These ringmen typically help present property to the bidders, and also relay bids and other information to/from the audience and the auctioneer.
In fact, we have consistently concluded that the people working the ring are strictly relaying bids to the auctioneer, as contrasted with accepting bids or acting as a legal agent for the seller.
Here our thoughts on relaying versus accepting are here:
Our question today regards, further, if a ringman could or would be considered an “agent” for the seller, bidder (buyer) or auctioneer?
Agency is a particular legal relationship between a client and an agent. In such arrangements, the client engages the agent for representation. Typical agent dues include obedience, loyalty, disclosure, confidentiality, accounting and reasonable care.
For this relationship to exist, it must be formed by offer and acceptance. In other words, the client must offer to be represented, and the agent accept, or the agent must offer representation, and the client accept.
Either way, this offer-and-acceptance must be characterized in some fashion. Typically this is accomplished in words, such as, “I’d like you to be my agent” and “Yes, I will be” or implied in action where the client appears to rely on the agent, and the agent appears to be acting on behalf of the client.
Quite frankly, given the definition of agency, the responsibilities involved and the tactics used to form such relationships, I think that answers our question today.
Even if we take the least tangible version of agency creation (implied,) it is hard to imagine that ringmen perform all the duties of single-client agency without exception; it would be much easier to conclude that ringmen are working for the auctioneer as an independent contractor or employee, and are charged with those duties alone.
In a given auction, a ringman could well know the seller’s hidden reserve, be directed by the auctioneer to perform certain tasks, be advised by a bidder of his maximum bid, and be interested in bidding for himself. So, is that ringman an agent for the seller, auctioneer, bidder and himself? A four-pronged agency responsibility?
On the contrary, we conclude a ringman is employed (or contracted) by the auctioneer, charged with certain tasks — working for the auctioneer, and not an agent for anyone.
Would an auctioneer desire a ringman to necessarily be an agent? We can’t think of a reason. Agency brings additional legal responsibilities without any real benefits; breaching such duties can invite litigation, and any perceived advantage of agency would be cost ineffective.
Lastly, maybe think of it this way … how many times does the seller (for example) not even know who the ringman is? How many times does the seller never meet the ringman? Does that sound like an agency relationship?
Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, CAI, AARE has been an auctioneer and certified appraiser for over 30 years. His company’s auctions are located at: Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, Keller Williams Auctions and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction. His Facebook page is: www.facebook.com/mbauctioneer. He serves as Adjunct Faculty at Columbus State Community College and is Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School.