Automatic Early Termination - ISDA Provision
2002 ISDA Master Agreement
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Automatic Early Termination in all its glory
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Those with a keen eye will notice that, but for the title, Section 6(a) of the 2002 ISDA is the same as Section 6(a) of the 1992 ISDA and, really, not a million miles away from the svelte form of Section 6(a) in the 1987 ISDA — look on that as the Broadcaster to the 1992’s Telecaster.
Automatic Early Termination is an odd and misunderstood concept which exists in Section 6(a) Right to Terminate Following Event of Default of the ISDA Master Agreement. As is so much in the ISDA Master Agreement, it’s all about Netting. Where a jurisdiction suspends terms of contracts in a period of formal insolvency, the idea is to have the ISDA break before that suspension kicks in — so close-out netting works.
AET is thus only triggered by certain events under the Bankruptcy event of default — formal bankruptcy procedures — and not by economic events that tend to indicate insolvency (such as an inability to pay debts as they fall due, technical insolvency or the exercise of security. Nor does it apply to other Events of Default.
Automatic early termination (“AET”) protects in jurisdictions (e.g., Germany and Switzerland) where certain bankruptcy events would allow a liquidator to “cherry-pick” those transactions it wishes to honour (those which are in-the-money to the defaulting party) and avoid those where the defaulting party is out-of-the-money.
It is only really useful:
(1) to a regulated financial institution which
(2) would incur a capital charge if it doesn’t have a netting opinion, and
(3) where it wouldn’t get that netting opinion for a particular counterparty without AET being switched on in its ISDA Master Agreement.
There are only few counterparty types where these conditions prevail: the German and Swiss corporates mentioned above, for example. There may be others, but not many, because AET is a good-old-days, regulators-really-are-dopey-if-they-fall-for-this kind of a tactic. I mean, really? Deeming your ISDA to have magically terminated, without anyone’s knowledge or action, the instant before that termination would become problematic as a result of your insolvency? Come on. Is any sophisticated market really going to wear that? (No slight meant on Germany or Switzerland here: the “Teutonic” AET does not deliver netting where unequivocally it would otherwise be forbidden, but rather is buttress residual doubt about the effectiveness of netting during insolvency as a result of looseness in insolvency regulations that aren’t categorical that you can net. The view is generally it should be okay in insolvency, but there are just some freaky discretions which may make life awkward if used maliciously. This is not legal advice obviously.)
- The JC’s famous Nutshell™ summary of this clause