Assignment of Accounts Receivable – Trap for the Unwary
Most businesses are familiar with the mechanics of an assignment of accounts receivable. A party seeking capital assigns its accounts receivable to a financing or factoring company that advances that party a stipulated percentage of the face amount of the receivables.
The factoring company, in turn, sends a notice of assignment of accounts receivable to the party obligated to pay the factoring company’s assignee, i.e. the account debtor. While fairly straightforward, this three-party arrangement has one potential trap for account debtors.
Most account debtors know that once they receive a notice of assignment of accounts receivable, they are obligated to commence payments to the factoring company. Continued payments to the assignee do not relieve the account debtor from its obligation to pay the factoring company.
It is not uncommon for a notice of assignment of accounts receivable to contain seemingly innocuous and boilerplate language along the following lines:
Please make the proper notations on your ledger and acknowledge this letter and that invoices are not subject to any claims or defenses you may have against the assignee.
Typically, the notice of assignment of accounts receivable is directed to an accounting department and is signed, acknowledged and returned to the factoring company without consideration of the waiver of defenses languages.
Even though a party may have a valid defense to payment to its assignee, it still must pay the face amount of the receivable to the factoring company if it has signed a waiver. In many cases, this will result in a party paying twice – once to the factoring company and once to have, for example, shoddy workmanship repaired or defective goods replaced. Despite the harsh result caused by an oftentimes inadvertent waiver agreement, the Uniform Commercial Code validates these provisions with limited exceptions. Accordingly, some procedures should be put in place to require a review of any notice of assignment of accounts receivable to make sure that an account debtor preserves its rights and defenses.