The Law Reviews

The International Capital Markets Review - 6th Edition

The International Capital Markets Review - 6th Edition


Jeffrey Golden
P.R.I.M.E Finance Foundation

There is a lesson from the international capital markets that took me, as a young ICM lawyer, a measure of time to both comprehend and appreciate. It was namely this: in matters legal, market participants have a marked preference for certainty above almost anything else. Even sometimes ahead of justice!

Market participants need to know where they stand.

You see, you can trade or structure around a position that you know to be certain, however undesirable that position may be, and whether or not you believe it to be fair. What is abhorred is not knowing what your position is. Eventually being told by a court after months or years of litigation, for example, that you were correct in your earlier view does not give a lot of comfort if, waiting on that answer, you stood ‘naked’ to a market that has moved on and significantly against you while you remained uncertain whether, when and to what extent to hedge your exposure or otherwise move in reliance on the position you had previously assumed.

This desire for timely and reliable answers can also be seen by the considerable contractual privilege and discretion afforded, for example, to a non-defaulting party by allowing it to self-determine a close-out amount following its counterparty’s default. That determination is subject to good faith and reasonableness. However, a conscious decision was taken that the number of issues subject to referral to court for determination, and the evidentiary basis on which those issues should be decided, would, in each case, be narrow. It was intended that it should be of no consequence if, perhaps with the benefit of hindsight, a better answer could be determined by the court. It was thought more important by the markets that an answer honestly derived by a party could be relied upon as final so that the party could move on.

Whether it is the measure of their claims following a default, the scope of their exposure to market risk, or the strength of their collateral credit support, market participants hate surprises. They need to know where they stand. They seek authoritative answers that can be relied upon. And they trust in the rule of law.