The Difference Between Glenn West and Me on “Represents and Warrants”

You know that post I did about a recent English opinion on warrants (here)? Well, Glenn West, a partner at Weil whose name appears regularly on this blog, did a blog post about it too (here).

Here’s the bit that caught my attention:

This author’s consistent position on this subject is to continue to bow to current market convention in the U.S. because it’s only worth bucking convention when it matters, and a purported statement of fact denominated as only a warranty in the U.S. will not necessarily shield the maker of that statement from being deemed to have nevertheless made a representation for tort law purposes.

So it appears that Glenn is siding with the establishment … and I’m a lone wolf.

In other words, Glenn is Iceman, and I’m Maverick, bitches!

Adams and West
Adams and West

Perhaps this video captures our dynamic:

Well, actually not.

For one thing, in his understated way, Glenn is a rebel. In a series of law-review articles, Glenn has offered a definitive take on a series of thorny contract issues, cutting through the conventional wisdom to recommend what works best.

And although it might seem as if I’m engaged in window-rattling tower fly-bys, what I do is more sedate than that. It’s entirely geared to avoiding waste and risk by being clear and concise.

Nevertheless, Glenn recommends sticking with represents and warrants, and I recommend change. What explains that?

I think it’s a function of BigLaw transactions. It’s bet-the-farm work. Enough is at stake to make people nervous about novelty and to make my concerns seem trivial. If you’re lucky enough to have your big deal handled by someone like Glenn, they’ll make sure to add to the contract whatever is necessary to preclude a fight over remedies. And BigLaw transactions tend to be one-shot deals, so clients aren’t interested in harvesting efficiencies down the road.

By contrast, I work mostly in the world of commercial transactions. With lower-value, high-volume deals, there’s a greater incentive to capture efficiencies that allow you to get deals done faster, less expensively, and with less risk. In that context, represents and warrants is more of a nuisance than it is in the big-deal world. And because commercial transactions tend to be handled in-house, those doing the work are the ones who stand to benefit from efficiency. So you have both motive and opportunity for change, although even in the world of commercial transactions inertia is a powerful countervailing force.

Two thoughts in closing:

First, to understand the role of represents and warrants in big-deal drafting, I think you have to consider the broader dysfunction. For more on that, see this post.

And second, I wouldn’t be surprised if one of these days a U.S. court is asked to consider the ostensible remedies function of represents and of warrants. If enough is at stake, someone might be willing to take at face value the misinformation on represents and warrants that’s floating around and use it to pick a fight. If that happens, represents and warrants will suddenly start to matter more.

This is Maverick signing off.

About the author

Ken Adams is the leading authority on how to say clearly whatever you want to say in a contract. He’s author of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting, and he offers online and in-person training around the world. He’s also chief content officer of LegalSifter, Inc., a company that combines artificial intelligence and expertise to assist with review of contracts.