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In finance, a surety, surety bond or guaranty involves a promise by one party to assume responsibility for the debt obligation of a borrower if that borrower defaults. The person or company providing the promise is also known as a "surety" or as a "guarantor".

Finance academic discipline studying businesses and investments

Finance is a field that is concerned with the allocation (investment) of assets and liabilities over space and time, often under conditions of risk or uncertainty. Finance can also be defined as the art of money management. Participants in the market aim to price assets based on their risk level, fundamental value, and their expected rate of return. Finance can be split into three sub-categories: public finance, corporate finance and personal finance.

Debt deferred payment, or series of payments, that is owed in the future

Debt is when something, usually money, is owed by one party, the borrower or debtor, to a second party, the lender or creditor. Debt is a deferred payment, or series of payments, that is owed in the future, which is what differentiates it from an immediate purchase. The debt may be owed by sovereign state or country, local government, company, or an individual. Commercial debt is generally subject to contractual terms regarding the amount and timing of repayments of principal and interest. Loans, bonds, notes, and mortgages are all types of debt. The term can also be used metaphorically to cover moral obligations and other interactions not based on economic value. For example, in Western cultures, a person who has been helped by a second person is sometimes said to owe a "debt of gratitude" to the second person.

A surety most typically requires a guarantor when the ability of the primary obligor, or principal , to perform its obligations to the obligee (counterparty) under a contract is in question or when there is some public or private interest that requires protection from the consequences of the principal's default or delinquency. In most common law jurisdictions, a contract of suretyship is subject to the Statute of Frauds (or its equivalent local laws) and is unenforceable unless it is recorded in writing and signed by the surety and by the principal.

Contract agreement having a lawful object entered into voluntarily by multiple parties

A contract is a legally-binding agreement which recognises and governs the rights and duties of the parties to the agreement. A contract is legally enforceable because it meets the requirements and approval of the law. An agreement typically involves the exchange of goods, services, money, or promises of any of those. In the event of breach of contract, the law awards the injured party access to legal remedies such as damages and cancellation.

Common law law developed by judges

In law, common law is that body of law derived from judicial decisions of courts and similar tribunals. The defining characteristic of “common law” is that it arises as precedent. In cases where the parties disagree on what the law is, a common law court looks to past precedential decisions of relevant courts, and synthesizes the principles of those past cases as applicable to the current facts. If a similar dispute has been resolved in the past, the court is usually bound to follow the reasoning used in the prior decision. If, however, the court finds that the current dispute is fundamentally distinct from all previous cases, and legislative statutes are either silent or ambiguous on the question, judges have the authority and duty to resolve the issue. The court states an opinion that gives reasons for the decision, and those reasons agglomerate with past decisions as precedent to bind future judges and litigants. Common law, as the body of law made by judges, stands in contrast to and on equal footing with statutes which are adopted through the legislative process, and regulations which are promulgated by the executive branch. Stare decisis, the principle that cases should be decided according to consistent principled rules so that similar facts will yield similar results, lies at the heart of all common law systems.

A surety bond or surety is a promise by a surety or guarantor to pay one party a certain amount if a second party fails to meet some obligation, such as fulfilling the terms of a contract. The surety bond protects the obligee against losses resulting from the principal's failure to meet the obligation.

In the United States, the Miller Act may require a surety bond for contractors on certain federal construction projects; in addition, many states have adopted their own "Little Miller Acts". [1] The surety transaction will typically involve a producer; in the United States the National Association of Surety Bond Producers (NASBP) is a trade association that represents such producers.

United States federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

Miller Act

The Miller Act requires prime contractors on some government construction contracts to post bonds guaranteeing both the performance of their contractual duties and the payment of their subcontractors and material suppliers.

A trade association, also known as an industry trade group, business association, sector association or industry body, is an organization founded and funded by businesses that operate in a specific industry. An industry trade association participates in public relations activities such as advertising, education, political donations, lobbying and publishing, but its focus is collaboration between companies. Associations may offer other services, such as producing conferences, networking or charitable events or offering classes or educational materials. Many associations are non-profit organizations governed by bylaws and directed by officers who are also members.

If the surety is required to pay or perform due to the principal's failure to do so, the law will usually give the surety a right of subrogation, allowing the surety to "step into the shoes of" the principal and use the surety's contractual rights to recover the cost of making payment or performing on the principal's behalf, even in the absence of an express agreement to that effect between the surety and the principal.

Subrogation legal doctrine whereby a person is entitled to enforce the rights of another

Subrogation is the assumption by a third party of another party's legal right to collect a debt or damages. It is a legal doctrine whereby one person is entitled to enforce the subsisting or revived rights of another for one's own benefit. A right of subrogation typically arises by operation of law, but can also arise by statute or by agreement. Subrogation is an equitable remedy, having first developed in the English Court of Chancery. It is a familiar feature of common law systems. Analogous doctrines exist in civil law jurisdictions.

Traditionally, a distinction was made between a suretyship arrangement and that of a guaranty. In both cases, the lender gained the ability to collect from another person in the event of a default by the principal. However, the surety's liability was joint and primary with the principal: the creditor could attempt to collect the debt from either party independently of the other. The guarantor's liability was ancillary and derivative: the creditor first had to attempt to collect the debt from the debtor before looking to the guarantor for payment. Many jurisdictions have abolished that distinction, in effect putting all guarantors in the position of the surety.

See also

Estreat means, originally, a true copy or duplicate of some original writing or record; since the 1900s used only with reference to the enforcement of a forfeited recognizance. At one time it was the practice to extract and certify into the exchequer copies of entries in manorial rolls which contained provision or orders in favor of the treasury, hence the estreating of a recognizance was the taking out from among the other records of the court in which it was filed and sending it to the exchequer to be enforced, or sending it to the sheriff to be levied by him, and then returned by the clerk of the peace to the lords of the treasury.

Guarantee is a legal term more comprehensive and of higher import than either warranty or "security". It most commonly designates a private transaction by means of which one person, to obtain some trust, confidence or credit for another, engages to be answerable for him. It may also designate a treaty through which claims, rights or possessions are secured. It is to be differentiated from the colloquial "personal guarantee" in that a Guarantee is a legal concept which produces an economic effect. A personal guarantee by contrast is often used to refer to a promise made by an individual which is supported by, or assured through, the word of the individual. In the same way, a guarantee produces a legal effect wherein one party affirms the promise of another by promising to themselves pay if default occurs.

Indemnity Expenses that are made to compensate for disadvantages suffered or restrictions

Indemnity is a contractual obligation of one party (indemnifier) to compensate the loss occurred to the other party due to the act of the indemnitor or any other party. The duty to indemnify is usually, but not always, coextensive with the contractual duty to "hold harmless" or "save harmless". In contrast, a guarantee is an obligation of one party assuring the other party that guarantor will perform the promise of the third party if it defaults.

Related Research Articles

Bond (finance) instrument of indebtedness

In finance, a bond is an instrument of indebtedness of the bond issuer to the holders. The most common types of bonds include municipal bonds and corporate bonds.

A credit risk is the risk of default on a debt that may arise from a borrower failing to make required payments. In the first resort, the risk is that of the lender and includes lost principal and interest, disruption to cash flows, and increased collection costs. The loss may be complete or partial. In an efficient market, higher levels of credit risk will be associated with higher borrowing costs. Because of this, measures of borrowing costs such as yield spreads can be used to infer credit risk levels based on assessments by market participants.

Holdout problem Economic issue of securities

In finance, a holdout problem occurs when a bond issuer is in default or nears default, and launches an exchange offer in an attempt to restructure debt held by existing bond holders. Such exchange offers typically require the consent of holders of some minimum portion of the total outstanding debt, often in excess of 90%, because, unless the terms of the bond provide otherwise, non-consenting bondholders will retain their legal right to demand repayment of their bonds at par. Bondholders who withhold their consent and retain their right to seek the full repayment of original bonds, may disrupt the restructuring process, creating a situation known as the holdout problem.

Fixed income

Fixed income refers to any type of investment under which the borrower or issuer is obliged to make payments of a fixed amount on a fixed schedule. For example, the borrower may have to pay interest at a fixed rate once a year, and to repay the principal amount on maturity. Fixed-income securities can be contrasted with equity securities – often referred to as stocks and shares – that create no obligation to pay dividends or any other form of income.

A performance bond, also known as a contract bond, is a surety bond issued by an insurance company or a bank to guarantee satisfactory completion of a project by a contractor. The term is also used to denote a collateral deposit of good faith money, intended to secure a futures contract, commonly known as margin.

Brady Bonds

Brady bonds are dollar-denominated bonds, issued mostly by Latin American countries in the late 1980s. The bonds were named after U.S. Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady, who proposed a novel debt-reduction agreement for developing countries.

Unsecured debt

In finance, unsecured debt refers to any type of debt or general obligation that is not protected by a guarantor, or collateralized by a lien on specific assets of the borrower in the case of a bankruptcy or liquidation or failure to meet the terms for repayment. That differs from secured debt such as a mortgage, which is backed by a piece of real estate.

Syndicated loan

A syndicated loan is one that is provided by a group of lenders and is structured, arranged, and administered by one or several commercial banks or investment banks known as lead arrangers.

A loan guarantee, in finance, is a promise by one party to assume the debt obligation of a borrower if that borrower defaults. A guarantee can be limited or unlimited, making the guarantor liable for only a portion or all of the debt.

In the United States, a mortgage note is a promissory note secured by a specified mortgage loan.

Credit enhancement

Credit enhancement is the improvement of the credit profile of a structured financial transaction or the methods used to improve the credit profiles of such products or transactions. It is a key part of the securitization transaction in structured finance, and is important for credit rating agencies when rating a securitization.

A demand guarantee is a guarantee that must be honoured by the guarantor upon beneficiary's demand. The beneficiary is not required to first make a claim or take any action against the obligor of the guaranteed obligation that the guarantee supports. A demand guarantee is enforceable notwithstanding any deficiencies in the enforceability of the underlying obligation.

Bond insurance is a type of insurance whereby an insurance company guarantees scheduled payments of interest and principal on a bond or other security in the event of a payment default by the issuer of the bond or security. As compensation for its insurance, the insurer is paid a premium by the issuer or owner of the security to be insured. Bond insurance is a form of "credit enhancement" that generally results in the rating of the insured security being the higher of (i) the claims-paying rating of the insurer and (ii) the rating the bond would have without insurance.

Securitization is the financial practice of pooling various types of contractual debt such as residential mortgages, commercial mortgages, auto loans or credit card debt obligations and selling their related cash flows to third party investors as securities, which may be described as bonds, pass-through securities, or collateralized debt obligations (CDOs). Investors are repaid from the principal and interest cash flows collected from the underlying debt and redistributed through the capital structure of the new financing. Securities backed by mortgage receivables are called mortgage-backed securities (MBS), while those backed by other types of receivables are asset-backed securities (ABS).

A personal guarantee is a promise made by a person or an organization to accept responsibility for some other party's debt if the debtor fails to pay it. In the case of a personal guarantee made by an individual on behalf of another, the person who makes the personal guarantee is usually referred to as a co-signer of a note for a loan. A guarantor can be any party, including an individual or another organization, with a credit history.

In Bulgaria, the law of obligations is set out by the Obligations and Contracts Act (OCA). According to art. 20a OCA contracts shall have the force of a law for the parties that have concluded them.


  1. Schubert L. (2003). Q&A: The Legal Basics of Surety Bonds [ permanent dead link ]. Construction Executive.