Agreements - ISDA Provision
2002 ISDA Master Agreement
Section 4 in a Nutshell™
Full text of Section 4
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A hodge-podge of “state the bleeding obvious” rules, breach of some of which justifies (eventual) close-out as a “breach of agreement” — flagrantly breaking the law, carelessly losing one’s regulatory authorisations — and random tax provisions and indemnities, which by and large don’t justify close-out.
Section 4(a): “Specified information” is not actually a defined term under the ISDA Master Agreement but merely a capitalised heading. In the JC’s book, capitalising a heading is borderline illiteracy, but ISDA’s crack drafting squad™ feels differently about it and we have learned which battles to pick. At any rate, the “Specified Information”, so called, is that stuff set out in the Schedule at Part 3. These are the documents that the parties agree to deliver to each other at certain times. Part 3 itemises what must be delivered, by whom, by when, and whether the Specified Information in question is covered by the Section 3(d) representation as to its accuracy and completeness. (What good would any information be that was not covered by that representation? We will let you amble over to the article on Section 3(d) to consider that.)
Then again, nor does anyone else.
Section 4(b): The counterpart to the “Consents” representation of Section 3(a)(iv), only about the future, neatly illustrating the difference between a representation, being a declaration of fact about the state of the world in the present or past, and a covenant, being a solemn promise to do something about it in the future. Neither the past nor the future is, as regards governmental consents, tremendously controversial, or even interesting, so we do not propose to say anything more about it.
Section 4(c): Hardly controversial that one must obey the law, but note this apparently inoffensive covenant converts that general public obligation into a private civil one, with definitive commercial consequences to your counterparty, hence the couching of the language in terms of materiality (twice) and specific ability to perform obligations under the ISDA Master Agreement.
Section 4(d): These reps allow the other party to pay without deduction for certain taxes. This covenant puts the onus on the payee (beneficiary) to ensure the other party (who is subject to the authority of the taxing authority in question) is not erroneously passing through moneys that it should withhold and for which it will be personally liable to account to the tax authority. It also gives the aggrieved payer a direct right of action to claim those amounts back off the forgetful payee.
Section 4(e): Basically, if there is any Stamp Tax imposed because of my existence or residence in a certain jurisdiction, whether imposed on me or you, I’ll pay it, unless it would have been imposed on you too. If we’re both in the same Stamp Tax Jurisdiction, the liability lies where it falls.
Not providing documents for delivery is an Event of Default ... eventually
- By dint of Section 4(a) you agree to furnish each other Specified Information set out in Part 3 of the Schedule.
- By dint of Section 5(a)(ii) if you don’t then that can be a Breach of Agreement Event of Default (Section 5(a)(ii)). Be warned: you must pursue a tortured chain of nested double negatives and carefully parse the interplay between Sections 4(a) and 5(a)(ii) to grasp this, but it is true.
- But, Section 5(a)(ii) imposes a thirty freaking day grace period following notice before a Breach of Agreement counts as an Event of Default allowing termination. (A Failure to Pay or Deliver is excluded from that definition, by the way, because it has its own EOD with a much tighter grace period).
- So if you need a document “furnished” urgently and can’t wait a month for it (you might not, if you are a credit officer and it is a monthly NAV statement, for example) then you must upgrade a simple 5(a)(ii) Breach of Agreement to a full-blown Additional Termination Event.
The fabulous Section 3(d) representation, giving one’s counterparty the right to close out should any so-designated representations turn out not to be true. This is sure to occupy an inordinate amount of your negotiation time — in that it occupies any time at all — because you are as likely to be hit in the face by a live starfish in the Gobi Desert as you are to close out an ISDA Master Agreement because your counterparty is late in preparing its annual accounts. But that’s a personal view and you may not rely on it.
The 3(d) representation, in the documents for delivery table in the Schedule, therefore covers only the accuracy and completeness of Specified Information and not (for example) whether Specified Information is delivered at all. For that, see Section 4(a) - Furnish Specified Information.
What’s that Section 3(d) representation malarkey?
- No show: one can fail to provide it, at all, in which case there is a Breach of Agreement, but be warned: the period before one can enforce such a failure, judged by the yardstick of modern financial contracts, is long enough for a whole kingdom of dinosaurs to evolve and be wiped out; or
- It’s cobblers: one can provide the Specified Information, on time, but it can be a total pile of horse ordure. Now, here is a trick for young players: if your Specified Information is, or turns out to be, false, you have no remedy unless you have designated that it is “subject to the Section 3(d) representation”. That is the one that promises it is accurate and not misleading.
Now you might ask what good an item of Specified Information can possibly be, if Section 3(d) didn’t apply and it could be just made up on the spot without fear of retribution — as a youngster, the JC certainly asked that question, and has repeated it over many years, and is yet to hear a good answer — but all we can presume is that in its tireless quest to cater for the unguessable predilections of the negotiating community, ISDA’s crack drafting squad™ left this preposterous option open just in case. It wouldn’t be the first time.
Withholding under the ISDA
TL;DR: The basic rationale is this:
- if the tax relates to the underlying instrument, rather than the Payer’s residence or tax status, the Payer does not have to gross up.
- if the tax relates to the Payer’s residence or tax status, then the Payer does have to gross up unless the Payee should have provided information to the Payer which would have entitled the Payer to avoid the tax.
- if you’ve agreed the FATCA Amendment, the Payer doesn’t have to gross up any FATCA Withholding Taxes.
- Section 3(e): I promise you that I do not have to withhold on my payments to you (as long as all your Payee Tax Representations are correct and you have, under Section 4(a), given me everything I need to pay free of withholding);
- Section 2(d): I will not withhold on any payments to you. Unless I am required to by law. Which I kind of told you I wasn’t... If I have to withhold, I'll pay the tax the authorities and give you the receipt. If I only had to withhold because of my connection to the taxing jurisdiction (that is, if the withholding is an Indemnifiable Tax), I’ll gross you up. (You should look at the drafting of Indemnifiable Tax, by the way. It's quite a marvel). ...
- Gross-Up: Unless the tax could have been avoided if the Payee had taken made all its 3(f) representations, delivered all its 4(a) material, or had its 3(f) representations been, like, true).
- Stamp Tax is a whole other thing.
- As is FATCA, which (as long as you’ve made your FATCA Amendment or signed up to a FATCA Protocol, provides that FATCA Withholding Taxes are excluded from the Section 3(e) Payer Tax Representations, and also from the definition of Indemnifiable Tax. Meaning one doesn't have to rep, or gross up, FATCA payments.
- Sigh. Sending.