Pari Passu is a Latin phrase which means ‘equal footstep’ or ‘equal footing’. In the legal sense, the term is used in the context of ‘proportionally; at an equal pace; without preference’.
In terms of debt instruments, Pari Passu can refer to loans, bonds and some types of securities which have an equal right of payment or level of seniority. In other words, the phrase is used to describe similar ranking of securities or lenders.
In a loan agreement the Pari Passu clause is a covenant that loans and securities ‘rank pari passu’ amid all the other unsecured debt of the borrower. The clause is used in the context of unsecured debt securities which are said to rank equally with each other or with other unsecured debts.
The Pari Passu clause requires the borrower to ensure that the lender’s rights under the loan agreement will, at all times, rank at least equally with all of the borrower’s other unsecured and unsubordinated obligations so that the lender’s share of the borrower’s assets in the event of its liquidation will be equal to that of all other unsecured and unsubordinated creditors.
Please note that the Pari Passu clause applies even in secured facilities notwithstanding that is refers to unsecured indebtedness. It is an assurance that the lender’s rights will, if the security fails, rank Pari Passu (equally) with the rights of the borrower’s unsecured creditors and the clause applies to existing as well as future obligations. Its relevance comes if there is a shortfall in the security on enforcement or if the security is for any reason defective.
Generally in a loan agreement a Pari Passu clause prevents the borrower from incurring obligations to other creditors that rank legally senior to the loan agreement containing the clause. Thus, the purpose of the Pari Passu clause is to ensure that the borrower does not have, nor will it subsequently create, a class of creditors whose claims against the borrower will rank legally senior to the indebtedness represented by the loan agreement.
The Pari Passu clause is a companion to the Negative Pledge clause. The Negative Pledge clause is an undertaking by the borrower not to create any security over its assets. Both clauses are fundamentally important covenants usually found in loan agreements. Whilst the Negative Pledge ensures that the lender’s right to repayment is not subordinated to secured creditors, a Pari Passu clause tries to ensure that the lender is not subordinated to unsecure creditors.
In summary, the Negative Pledge and the Pari Passu clause are very important clauses that should be included in every loan agreement in order to ensure that the loan is not subordinated to another lender on insolvency.
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