Document Type

Article

Publication Date

12-2019

Abstract

Personal property security law is a key element of “access to credit” and “financial inclusion”. The prevailing view is that a legal framework enabling the effective use of personal property as collateral markedly benefits both lenders and borrowers. Lenders can offer financing at a lower cost thanks to reduced credit risk; borrowers can access funding by leveraging the otherwise unavailable value of the assets integral to their operations.

Over the past century, the priorities of personal property security law have evolved fundamentally. As small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and individual entrepreneurs have become the growth engine of both developed and developing economies, legislators have grown sensitive to the financing needs of these entities. In parallel, the advent of the information society has demanded that lawmakers address squarely the rules governing the use as collateral of intangibles such as “receivables”, “intermediated securities”, “non-intermediated securities”, and “intellectual property rights”, rather than confine their gaze to tangibles such as industrial machinery, mobile equipment and inventory. Concurrently, the increasingly transnational nature of both economic development policies and commercial activity have engendered the need for global principles and standards for asset-based lending.

To address these novel priorities and promote a healthy and vibrant credit ecosystem, international and regional organizations have undertaken projects aimed at modernizing and harmonizing personal property security law. Over time, these efforts have yielded a panoply of legal instruments. Binding conventions have been adopted to unify the rules of discrete facets of personal property security law, while soft-law texts, such as model laws and legislative guides, have been formulated to supply comprehensive legal templates to lawmakers keen to revise their domestic legal regimes. Nevertheless, states have struggled to assimilate these international efforts into their domestic legal systems. Common law jurisdictions have been loath to abandon the familiarity and safety of the path paved by centuries of case law; in similar vein, civil law jurisdictions have resisted inducements to renovate the normative infrastructure erected by the codifications of the 19th century.

This Chapter explores the tension between international ambitions and local realities, with a special focus on the issues encountered in civil law jurisdictions. To this end, the case of Italy is examined as a living experiment in comparative personal property security law. In this jurisdiction, the recent enactment of a non-possessory security device, absent a comprehensive reform of the country’s civil code affords important lessons for any civil law system which might be pondering personal property security law reforms. More profoundly, it epitomizes the gap that separates the aspirations of international legal instruments from their effective implementation in domestic contexts. This analysis is divided into two parts. The first reviews international and regional legal initiatives that have shaped the personal property law landscape and then identifies a set of core tenets shared among them. In the second part, attention shifts to Italy, scrutinizing both the personal property security legal edifice originally constructed in this jurisdiction and the attempts to overhaul it that have taken place over the past three decades. This is followed by a critical appraisal of the current state of the law, by reference to the aforementioned core tenets of personal property law reform.

Publication Citation

in International Business Law 283-337 (Lucio Ghia ed., Wolters Kluwer Int'l, 2019).

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