Monday, 4 July 2016

European Registrars Conference 2016 – Loan Agreements: Necessary evil or Frivolous Legal Games

Ernst Ploi, Attorney-at-law, Austria

It’s all in the words.

I camped out in the Great Hall during the ERC as this was where all the speeches and discussions on loans and insurance were going to take place. These are topics I’m not overly confident on and here was a chance to spend entire days being bombarded with useful and invaluable information - glutton for punishment I know!

Most of the loan agreements I work with are long term and historic. Whilst digging around in the files I’ve come across half page documents with little more than lender and item details (generally not the signed versions either!) and 10 pages of legalese. So when a session was describing its self as “loan agreements are becoming more and more comprehensive and complicated. Does this have to happen?” I’ve seen the paperwork that proves the first part and with many of our loans to private individuals who don’t speak ‘legalese’. I was keen to know if there really had to be pages of Terms and Conditions to a loan.

Ernest Ploil spoke of how previously one or two sentence clause have mutated into wordy multiple paragraphs. Where once a phrase along the lines of ‘the borrower will do everything to look after and care for an item’ was sufficient, it is now the ‘Borrower must do this and this, but not that and if they inform the lender first, in writing then that might be allowable’.

And that’s just the traditional stuff – what about the new things? Immunity from seizure clauses were never considered before and now add more details. It’s no longer appropriate to simply say that the lender signs over reproduction rights, the details of which rights and how the images can be used must be outlined and agreed.

By the end it felt like the answer to ‘does it have to be this complicated’ was that whilst the Terms and Conditions are over lawyered and even passed from document to document the answer is a begrudging yes…

…But perhaps in the future we may see consistent and simpler loan agreements.


Rowann Goldsmith

Collection Registrar, National Trust.

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