|The Jolly Contrarian’s Glossary |
The snippy guide to financial services lingo.™
The legal document reflecting the contract made by the trader gesticulating at someone across the dealing floor, hammering away on his Bloomberg terminal, or rabbiting into three phones at once. The confirm is generated by someone in back office who has been, or is in dire risk of being, outsourced.
If a trader agrees one thing, and the confirmation the parties subsequently sign says another, which gives? A 15 second dealing-floor exchange on a crackly taped line, or the carefully-wrought ten page, counterpart-executed legal epistle that follows it?
TL;DR: The original oral trade prevails.
That is, the binding trade may be a phone call or a bloomberg chat. (This sits kind of uneasily with that Entire Agreement clause, but still.)
If there is a dispute about the terms of your confirmation, you are going to have to pull the tapes.
There are some very good reasons for this. Firstly, the original trade was done by the trader with the trading mandate. The confirmation will be punted out by some dude in ops who might not be able to read the trader’s handwriting. Ops can and will get things wrong. That is correctable on the record. The trader doesn’t “get things wrong”. If she does, you’re into mistake territory. The law on contractual mistakes is beloved by students of the law and misunderstood by everyone else. But, generally, if the trader erroneously executes a trade, and the trader’s counterparty understands it correctly, the trader, and the firm she works for, will be bound by the error. That’s not a contractual mistake. It’s just a bad trade.
By contrast, a settlements and reconciliations dude who sends out a confirm which carelessly misinterprets the trade log is not making a contractual mistake: he is incorrectly recording the contract. That wasn’t the trade (good or bad) that the trader did.
Similarly, the reconciliations dude who sends out a confirm which corrects an error made by the trader has no mandate to make that change. The error is the trader’s. The trader should live with it, and throw herself at the mercy of the jurisprudence of contractual mistakes if need be: it is not for said reconciliations dude to pull her out of a hole.