowledgment-with-amoun about such debt acknowledgments used as a prerequisite for researchers to receive state research funding.

Context

In Chile, private hospitals routinely require their clients to sign a debt acknowledgment with an amount in blank before being admitted to the emergencies. It is considered as a (desirable) way to speed-up the admission process, permitting to people in pain to skip a long administrative process in order to insure that the cost of their medical treatment will be covered.

The institution distributing state research funding ANID (formerly known as CONICYT) via various "Fondecyt" competitions ("Fondecyt Initiation" for young researchers, "Fondecyt Regular" for other researchers, etc.) is doing the same, requesting researchers who "won" the competition to sign at a notary's office a debt acknowledgment with both the amount and the date in blank, as a condition to get access to the research funding. Only a few notaries accept to validate such documents, but only because they normally compute their fees for validating such a document based on a percentage of the amount of the debt acknowledgment (which they cannot do when the amount is left blank).

Motivation

I thought that this would be illegal: signing a document is supposed to mean that one has read the terms of the documents and agrees with them, which is of course does not mean that one will agree with the terms of the documents once it has been modified. I was told that such document was indeed legal in Chile.

As an academic in Chile, I am expected to apply for state research funding, and to sign such debt acknowledgment if awarded such funding (and told "not to worry, as such debt acknowledgment is never enforced by the government"). I find this the most note worthy example of systemic corruption, in the sense that the very meaning of a signed contract is corrupted. I would like to gather arguments in order to try to convince higher instances of the inadequacy of such a policy.

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    This sounds a bit like what in the U.S. is called a "confession of judgment" in structure (which is disfavored but allowed in some states), and a bit like what is called a "guarantee" or "acknowledgment of financial responsibility." (which would usually be a promise to pay the lawful amount owed, not a blank dollar amount). Common law countries also have doctrines of fiduciary duties to address situations like this, but I suspect that this body of law isn't as well developed in Chile.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Feb 10, 2023 at 20:31

2 Answers 2

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This Reconocimiento de deuda is a real and standard thing, and they also use them in Zimbabwe, but it says that the amount should be stated exactly ("Se debe indicar con exactitud la cuantía de la deuda que se reconoce"). Unless you fill in an amount that you are willing to accept as your debt, you are trusting that the various people who come to be in possession of the document are trustworthy. The document basically deprives you of the right to oppose the debt.

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This looks like a very very big red flag to me. A document where I acknowledge a debt, and someone else can fill in the date and the amount at any time, that is absolutely totally 100% unacceptable. Do not sign this under any circumstances.

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  • It IS a red flag, but when under pressure, people do sign such documents. I signed such a document 1) the first time I went to the emergencies, while in pain; and 2) when I got funding from ANID (after applying three years in a row in order to get it), with a closing deadline to sign the paperwork required to receive the money. I am asking this question in order to be better prepared the next time I am requested to sign such a document.
    – J..y B..y
    Commented Feb 10, 2023 at 16:33

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