Safe harbor

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My port in your heavy storm.

A favourite metaphor for U.S. Securities lawyers, who find safe harbors in many unexpected places, to shelter them and their clients from the vicissitudes of:

There are doubtless many more.

ERISA netting

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[1], 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.[2] So, no netting against ERISA plans. Just in case.

Let me break that down:

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.

See also

  1. Definitely not Cadwalader, obviously.
  2. Being WHEN SWAPS WERE INVENTED. See swap history.