Sanctions Clauses - Safeguarding payment under Letters of Credit

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The documentary letter of credit ("LC") is a key payment method in international trade - not only does it satisfy both the seller's and the buyer's conflicting needs, but it also is considered to be relatively risk free. However, the recent surge in financial sanctions and embargoes, and the resulting "sanctions clauses" in LCs trying to meet the issue, is challenging the fundamental nature of an LC.

Sanctions against Iran, Libya, and Syria in particular have led to disputes over LC payments.

In this client alert, we highlight how sanctions legislation can have the effect of diluting the payment obligation under an LC (including a standby LC), and how the risk that a bank may not pay could be mitigated by traders.

The Payment Obligation

An LC creates a payment obligation that is independent of, and completely separate from, the underlying sale contract between the seller and the buyer. This principle is clearly set out in UCP 600, Article 4a:

"A credit by its nature is a separate transaction from the sale or other contract on which it may be based. Banks are in no way concerned or bound by such contract..."

Please see full Alert below for further information.

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