2002 ISDA Master Agreement
A Jolly Contrarian owner’s manual™
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Section 8 in a Nutshell™
Use at your own risk, campers!
8. Contractual Currency
8(a) Payment in the Contractual Currency: Each payment under this Agreement must be made in the currency specified for that payment (the “Contractual Currency”). Payments made in a Non-Contractual Currency will only discharge an obligation to the extent the recipient, having converted it into the Contractual Currency in good faith using commercially reasonable procedures, achieves the full amount payable in the Contractual Currency.
- (i) If the converted amount falls short of the amount payable in the Contractual Currency, the payer must immediately pay the necessary balance in the Contractual Currency.
- (ii) If the converted amount exceeds the full amount payable in the Contractual Currency, the payee must promptly refund the excess.
8(b) Judgments. If a party obtains judgment in a Non-Contractual Currency against the other for any amount due under this Agreement and, having recovered that judgment debt, a shortfall or excess remains over the original amount due in the Contractual Currency (due to the exchange rate at which the judgment creditor, in good faith and a commercially reasonable manner, converted the judgement debt into the Contractual Currency), that judgment creditor:
- (i) will be entitled to immediately receive from the other party, the value of any such shortfall in the Contractual Currency; and
- (ii) must promptly refund to the other party any such excess in the Contractual Currency.
8(c) Separate Indemnities. The indemnities in this Section 8 are independent of the parties’ other obligations in this Agreement. They create separate causes of action. They will apply notwithstanding any indulgence granted to the payer by the payee, or any other claims made or judgments awarded for amounts due under this Agreement.
8(d) Evidence of Loss. Under Section 8, it will be enough if a party can show that it would have suffered a loss had it actually made the currency conversion.
Full text of Section 8
8. Contractual Currency
8(a) Payment in the Contractual Currency. Each payment under this Agreement will be made in the relevant currency specified in this Agreement for that payment (the “Contractual Currency”). To the extent permitted by applicable law, any obligation to make payments under this Agreement in the Contractual Currency will not be discharged or satisfied by any tender in any currency other than the Contractual Currency, except to the extent such tender results in the actual receipt by the party to which payment is owed, acting in good faith and using commercially reasonable procedures in converting the currency so tendered into the Contractual Currency, of the full amount in the Contractual Currency of all amounts payable in respect of this Agreement. If for any reason the amount in the Contractual Currency so received falls short of the amount in the Contractual Currency payable in respect of this Agreement, the party required to make the payment will, to the extent permitted by applicable law, immediately pay such additional amount in the Contractual Currency as may be necessary to compensate for the shortfall. If for any reason the amount in the Contractual Currency so received exceeds the amount in the Contractual Currency payable in respect of this Agreement, the party receiving the payment will refund promptly the amount of such excess.
8(b) Judgments. To the extent permitted by applicable law, if any judgment or order expressed in a currency other than the Contractual Currency is rendered (i) for the payment of any amount owing in respect of this Agreement, (ii) for the payment of any amount relating to any early termination in respect of this Agreement or (iii) in respect of a judgment or order of another court for the payment of any amount described in clause (i) or (ii) above, the party seeking recovery, after recovery in full of the aggregate amount to which such party is entitled pursuant to the judgment or order, will be entitled to receive immediately from the other party the amount of any shortfall of the Contractual Currency received by such party as a consequence of sums paid in such other currency and will refund promptly to the other party any excess of the Contractual Currency received by such party as a consequence of sums paid in such other currency if such shortfall or such excess arises or results from any variation between the rate of exchange at which the Contractual Currency is converted into the currency of the judgment or order for the purpose of such judgment or order and the rate of exchange at which such party is able, acting in good faith and using commercially reasonable procedures in converting the currency received into the Contractual Currency, to purchase the Contractual Currency with the amount of the currency of the judgment or order actually received by such party.
8(c) Separate Indemnities. To the extent permitted by applicable law, the indemnities in this Section 8 constitute separate and independent obligations from the other obligations in this Agreement, will be enforceable as separate and independent causes of action, will apply notwithstanding any indulgence granted by the party to which any payment is owed and will not be affected by judgment being obtained or claim or proof being made for any other sums payable in respect of this Agreement.
8(d) Evidence of Loss. For the purpose of this Section 8, it will be sufficient for a party to demonstrate that it would have suffered a loss had an actual exchange or purchase been made.
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But for a burst of excitement and vigour by dint of which ISDA’s crack drafting squad™ found itself desirous of moving the obvious-stating “rate of exchange” definition from Section 8(b) to the main definitions section — a result of that unnecessarily defined expression also showing up in the 2002 ISDA’s new Section 6(f) — and for a mildly different way of expressing the idea of “commercial reasonableness” — Section 8 of the 1992 ISDA survived unscathed when overhauled for the 2002 ISDA.
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One could have stopped after the first sentence, but it is a rare ISDA ninja that can help himself babbling. ISDA ninjas would make terrible used-car salespeople.
Why the ISDA Master Agreement feels the need to contemplate the discharge of obligations in one currency by payment of an amount in another — non-compliance with the clear terms of the contract in other words — we can only guess. The payer’s ability to plow this obverse furrow still depends on the payee’s good humour: the payee is not obliged to indulge the payer, but may, by converting the tendered amount into the Contractual Currency.
If there is a shortfall, the payer must pay it immediately — fair, since the payer is craving the recipient’s indulgence in the first place and is really courting a Failure to Pay or Deliver by his cavalier behaviour.
If there is an excess, the recipient must return it promptly — also fair, seeing as she didn’t ask to be paid in Brazilian Real, and had to go to all the trouble of converting it and faffing around at the FX counter at that little shop in the arcade near Liverpool Street.
Enforcing judgments in far-flung places
It is a fact of life that when enforcing a cross-border contract, you may find yourself journeying to foreign climes in a bid to prise assets and payments out of a foreign counterparty. Places like Italy. With the best will in the world, and the firmest written intentions that the agreement be governed by English law and justiciable exclusively by her majesty’s courts, that may still mean engaging with, and obtaining judgments from foreign court systems, if that is where your counterparty and its financial resources are located. Those courts may be obliged to award their judgments, about your judgment, in their local currency. That exposes you to FX risk. This clause requires the parties to true up — immediately, should the windfall accrue to the Defaulting Party, only promptly if it accrues to the innocent one — by reference to a fairly determined “rate of exchange”.
Nerd’s point: This obligation is, strictly speaking, an indemnity obligation, in the true sense of that concept, in that is a payment that becomes due by reference to an externality that was not caused by breach of contract (even though originally it might have arisen out of one). So that’s nice.
Abvout that “rate of exchange” — in the 1992 ISDA defined on the spot; in the 2002 ISDA promoted to the big league and featuring in the main Definitions section. Allow the JC a pet moan. Goddamn “definitions”.
You could scarcely ask for a less necessary definition. In their hearts, you sense ISDA’s crack drafting squad™ knew this, for they couldn’t find it in themselves to even capitalise it. In the 1992 ISDA, rate of exchange didn’t even make the Definitions section, but was half-heartedly tacked onto the end of a clause halfway through the Contractual Currency section. It made it into the 2002 ISDA’s Definitions Section only because it somehow wangled its unecessary way into the new Set-off clause (Section 6(f) of the 2002 ISDA).
But if two guiding principles of defining terms are (i) don’t, for terms you only use once or twice, and (ii) don’t, if the meaning of the thing you are considering defining is patently obvious — then “rate of exchange” comprehensively fails the main criteria of a good definition.
The JC’s general view is, all other things being equal, to ease comprehension, eschew definitions.
Also, could they not have used “exchange rate”, instead of rate of exchange?
So who even knew the things in Section 8(a) and 8(b) were indemnities?
They are, in the strict literal sense of an indemnity: a contractual promise to pay a sum of money (the difference between the amount paid in the Non-Contractual Currency and the actual amount owed in the Contractual Currency) in circumstances not (strictly) amounting to a breach; they are not in the popular (but misconceived) conception of an indemnity as some kind of all-conquering smart bomb.
Now, we must hush, if we want to get home at a reasonable hour, because the Indemnity is one of the JC’s pet subjects. Get him started and that’s the evening gone.
So if your clottish counterparty can’t follow simple instructions and sends you Lire rather than Pesetas, and thereby fails to cover your loss, as long as you can prove what the exchange rate was at the time you would have exchanged it into the Contractual Currency, you can recover a loss, even if you didn’t.
Now this, to me, seems a little controversial. What if the exchange rate dropped through the floor, then recovered, and the Non-Affected Party held his nerve. Can he then cherry-pick?
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