As amended from time to time
Towards more picturesque speech™
A flatulent coda that goes without saying and is capable of as much embellishment as you have space mental capacity to apply to the task. Try, for example, “as amended, supplemented, updated and/or augmented from time to time”. You could perhaps toss in “orally or in writing”, and perhaps signify a time period with that wholly redundant elaboration “at any time”. so
There’s also, always, scope for avoiding some doubt that wasn’t there in the first place.
As amended from time to time usually describes a contract, statute or regulation, will be buried in a definitions section, and does no real harm, but it will offend prose stylists who happen to be reading.
But the retort, should the pedant with whom you are negotiating seek to so dirty your prose, is this: “It goes without saying that it means “as amended from time to time”. Well, what kind of freak would want to refer to a contract or statute as it exists at any time other than at the present moment?”
“An ERISA lawyer” is the usual response.
Now once upon a time, I thought this ERISA gag might go silently appreciated, at least among my contrarian co-conspirators in the financial derivatives world, but it seems not. So, at the risk of explaining the joke:
Famously, ERISA plans tend to be set not to net, and for the unholiest of reasons, courtesy of the opinions committee of a leading U.S. law firm which prudence counsels it would be wiser not to name, but upon whom the whole market relies.
This firm cannot bring itself to rule out the risk that, when resolving an insolvent ERISA plan, a court would interpret ERISA as incorporating the US Bankruptcy Code as it stood in 1971 to the insolvency of the plan, rather than the Code as it stands at the time of insolvency. That’s a problem, because the “safe harbors” one relies upon for safely closing out swaps were only put into the Bankruptcy Code in the 1980s. So, no netting against ERISA plans. Just in case.
Let me break that down:
- The Bankruptcy Code, today, contains a safe harbor allowing you to close out an ISDA Master Agreement without fearing for your netting, and has done for thirty odd years.
- The ERISA legislation, today, allows you to rely on available safe harbors in the Bankruptcy Code.
- Since ERISA was enacted in 1971, thought the very wisest eagle of the legal eagles, this might mean only the safe harbors that were there in 1971 count, even if they don’t exist today, and none of the safe harbors that have been enacted since, even if they still do exist, because when it refers to the Bankruptcy Code, ERISA doesn’t say “as amended from time to time”.
Seriously. That’s it.
It is a frankly fantastical fear: Not only is it hard to know, at this remove, what the US Bankruptcy Code said in 1971, much less how it might have been interpreted in those days, but many of the institutions and concepts it relies on may since have been abolished or materially changed. Who knows? perhaps some old hippyish safe harbors from the 1960s that might apply to swaps. But then again, it’s not that likely — and it is just as harsh to blame US legislators for not enacting safe harbors for swaps before the 1980s — since there weren’t any swaps before 1981.