Transfer of Title - CSA Provision
- Don’t say: What's title transfer?
If you must say it, don’t ask five industry associations to get together at once to explain it to you.
A little bit of “well, it really ought to go without saying but, hell, you are derivatives lawyers, so we know that’s not how you roll” drafting.
In these modern, dematerialised times, the securities in a clearing system — that is, pretty much all securities — exist only as entries in a ledger maintained by the clearing system. The individual securities are not security-printed, physical things. 
In any case, like all good intermediaries, the clearing system gets fees from participants for being a clearing system. To guard against non-payment of these fees, it keeps a lien on all global securities it holds.
Now all this sits a long way down the stack of turtles that makes up the modern metaphysical financial system — almost so deep as to be beyond the paranoid articulations of an ISDA ninja — but, as you can see, not quite.
The big difference between 1994 New York law CSAs and English law CSAs: title transfer and pledge
This feels as good a time as any to raise the great subject of title transfer and pledge. Under a 1994 New York law CSA one transfers Credit Support by means of pledge. Under a English law CSA one transfers Credit Support by means to title transfer.
What is the difference? Well, in a Nutshell™:
Title transfer under a English law CSA
Under a “title transfer collateral arrangement” when a party provides collateral it transfers it to the other party outright and absolutely: it gives it, free of all reversionary interests, to the Transferee.
- Securities delivered to Transferee become the Transferee’s property absolutely
- Transferee does not hold them in custody for the Transferor;
- Transferee has only an obligation to redeliver an equivalent security.
- Therefore no CASS or custody question arises at any point - the Transferor gives up all legal claims to the asset.
- Nor does it make any sense to talk about the Transferee’s right to reuse or rehypothecate the asset. It owns the asset outright: by definition it can do what it wants with it; the Transferor can’t stop it.
Pledge under a 1994 New York law CSA (and a English law CSD)
Examples: The 1994 New York law CSAs and the English law CSD are security financial collateral arrangements in that the Pledgor creates a security interest over the document in favour of the Secured Party, but retains beneficial ownership of the assets.
- The Pledgor delivers the assets to the Secured Party to hold in custody, subject to the security interest, for the Pledgor. The Pledgor retains title to the assets.
- Secured Party holds the assets subject to a security interest securing its payment obligation under the related transaction.
- The custody arrangement only exists while Secured Party holds the security, not before.
- Under the 1994 New York law CSAs the Secured Party may nonetheless be entitled to sell the pledged asset absolutely, under a process known as rehypothecation. Don’t laugh. The JC thinks this converts the pledge into a title transfer collateral arrangement — at least at the point of rehypothecation. If so, it makes you wonder why, you know, all the fuss with security interests.
“Transaction” versus “Credit Support Document” complicated affair.
Because ownership transfers absolutely, the Transferee doesn’t have to do anything to enforce its collateral. It already owns it outright. Indeed, to the contrary, should the Exposure that the collateral supports disappear, the Transferor will be the creditor of the Transferee. It is as it it were a Transaction under the ISDA where the mark-to-market exposure had flipped around. Indeed, a English law CSA is a “Transaction” under the ISDA Master Agreement — it is an integral part of the ISDA Master Agreement itself, and it is the proverbial schoolboy error to label a English law CSA as a “Credit Support Document”. It is not a Credit Support Document. From the point of view of the ISDA architecture it is the Confirmation for a Transaction.
But the 1994 New York law CSAs are not Transactions, for the same reason: title doesn’t change hands. They are old fashioned security arrangements. Therefore they 'are Credit Support Documents in the labyrinthine logic of ISDA’s crack drafting squad™. This all no doubt must have seen an excellently complex thing for the little gnomes in ISDA’s crack drafting squad™when they were devising the idea of the CSA back in the early nineties. Nowadays, it just seems silly. But here we are, folks.