The Law relating to syndicated loan agreements and its application in commercial practice

Norman Mugarura (Garadi Ltd, Barking, UK)

Journal of Financial Regulation and Compliance

ISSN: 1358-1988

Publication date: 9 May 2016

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to articulate the law relating to syndicated loan agreements and what legal experts and parties need to safeguard against inherent pitfalls in its usage and practice. The research design of this paper has two strands: an examination of generic issues relating syndicated loan agreements and the process; and the mechanisms for transferring proprietary rights and interests should parties want to do so.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper was written on the basis of evaluating primary and secondary data sources to gain insights into commercial experiences of harnessing syndicated loan facilities as an alternative form of raising finance for development projects. It has examined case law which reflects the law and practice of syndicated loan markets both in common and civil law jurisdictions. Particular attention has been paid to the credibility of source materials and its relevance to usage and practice of syndicated loan agreements. The core element of this methodology has been an evaluation of generic issues which underpin syndicated loan agreements, analysis of academic literature and evaluation of cases and policy documents. The paper has drawn examples in both common and civil jurisdictions to gain insights into the law which governs syndicated loan markets and its practical application. There has been an uptake in syndicated loan markets not only in United Kingdom but also globally. While there has been a growing body of literature on syndicated loan markets, mechanisms for transferring proprietary rights and interests of contractual parties have not been given proportionate attention. The paper addresses a gap in the law of syndicated loan markets and the varied ways in which they are harnessed in international commercial practice. It addresses existing gaps in the law and practice of syndicated loans, not only in the UK but also in other jurisdictions where examples have been drawn. The research design of this paper has two strands: an examination of generic issues relating loans and the process in which they are constituted as financial products; and the mechanisms for transferring proprietary rights and interests.

Findings

The findings underscore the fact that much as syndicated loans offer huge advantages to commercial parties, there are also intricacies which parties need to keep in mind and guard against. Like in other forms of commercial agreements, parties to a syndicated loan agreement have the power to nominate the governing law not necessarily from jurisdictions where they do business but as they may see fit. In practice, effective contractual terms in syndicated loans are to be applied slightly differently to other form of commercial agreements in English contract law. For example, representation and warranties are grouped together and constitute statements by the borrower, which the lender considers should be true at the inception of the loan agreement. As a syndicated loan involves the participation of many banks (obviously some foreign banks), there is the potential for conflict of laws. As such, arranging a syndicated loan should be governed by the relating to international commercial contracts to address the challenge posed by conflict of laws. This is essential to ensure proprietary transfer of rights in the asset are properly constituted and effective. The loan should be carefully structured to reflect important technical issues which relate to duties and obligation of contractual parties.

Research limitations/implications

This was largely a theoretical paper undertaken on the basis of evaluating primary and secondary data sources, some of which were not able to corroborate. It would have been better to corroborate some of the data sources used with financial institutions (which specialise in syndicate loans and related products) to mitigate the potential for bias the data used were generated.

Practical implications

It is important that legal practitioners and policy markers have access to requisite data on different types of loan markets not only in the UK but also other jurisdictions. One of the most important implication is that unlike bond markets (which are sought in response to an uptake in market risks), the foregoing environment tends to negatively correlate in syndicated loan markets. Lending institutions such as banks tend to be cautious when there are instabilities in the market as demonstrated in the aftermath of the recent global financial crisis (2010-2014). There is a converse relationship between loan markets and syndicated loans, which is explained by the fact that the higher the risks, the more cautious lenders (financial institutions) tend to be to safeguard against uncertainties of ending in an environment which is not conducive for business. Bonds on the other hand are sought as security by credit markets against inherent risks especially in times of economic uncertainties. This is why in the aftermath of the recent global financial crisis, banks were anxious and unwilling to lend not only to each other but also to small business for fear and to curtail potential market risks. It needs to be noted that just like in other forms of international commercial agreements, parties in syndicated loan agreements have autonomy to nominate the governing law of the agreement, not necessarily from jurisdictions where parties do business. Where parties have not nominated the governing law clause of syndicated loan contracts, rules of private international law such as characteristic performance of the contract will apply.

Social implications

There is a growing body of literature on syndicated loan markets, but one wonders why mechanisms for transferring proprietary rights and interests of contractual parties have not been written about as much. It is an important area but has somehow been overlooked by scholars on this subject. If the borrowers’ fails to keep up their repayments (default), it will have an adverse on loan markets and the economic stability which will in turn affects businesses, people and national governments.

Originality/value

The paper was written on the basis of evaluating primary and secondary data sources to gain insights into commercial experiences of harnessing syndicated loan facilities as an alternative form of raising finance for development projects. It has examined case law which reflects the law and practice of syndicated loan markets both in common and civil law jurisdictions. Particular attention has been paid to the credibility of source materials and its relevance to usage and practice of syndicated loan agreements. The core element of this methodology has been an evaluation of generic issues which underpin syndicated loan agreements, analysis of academic literature and evaluation of cases and policy documents. The paper has drawn examples in both common and civil jurisdictions to gain insights into the law which governs syndicated loan markets and its practical application.

Keywords

Citation

Mugarura, N. (2016), "The Law relating to syndicated loan agreements and its application in commercial practice", Journal of Financial Regulation and Compliance, Vol. 24 No. 2, pp. 177-196. https://doi.org/10.1108/JFRC-09-2015-0051

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Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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