What the foreign exporter and its financing bank or factor should know when placing your goods "on consignment" with an American Business Partner.
PLACING YOUR GOODS ?ON
CONSIGNMENT? WITH YOUR
AMERICAN BUSINESS PARTNER:
WHAT THE FOREIGN EXPORTER
AND ITS FINANCING BANK OR
FACTOR SHOULD KNOW
AARON N. WISE
AARON N. WISE, ESQ., PARTNER Aaron N. Wise © 2004
Gallet Dreyer & Berkey, LLP All Rights Reserved
845 Third Avenue, 8 Floor
New York, NY 10022
Telephone: (212) 935-3131
Telefax: (212) 935-4514
ABOUT THE AUTHOR; THE SERVICES OF GALLET DREYER & BERKEY, LLP
PART I: INTRODUCTION
PART II: RISKS, DANGERS AND SURPRISES REGARDING U.S.
?CONSIGNMENT ARRANGEMENTS?: OVERVIEW
PART III: MOST CONSIGNMENT ARRANGEMENTS IN THE
USA WILL BE TREATED AS A ?SALE OR RETURN?
PART IV: SECURING RIGHTS IN THE ?CONSIGNMENT
GOODS?: WHAT THE ?CONSIGNOR-SELLER?
PART V: LAWSUITS AND TAX CONSIDERATIONS
PART VI: ASSIGNMENT OF ACCOUNTS RECEIVABLE
TO A BANK OR FACTOR
PART VII: CONCLUSIONS
PART VIII: SHORT CASE STUDIES
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Aaron N. Wise is a partner of the New York City law firm, Gallet Dreyer &
Berkey, LLP. Mr. Wise?s areas of expertise include corporate, commercial and
contract law, taxation, intellectual property law, and other areas dealt with in this
guide. Mr. Wise holds law degrees from Boston College Law School, New York
University Law School and the University of Paris Law School (France). He is a
frequent speaker inside and outside the USA. Mr. Wise biography is listed in
Who?s Who in the World, Who?s Who in America and Who?s Who in American
Law. He also practices in the sports law field, both domestically and
internationally. Mr. Wise is proficient in German, French, Italian, Spanish,
Portuguese, Russian and Japanese, and has a basic working knowledge of several
other foreign languages. He is the author of a multivolume work, International
Sports Law and Business (The Hague and Cambridge, Massachusetts 1997) and
several other publications.. He has many years of broad, in-depth experience in
representing foreigners in connection with their US and international legal and tax
THE SERVICES OF GALLET DREYER & BERKEY, LLP
Gallet Dreyer & Berkey, LLP (?GDB?) is a law firm based in New York city,
offering a full array of legal and tax services. GDB is capable of handling client
matters thorughout the USA, as well as their internaional legal and tax matters.
Examples of GDB?s fields of expertise include:
? Direct investments in the USA of all kinds, including
mergers, joint ventures, establishing companies and
? Commercial law generally;
? Contracts of all types;
? Intellectual property law;
? Technology transfer and licensing; franchising;
? Real property law;
? Computer law and related contracts;
? Visas and immigration;
? Tax law and planning (US and internacional);
? Litigation, arbitration and mediation );
? Sports Law (US and international).
PART I: INTRODUCTION
From a strictly commercial perspective, a ?consignment?
arrangement is one where:
(i) one party, the consignor, delivers goods to another
party, the consignee,
(ii) for sale by the other party, the consignee,
(iii) with the understanding that only if the consignee
sells the goods will he have to pay
the consignor the agreed price for them.
Foreign companies (meaning non-U.S. companies) rather
frequently use ?consignment? arrangements in their U.S. business
dealings. Their reasons for doing so might include:
? The U.S. dealer or distributor cannot or will not finance the
payment for the goods. By setting up a ?consignment stock? in the U.S.
party?s possession, the U.S. side only has to pay the consignor the
agreed price after it sells the goods. And, if the U.S. party is the
distributor or dealer of the foreign party, the arrangement permits
quick delivery to customers.
? If the consignor has been warehousing the goods in the
USA, it may no longer wants to pay the warehouse charges. Typically,
its U.S. dealer or distributor will not charge the consignor for storing
the goods in its own warehouse facility.
The U.S. consignee could be a completely independent party. Or,
it might be the U.S. subsidiary of the foreign consignor, or a U.S. joint
venture company in which the consignor holds some ownership
percentage, either directly or through another company in its group.
From both a practical, legal and tax standpoint, consignment
arrangements in the U.S.A. pose certain risks and dangers, particularly
from the consignor?s standpoint. That is also true to some degree from
the U.S. consignee?s perspective. Also, there may be unexpected results.
That is so whether the U.S. consignee is completely independent of the
consignor or is its U.S. subsidiary or a JV entity.
Before deciding upon setting up a ?consignment? arrangement for
the U.S.A., competent legal advice should be sought.
In this short Guide, we will point out some of some of the major
points that the consignor should keep in mind.
PART II: RISKS, DANGERS AND SURPRISES
REGARDING U.S. ?CONSIGNMENT
Here are some of them.
? Often, the parties do not utilize a first class contract,
American style, for their ?consignment? arrangement. Instead, they set
forth their agreement in some letter or memorandum they or one of
them has prepared. Or, they use some non-U.S. style contractual
document. Or, they agree orally. That is a very big mistake, especially
for the consignor. A first class contract, U.S. style, is a must.
? There is always the possibility that the consignee will not
pay the consignor the agreed price for the goods after the consignee
makes sales. That can occur, for example, because of the consignee?s
financial problems or bankruptcy; because a dispute arises between the
consignor and consignee; or because the consignee claims that its
customers found the goods to be defective.
? The consignor may find at some point that some of the
?consignment goods? in the consignee?s possession are missing and not
accounted for. The consignee may refuse to permit the consignor to
examine the consignment stock and/or its books and records.
? If and when the distributorship relationship or contract
ends, the consignee may refuse to return the remaining ?consignment?
goods because of some claim it has against the consignor.
? U.S. income tax and state personal property tax issues will
have to be evaluated by the foreign party before deciding in favor of a
? Placing goods on consignment with a U.S. party, in the
States, whereby the consignor claims to retain ownership until it
receives payment for them, may make it easier for a third party to sue
the consignor, particularly (but not necessarily only) in the U.S. State in
which those goods are located. Product liability cases are one important
type. The consignment arrangement will probably weaken the foreign
seller?s argument that the U.S. court did not have ?jurisdiction? (that is,
the power to decide) over it.
? To protect its interest in the ?consignment stock? against
attack from the consignee?s creditors, including any eventual
bankruptcy representative of the consignee (syndic en faillite,
Insolvenzverwalter), the consignor must take certain action. The most
important will be, in addition to a proper written agreement, the filing
in one or more U.S. registries of a standardized form document---a
?UCC financing statement?. Under U.S. law, a contract clause by
which the consignor retains title to the goods will not accomplish that.
That is so even if the consignment contract (or the consignor?s General
Terms of Sale) states that it is governed by its home country law.
? Under U.S. law, most ?consignment? arrangement will be
characterized as a ?sale or return?. One of the main features of a ?sale
or return? is this: if the consignee does not actually return (not offer to
return, but return) the unsold ?consignment? goods within a
?reasonable time?, the consignee has definitely and finally purchased
them, and will have to pay the consignor the agreed price for them.
Of course, if the parties? agreement clearly states otherwise,
then the agreement?s provisions will override that rule.
We will only discuss a few of these points in the following
PART III: MOST CONSIGNMENT ARRANGEMENTS
IN THE USA WILL TREATED AS A ?SALE
A. What is a ?Sale or Return?
Most U.S. consignment-type arrangements will be treated legally,
under U.S. law, as a ?sale or return?.
There is a uniform law applicable in all U.S. states called the
?Uniform Commercial Code? or ?UCC?, and a particular long Article
of it, Article 2, deals with the law of sales of goods. The ?sale or return?
is contained in two sections of that Article.
A ?sale or return? arises when
? goods are delivered to a party primarily for resale by
that party (the ?consignee-buyer?),
? with the express or implied agreement or understanding
that the consignee-buyer can return them to the consignor-
seller (even though the goods are not defective, damaged,
and are the agreed goods),
Unless the parties? contract regarding the ?consignment? makes it
very clear that no ?sale or return? is intended, U.S. courts tend to treat
most consignments arrangements under which the consignee is to resell
(rather than use) the goods as a ?sale or return?.
There are three main consequences of a ?sale or return?:
? If the consignee-buyer does not actually return
the consigned goods to the consignor within a ?reasonable time in
substantially their original condition, the consignee-buyer is considered
to have definitely bought them and must pay the consignor-seller the
agreed price for them. What is a ?reasonable time? is decided case by
case depending on the particular circumstances. The idea is that unless
the parties have very explicitly otherwise agreed, the consignee-buyer
cannot hold the goods indefinitely without having to pay for them.
Many ?consignees? in the USA---and their lawyers, are not aware of
Of course, if the parties have agreed on the
time by which return of the goods is to be made, or made some other
agreement about return of the goods, that agreement will normally
apply rather than the rule just above.
? unless otherwise agreed, the consignee-buyer
bears the risk of loss and expense of returning the goods to the
? the consignment goods are subject to the claims
of the consignee-buyer?s creditors while they are in that party?s
possession. Title (propriété, Eigentum) to the goods passes to the buyer-
consignee upon delivery, even if, by contract (or the seller?s General
Terms of Sale), the consignor-seller has retained title thereto until
receipt of payment in full. That means that unless the consignor-seller
takes certain measures to protect its rights in those goods----
particularly, a proper agreement with the consignee-buyer and the
filing of a particular form in one or more registries----certain creditors
of the consignee-buyer and that party?s trustee in bankruptcy would
have superior rights in and to the goods.
A ?sale or return? is really a sale, but subject to a condition
subsequent that the buyer can actually return the goods to the seller in
substantially their original condition within a reasonable time and not
pay any price for those goods returned. That is why the terms
?consignor-seller? and ?consignee-buyer? are used above.
B. The ?Sale on Approval?
If goods are delivered primarily for the U.S. party?s use (rather
than resale) and the U.S. party is given the right to return them to the
Typically, a company in U.S. bankruptcy reorganization functions as its own
trustee in bankruptcy subject to the control of the bankruptcy court----it is a
?debtor in possession?. Thus, there may not be a true ?Insolvenzverwalter? as in
seller without having to pay for them, then unless otherwise agreed, the
transaction is a ?sale on approval?. In effect, the goods are delivered to
the buyer on a ?trial basis?. The consequences---unless otherwise agreed
by the parties--- are:
? If the buyer does not notify the seller within a
reasonable time that it wants to return the goods (and not pay for
them), then the buyer is considered to have accepted them and must pay
for them. Actual return is not required as with the ?sale or return?, but
just notice of the decision to return them.
? title to the goods passes to the buyer once he accepts
? on return of the goods, the buyer bears the risk of loss
and the expense, but must follow the seller?s reasonable instructions.
? until the goods are accepted by the buyer, they are not
subject to the claims of the buyer?s creditors (or its trustee in
bankruptcy, in case of the buyer?s bankruptcy ).
The situations in which ?sale on approval? will occur are much
less common than ?sale on return?.
C. The ?True Consignment?
If a particular transaction is a ?true consignment?, then the above
rules on ?sale on return? will normally not apply. A ?true
consignment? will have many or most of the following characteristics
not normally associated with a ?sale or return?:
? The consignee is the consignor?s agent for purposes of
selling the consigned items and must follow his instructions;
? The consignor dictates, controls or approves the price
and terms by which the consignee can sell the consigned items and
sometimes, the customers to which the sale may be made.
See footnote 1.
? The consignor, rather than the consignee, typically
invoices the customers for the consigned items sold.
? The consignee?s compensation for selling or arranging
the sale of the items for the consignor is normally a commission, rather
than the proceeds of the sale.
? If the consignee receives the money from the sale of
the consigned items, it must normally keep it segregated from its other
moneys, in trust for the consignor until the money is turned over to it.
? The consignor normally requires the consignee to
segregate the consigned items in its possession from its other goods and
items, and often, to post a sign close to the consigned items stating that
they are the property of the consignor.
? The consignor has the right to demand back and take
immediate possession of the consigned items by all legal means.
? The consignor can, by law, inspect the consignee?s
pertinent books and records and the consigned goods in the consignee?s
? Risk of damage or loss from the elements and theft is
normally born by the consignor while the consigned items are in the
? Title to the consigned items remains in the consignor -
--it does not pass to the true consignee.
Quite probably, a foreign company would only very rarely
conclude a ?true consignment? with a U.S. party. With respect to
certain types of goods, like diamonds and precious gems, the ?true
consignment? is more commonly used.
PART IV: SECURING RIGHTS IN ?CONSIGNMENT
GOODS?---WHAT THE ?CONSIGNOR-
SELLER? SHOULD DO
There are many things a consignor-seller should to properly
protect itself, assuming it has decided to proceed with such an
arrangement with a U.S. party. In this Part, we will mention only a few
The consignor-seller will normally want to prevent any third
parties from seizing, attaching and/or claiming any rights to the
The ?security interest? is the most U.S. common mechanism used
to secure payment for the sale of ?goods?. Sellers of goods (including
exporters) frequently use it. Also, banks and other lending institutions
normally require their company borrowers to grant them security
interests. A security interest functions somewhat like a mortgage on real
property. However, the collateral (actif mis en gage, Sicherungsgueter)
cannot be real property. It can be nearly any type of personal property
and rights, tangible or intangible, including accounts receivable,
whether already existing or acquired in the future by the debtor.
If, as will normally be the case, goods for resale will be placed ?on
consignment? with a U.S. distributor, dealer or similar contract
partner, then the consignor-seller should have its U.S. lawyer prepare
and file in the appropriate U.S. registry(ies) a particular form----a UCC
financing statement----specifying the goods and possibly other agreed
assets of the debtor (e.g., accounts receivable from the resale of those
goods, proceeds from resale) as the collateral. By doing so, that will
normally give the consignor-seller protection (priority) over most
creditors of the consignee-buyer and over a trustee in bankruptcy of the
latter . Conversely, not filing will expose the goods to the claims of third
parties. That filing is called ?perfecting? and what is being perfected is
a ?security interest? in favor of the consignor-seller in the goods.
See footnote 1.
However, that cannot be done unless there is a written agreement
between the parties creating a ?security interest? in the goods
concerned in favor of the consignor-seller. That agreement can be part
of the consignment agreement that the two parties would sign, or an
Exhibit to it.
There is, however, an important preliminary step before
implementing the above. First, a registry investigation (a ?search?)
should be done to see that the consignee-buyer has not already granted
rights in future inventory to some creditor, such as a bank, which has
already filed a UCC financing statement covering future inventory of
the consignee-buyer (as collateral). If that search reveals such a
creditor, the consignor-seller can still obtain priority protection in the
consigned goods by filing in the appropriate U.S. registry(ies) a ?UCC
financing statement?, but that filing must be done and a special written
notification must be sent to that creditor before the consignee-buyer
receives possession of the goods. The consignor-seller may also be able
to secure and obtain priority over the proceeds of the consignee-buyer?s
resale of the goods.
A point made earlier merits repetition. A contractual provision
(including one in the seller?s General Terms of Sale (?GTS?) by which
the seller retains ownership in the ?consigned? goods (droit de retention
de propriété, Eigentumsvorbehalt) will have practically no value in the
USA. It will not protect the goods against third parties (creditors of the
U.S. party, or that party?s trustee in bankruptcy . Only the measures
mentioned above creating a ?perfected security interest? will do that.
That is true even if the contract between the consignor-seller and
consignee-buyer, or the consignor-seller?s General Terms of Sale state
that the law of the seller?s country or some other law applies.
In fact, sometimes a foreign party?s General Terms of Sale which
have not been specially adapted to U.S. transactions, can be a major
obstacle when problems arise. The reader may be interested in
See footnote 1.
receiving from this writer, at no cost, a copy of the Guide dealing with
General Terms of Sale for the U.S. market.
Even if the transaction might be characterized as a ?true
consignment?, the consignor should go through the filing (perfection of
security interest) process and related procedures described above. That
may even be advisable if the transaction were a ?sale on approval?, even
though under U.S. law goods sold ?on approval? are not subject to
claims of the buyer?s creditors. The concept is to secure maximum
protection of the consignor?s rights in the property.
PART V: LAWSUITS AND TAX CONSIDERATIONS
A consignment-type arrangement whereby the foreign (e.g.,
German) party claims to own the U.S. consignment stock may make it
an easier target for U.S. lawsuits. For purposes of ?jurisdiction
(competence, Kompetenz) over the foreign party, a U.S. court,
particularly (but not necessarily only) one located in the same U.S. state
as the consigned goods, may find it easier to conclude that the foreign
party can be sued there. That is particularly so if the U.S. consignee is
its distributor for those products for all or most of the USA. Product
liability suits are one type to which that point may apply, but there may
From a tax standpoint, normally a foreign company will want to
avoid having a permanent establishment (?PE?) in the USA. That is a
tax concept contained in income tax conventions the US has concluded
with most European and many other countries. The consequences of
being found to have one can be negative, taxwise. Maintaining a
consignment-type stock in the USA stored in the U.S. distributor?s or
dealer?s warehouse normally will not, in and of itself, cause the foreign
company to have a PE. But if one or more other factors do exist, such as
the foreign company maintaining a sales office, e.g., on the U.S.
distributor?s facility, or stationing one of its employees in the USA, that
could trigger a PE. Where the seller?s country has not concluded an
That Guide is called ?General Terms of Sale for Exports to the USA,
the Western Hemisphere Generally, and Worldwide?. A German language
text of that Guide will be available shortly.
income tax treaty with the USA, then the issue will be whether, from a
U.S. standpoint, the foreign company is ?doing business in the USA?.
Foreign enterprises will normally want to avoid that characterization.
Moreover, if the U.S. contract partner acts as the foreign party?s
agent, and has the authority and in fact does conclude contracts in the
foreign party?s name, that may cause the latter to have a PE in the USA.
A ?true consignment? arrangement might well be one example of such a
Many U.S. states have a personal property tax. Problems can
sometimes arise with the state tax authorities connected with a
?consignment? of goods, if the U.S. consignee takes the position that it
does not own the goods and thus, does not have to declare and pay tax
on them, rather, the consignor does. This will normally not a very
serious problem, and can typically be managed and resolved. It
properly should be dealt with in the contract between the parties.
VI. ASSIGNMENT OF ACCOUNTS RECEIVABLE
TO A BANK OR FACTOR
It is fairly common in Europe and elsewhere for companies to
finance their accounts receivable resulting from sales of its goods---
including its U.S. sales--- by use of a bank or factor. The seller typically
assigns its accounts receivable to a bank or factoring firm (for short,
?factor?) in exchange for quick payment for a factoring fee.
The factor should take various measures to protect itself and its
purchased accounts receivable and claims. Our experience has shown
that frequently, the factor does not do so sufficiently.
An entire guide could be written on what a factor should do to
properly protect its interests. We will confine ourselves to only a few
One thing the factor should do is to see to it that an agreement
equivalent to a ?security agreement? is concluded with its client
company, and with the debtor, valid under U.S. law; that the
appropriate U.S. registry search is done, and that UCC financing
statements are filed, either by the client company (and then assigned to
the factor) or by the factor itself, covering the desired ?collateral?.
Another is to insert provisions in the factoring contract with the
exporter-seller to afford the factor very strong protection against fraud
and deceit by the seller company and its owners), who should personally
agree to be bound by those ?antifraud? clauses and for the resulting
damages and costs in if such occurs. Here is one type of fraud that
sometimes arise. The factor?s client (exporter-seller) makes a secret
agreement with the customer for its goods (e.g., U.S. distributor) that
the goods are ?on consignment?, only to be paid for when and if the U.S.
party sells them. Neither party ever tells the factor about the secret
agreement. The foreign exporter then issues one or more normal
invoices to the U.S. party for those goods, e.g., showing payment for
them is due with ?X? days, submits them to the factor, receiving
payment for them. The factor will have notified the U.S. party of the
assignment of accounts receivable and claims, and probably will have
the seller place a notice thereof, including instructions to pay the factor
directly, on all invoices to the U.S. party. The U.S. party does not pay
for the goods, or pays a lesser amount than invoiced, because it has not
resold the goods ----but does not tell the factor that. The factor then
decides to sue the U.S. party in the States, and finds that the U.S.
party?s defense is the ?consignment agreement?. By that time, the
exporter has serious financial problems or is bankrupty, and the factor
cannot recover the money it paid to the exporter. The factor might win
or lose that U.S. case, but either way, it may incur substantial costs,
particular legal fees, that it may not be able to recover (see below).
With proper ?antifraud? provisions in the agreements, particularly in
the factoring agreement with its customer, and close follow up,
monitoring, and records inspection of the U.S. party and its own client,
the factor?s can significantly reduce its risks.
Exporters should insert in their General Terms of Sale = ?GTS?
in connection with U.S. sales----and their factors should require it of
them--- certain key clauses not normally included in typical foreign
(e.g., European) GTS. One would be that in case of litigation, the
exporter-seller, if it wins, will be entitled to recover, as damages, its
legal fees incurred in connection with the litigation against the U.S.
buyer. Since the law of several foreign (e.g., European) countries allows
the winner to recover its legal fees without any contractual agreement,
such a clause is not normally found in the GTS of a company from such
a country. But that is not the case in the USA. With few exceptions, the
winner will not be able to recover its legal fees unless there is a contract
between the parties so stating, phrased in a proper manner. Such a
contract can be the exporter?s GTS, but only if the U.S. party has
agreed in writing to be bound by those GTS.
Regarding that last point, both U.S. domestic sales law and the
international convention on the formation of contracts for the sale of
goods (to which the US and many other countries adhere) state,
indirectly but clearly enough, that clauses that are ?special? contained
in any document, including GTS, that the buyer has not accepted in
writing, will not be binding on the buyer. Such clauses include, among
others: 1. legal fee clauses as above; 2. limitations or exclusions of
seller?s warranties, exclusion or limitation of damages, shortened
statutes of limitations on claims brought by the buyer; 3. with certain
exceptions, arbitration clauses and clauses conferring jurisdiction on a
court or courts other than one in the buyer?s particular location; 4.
clauses by which the buyer grants a ?security interest? to the seller.
Moreover, typical GTS of a European seller will state that its
country?s law applies, and that a particular court in its home country
has exclusive jurisdiction over lawsuits resulting from the transactions.
Such clauses can be a major obstacle if the decision is made to sue the
U.S. party in the States. Care and thought must be given to preparing
GTS, particularly when they will be used for U.S. transactions. Similar
problems will also arise for the exporter when selling to other countries.
In fact, it is possible to draft for the foreign seller of goods, one GTS
that will be effective, protective of the seller?s (and thus, the factor?s)
interests and accomplish the desired purposes, for that seller?s
The GTS should be in English----that is, proper and correct legal
English. They can be in a second or third language as well,, but
definitely in proper, correct English. If the GTS will be multilingual, the
texts should be identical, prepared and reviewed by competent counsel.
See footnote 5.
The GTS should state that all of the rights and prerogatives of the
seller set forth therein, have been assigned to the factor.
PART VII: CONCLUSIONS
Our conclusions will be very brief and general.
1. Before deciding to conclude any type of
?consignment of goods? arrangement for the U.S.
market, the exporter should consult with
competent U.S. counsel regarding the advisability,
the benefits, the dangers and risks etc., and
whether and how those dangers and risks can be
A consignment-type arrangement for the U.S.
market is not necessarily a way of doing business
that a company should avoid. In certain
circumstances, it may be appropriate and
beneficial-----but only if properly planned and
2. The same general point applies to factors or
assignees of accounts receivable resulting from its
customer?s U.S. sales, in terms of how the factor
can best protect itself.
3. Most of the points made in this Guide apply where
the U.S. consignee or buyer is the direct or indirect
subsidiary or affiliate of the foreign consignor or
seller. Just because the foreign consignor or seller
controls or has a strong voice in the U.S. entity
does not eliminate or even reduce many of the
risks and potential problems mentioned in this
Some of the points in this Guide may be difficult for a non-lawyer
to understand fully. The idea is not grasp every point, but rather, to
have an overall understanding of the important considerations, and to
know the questions to ask.
PART VIII: SHORT CASE STUDIES
Case Study 1: A European exporter-seller sells and delivers goods to
a U.S. buyer. It is a ?straight sale?, not any kind of ?consignment
arrangement. The sales contract signed by the parties or the seller?s
AGB on its order confirmation and invoice state that the seller retains
ownership of the goods until it receives full payment for them. The U.S.
buyer goes into bankruptcy owing the seller money from that sale. The
exporter wants to recover the remaining goods based on its title
retention clause. The buyer?s bankruptcy representative argues: ?No,
you can?t. The retention of ownership clause is not binding on me---it
does not allow you to recover the goods. You are just an ordinary,
general creditor, with no priority rights whatsoever.?
Result: The bankruptcy representative is right. To have priority over
other creditors and be able to recover the goods, the seller would have
had to have a valid, perfected ?security interest? in the goods. That
means, a legally valid ?security agreement? and the filing of a UCC
financing statement in the proper registry(ies). If there was any existing
financing statement filed by a third party covering, as collateral, the
debtor-buyer?s future-acquired goods (e.g., inventory), then the to
prevail, the seller would have had to comply with certain other
requirements mentioned in the text above.
Another point. If buyer did not agree in writing to the seller?s
GTS, then provisions like the title retention clause might well not be
binding on the buyer. If the buyer, in fact, had so agreed in writing,
then the title retention clause would quite probably be treated, legally,
as a ?security agreement?, and if the seller had filed in the proper U.S.
registry(ies) an otherwise properly prepared UCC financing statement
and, where applicable, met other requirements, it would have prevailed.
Note, however: the typical title retention clause found in a European-
style GTS do not go far enough to protect the seller in U.S. transactions.
Case Study 2: The same facts as in Case Study 1, except the U.S. buyer
is not the subject of any bankruptcy. Rather, a bank holds a valid,
perfected (by filing) ?security interest? in all of the U.S. buyer?s
presently owned and after ?acquired goods. The buyer defaults on its
debt to the bank, and the bank forecloses on its security interest. It
takes possession of the goods and intends to sell them to satisfy, in whole
or in part, that debt. The seller argues: ?The goods are our property.
We have a title retention clause in our GTS, and under our country?s
law, which applies, we can legally get them back because the buyer
didn?t pay us for them. You have no right to take possession of them,
sell them, and apply the money against your own debt. ?
Result: The bank wins, the seller loses. Only by having a valid ?security
agreement? with the U.S. buyer, and filing a UCC financing statement
in the appropriate registry(ies) and fulfilling other conditions mentioned
in this Guide, before the goods were delivered to the buyer, could the
foreign seller have prevailed.
Case Study 3: An exporter places a stock of goods (inventory) ?on
consignment? with a U.S. party, to be paid for only when and if the
latter sells (or, if you prefer, resells) them. The parties? contract and the
seller?s GTS placed on its order confirmations and invoices states that
the seller retains ownership of the goods until receipt of full payment for
Either A. the U.S. party goes into bankruptcy; or
B. a creditor of the U.S. party owed substantial moneys
who has a ?perfected security interest? in all present and after-
acquired inventory of the U.S. party, is ready to take possession of
it, sell it off, and apply the proceeds against the debt.
The exporter wants to recover its goods.
Result: In all likelihood, the exporter loses. Since the goods were
supplied to the U.S. party primarily for resale, the transaction would
quite probably be treated as a ?sale or return?, and as such, the goods
are subject to claims of the U.S. party?s creditors. If the U.S. buyer did
not agree in writing to the exporter?s GTS, then there is substantial
doubt whether the title retention clause is binding on the buyer. But
even if that hurdle could be overcome and the clause were considered a
binding ?security agreement?, the fact that the exporter did not file a
properly prepared UCC financing statement in the appropriate
registry(ies) and, where applicable, comply with the other legal
requisites, would defeat its claim.