Clint M. Hanni
Security Agreements – For Debtors
Let’s say that you have approached a bank about getting a loan for working capital purposes. You have inventory and accounts receivable to offer as collateral to secure the loan. After agreeing to basic terms, the bank sends you a loan agreement, a promissory note and a security agreement. The bank has assured you that these are all “standard documents” and encourages you to quickly sign and return them so the loan can be funded and you can get your money. Before you sign the security agreement, however, it’s important to understand that there’s really no such thing as a “standard document” when it comes to security agreements. There are only short-form minimalist documents that cover the basic elements necessary for the creation and attachment of a security interest and long-form documents that describe the lender’s remedies in exhausting detail.
The debtor should take care to review the obligations that are secured by the collateral. Generally, the obligations to be secured should be limited to obligations arising under the loan agreement itself. Lenders often will extend the obligations to include any and all obligations owing from the debtor to the lender at any time in the past or future. As a debtor, make sure you are comfortable with this approach or push back to place limits on the secured obligations.
Every security agreement will have a collateral description, and the debtor should review it carefully to confirm the collateral is as agreed. This is less important where the debtor has agreed that all its assets will constitute collateral. It is more important where the debtor has multiple lenders each with different collateral. Lenders often include over-inclusive collateral descriptions and depend on the debtor to trim them back. It is worth being careful on this point. An over-inclusive collateral description can throw the debtor into default under prior loan agreements and result in the waste of time and money to fix.
A security agreement gives the lender the right to seize the debtor’s collateral upon the occurrence of certain listed “events of default.” A debtor should review these events of default carefully to confirm they will not be triggered unexpectedly. For example, it is customary for the debtor’s failure to make a payment to the lender to be deemed an event of default, but only after all cure periods have been exhausted.
A smart debtor will insist that any loan documents it receives be reviewed quickly and efficiently by experienced counsel, even if the lender claims they are “standard documents.”
Clint M. Hanni is Of Counsel to Richards Brandt Miller Nelson. He is a member of the Business Transactions & Corporate Governance, Banking and Finance Law, Business Bankruptcy and Creditor Rights, and Real Estate Transactions & Litigation practice groups.