The Hidden Landmines in Reps and Warranties (and How to Avoid Them)

What Are Reps and Warranties?

In contracts agreements and deals representations and warranties (commonly known as reps and warranties) consist of statements made by one party. These statements cover the purchase agreement, details and circumstances related to the agreements subject matter. In business dealings such as mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and negotiations, reps and warranties serve as assurances from the seller to the buyer concerning information about the target companys activities, assets, financial status, legal position and other aspects.

Common subjects covered by reps and warranties include:

  • Accuracy of financial statements
  • Compliance with laws and regulations
  • Title to property and assets
  • Status of material contracts
  • Intellectual property ownership
  • Undisclosed liabilities
  • Legal authority to enter into the agreement
  • Legal proceedings

The seller makes these contractual promises to disclose any material issues upfront before the deal closes. The seller's representations and warranties offer the buyer assurance about their purchase. Help distribute risk between both parties in case any unforeseen issues arise after the deal is finalized. They also give the buyer a remedy if the acquired company doesn't meet the sellers promises following the transaction.

Purpose of Reps and Warranties

In a contract representations and warranties are typically included to enable the buyer to investigate the target business. These statements serve as a way for both the buyer and seller to disclose material facts and reveal information and potential risks related to the company to buyers. Such disclosures help buyers determine whether to proceed with the acquisition and evaluate the worth of the business. Some significant goals of representations and warranties are:

  • Allowing the buyer to confirm facts about the target company's business operations, financials, legal compliance, assets, liabilities, and other aspects impacting valuation.
  • Providing the buyer termination rights or ability to recover damages if issues arise post-closing relating to matters covered by the seller's reps and warranties.
  • Allocating risk between the buyer and seller for unforeseen issues that may occur after the deal closes. The seller bears the risk for issues covered in their reps and warranties.
  • Creating a due diligence roadmap by pointing to areas and information the buyer should investigate further. The reps flag potential risk areas for additional diligence.
  • Defining the scope of the transaction and legal capacity. The reps frame what exactly the buyer is acquiring based on the seller's disclosures.

In M&A transactions, thorough investigation aided by crafted representations and warranties helps minimize issues for the buyer after the deal is closed and offers a way to address any problems that may arise later on. These components are crucial in ensuring a due diligence process.

Key Provisions in Reps and Warranties

Reps and warranties cover a wide range of statements and assertions about a company's business, operations, and assets. Some of the key provisions to look for include:

Accuracy and Completeness of Financial Statements

The accuracy and thoroughness of statements are crucial ensuring that the company's financial health, status and performance are faithfully represented. Potential buyers seek assurance that they can trust the target company's financial information.

Adherence to Laws

This involves following rules related to employment, safety, environmental issues, intellectual property rights and industry-specific regulations. Violations that result in fines or legal repercussions could significantly impact the companys' safety net worth and financial loss.

Ownership and State of Assets

The seller guarantees that they legally own assets, like estate, intellectual property and equipment. This safeguards the buyer from disputes over ownership or undisclosed financial claims. Additionally, the the seller's knowledge assures that the business's assets andare in working order.

Revealing Significant Agreements

The seller will disclose all contracts, obligations and deals that the business is involved in. This gives the buyer a chance to examine terms that could be unfavorable or include provisions related potential liabilities dueto changes in control.

Protection of Intellectual Property Rights

The seller will assert ownership of property such as patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets. This ensures that the buyer is acquiring ownership of these intangible assets as part of the deal.

Lack of Hidden Debts

This basically means that all the debts or responsibilities have been revealed during the investigation process. It ensures that during further investigation there are no issues waiting to surface.

Adequacy of Resources

The seller assures that the physical and intellectual assets of the company are enough to sustain operations. This gives confidence to the buyer that they are receiving all the assets to run the business

Conduct of Business in Ordinary Course

The seller represents that between signing and closing, the business will continue to operate in the normal routine manner. This prevents major operational changes during the interim period. These key provisions allocate risk around issues that could materially impact the business's operations and valuation. Comprehensive reps and warranties give the buyer protection if problems surface after the deal closes.

Who Provides Reps and Warranties?

In a deal agreement, the seller usually gives assurances and guarantees, like warranty and insurance coverage. Since the seller knows the target business best they are tasked with stating facts about insurance company, its assets, operations, finances, adherence to rules legal standing, and other important details.

The buyer can depend on the seller's statements to assess the worth and feasibility of the whole purchase price. If any concerns are discovered during the sale agreement, negotiation process or due diligence the buyer might ask for assurances and guarantees. However should any issues surface post-sale concerning the truthfulness of these promises and commitments the main onus falls on the seller. The seller could be required to compensate the buyer for any damages resulting from a violation of these promises and warranties.

Occasionally, the buyer may provide assurances and commitments to the seller such as confirming their authority, and ability to engage in the agreement. Nonetheless, it is typically the seller who will furnish most of these assurances and guarantees as they have an understanding of the business in question. Asking the seller to disclose all information serves as a strategy for the purchaser to mitigate risks associated with acquiring a company.

Reps and Warranties Insurance

Reps and warranties insurance is now commonly accepted by both buyers and sellers as a method to minimize risk in M&A and real estate deals. This insurance type safeguards against losses caused by breaches of reps and warranties aiding in sharing the risks between the parties. Instead of the buyer having to pursue the seller for compensation post-closure, the insurance policy steps in to provide coverage for damages.

This option can serve as a substitute for the seller's responsibility to indemnify in the sales contract. In an insurance policy, the insurer commits to covering claims up to a threshold. Often a substantial portion of the sale amount. Both the seller and buyer establish a retention sum akin to a deductible, which needs to be exceeded before the insurance company begins compensating for losses. There are also minimum premiums required. Key benefits of reps and warranties insurance include:

  • Caps seller liability - The policy limit caps their total financial risk for breaches.
  • Covers unknown risks - Even if issues arise that neither party knew about, the insurance can pay out damages.
  • Creates a cleaner exit - The seller can make a clean break rather than get mired in indemnification claims.
  • Keeps relationships positive - Having insurance pay claims rather than the seller can prevent tensions between the parties.
  • Provides negotiating leverage - The seller can negotiate better indemnification terms if insurance is covering potential claims.

In general, reps and warranties insurance functions as a way to manage risk enabling both sides to reduce responsibilities linked to the correctness of representations and guarantees in the deal. Instead of becoming opponents in a disagreement the insurance plan helps keep the parties on the page.

Negotiating Reps and Warranties

Both buyers and sellers aim to negotiate reps and warranties provisions that best protect their respective interests in the transaction. There are several key components that are typically heavily negotiated.


Qualifiers place limitations on the scope of reps and warranties to make them less absolute. Common qualifiers include:

  • Knowledge qualifiers - The rep may be limited to the "seller's knowledge" to avoid liability for issues the seller is unaware of. This shifts more risk to the buyer.
  • Materiality qualifiers - The rep may only extend to matters that could have a "material adverse effect." This raises the threshold for what constitutes a breach.
  • Time periods - The rep may only apply for a certain time frame, such as the past 3 years. This reduces the seller's risk exposure.


Baskets require the buyer's damages from breaches to exceed a minimum threshold amount before the seller is liable. This functions as a deductible that must be absorbed by the buyer before indemnification kicks in. Typical baskets range from 0.5% to 1% of the transaction value.


Caps set a cap on the dollar amount the seller must pay for any breaches of representations and warranties. This essentially transfers the risk to the buyer for any damages that surpass the agreed upon cap amount. Usually, caps fall within the range of 10% to 20% of the purchase price.

Survival Period

The survival period determines how long the sellers obligations and assurances remain valid after the deal is finalized. Typically this timeframe ranges from 12 to 24 months. After this duration expires the buyer is no longer able to raise any concerns or complaints against the seller.

Role in Real Estate Deals

Reps and warranties play an important risk allocation role in real estate purchase agreements. They allow buyers to confirm key facts and attributes of the property before closing. Some common reps and warranties in real estate deals include:

  • Property condition - The seller might say that the property and buildings are in shape without any issues. This helps the buyer avoid repairs or maintenance problems.
  • Title - The seller will guarantee that they have a title to the property without any debts or restrictions. This ensures that the buyer gets ownership rights.
  • Compliance - The seller may assure that the property meets zoning laws, building codes, environmental regulations and other standards. This lowers the buyers risk of liability.
  • Leases - If the property has tenants, the seller will disclose all rental agreements and represent there are no pending disputes. This confirms the property's income stream.
  • Litigation - The seller may represent there is no pending or threatened litigation related to the property. This reduces the buyer's legal risks.

If any of the statements made by the seller are found to be incorrect, the buyer could potentially end the agreement or request reimbursement. Additionally, the seller might need to address any potential problems before finalizing the deal. The seller may also be required to cure issues prior to closing. Overall, these provisions allocate risk around the property's condition and legal status during the transaction.

Dispute Resolution

In cases where disagreements arise regarding statements and guarantees, those involved have a few approaches to address the issue.


One possibility is to resolve the issue through the system. This includes initiating a case and navigating the legal process. The court will consider arguments from both parties. Decide on whether there was a violation of promises and guarantees well as determine appropriate solutions. Legal proceedings can be lengthy and costly. They might be suitable for situations involving substantial damages. The ultimate decision rendered by a court holds significance compared to arbitration or expert assessment.


Arbitration is frequently swifter and more economical compared to courtroom proceedings. Instead of a judge, the involved parties opt to present their disagreement before an arbitrator who serves as a neutral third party with specialized knowledge in the relevant field. Their decision is legally binding, but the arbitration process is less formal than court litigation. The parties have more control in choosing the arbitrator and tailoring the procedures. Arbitration may make sense for specialized disputes where an expert arbitrator can better evaluate the issues. Confidentiality is also a benefit over litigation.

Expert Determination

Expert determination involves appointing an independent expert to resolve the representations and warranties dispute. It's quicker and less confrontational than going to court or arbitration. Yet the experts ruling isn't final unless both parties agree to abide by it. Expert determination is most effective for disagreements where a specialist can offer a well-informed solution. However, if one party is dissatisfied with the decision, they can still opt for action or arbitration.

Thus to resolve representations and warranties disputes outside of further negotiations between the parties. Factors like time, cost, privacy, and the desire for a binding decision can help determine the best approach.

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