Mezzanine Finance Instruments - doctoral dissertation by Kari Lautjärvi

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D&I's Partner Kari Lautjärvi defended his doctoral thesis on Mezzanine Finance Instruments on 13 February 2015. Read the press release in Finnish.

The public examination lectio praecursoria is available in Finnish.

Talentum Media publishes Mr Lautjärvi's doctoral dissertation in February 2015: Välipääomarahoitusinstrumentit

Kari Lautjärvi's doctoral dissertation provides a comprehensive discussion on various equity and debt financing instruments that Finnish limited liability companies (limited by shares) generally use. The main focus of the dissertation is examining mezzanine debt instruments incorporating such things as control covenants, capital and debenture loans, perpetual hybrid loans, profit sharing loans as well as convertible and option loans. In general, mezzanine finance instruments are used as corporate finance products in Finland and are a form of hybrid capital. Albeit typically structured as debt instruments, mezzanine instruments are often more akin to equity finance instruments by virtue of their characteristics.

The equity instruments are regulated mainly by company law as well as the articles of association of the company concerned, whilst the debt instruments are regulated in essence by the Law of Obligations and the general principles of contract law. The new Finnish Act on Limited Liability Companies (624/2006), hereinafter the "FCA", extended the contractual freedom of companies in creating different types of equity financing instruments, primarily by the creation of different classes of shares. The equity instruments may confer preferred voting, economic rights and other benefits as well as redeemable and convertible rights. Conversely, the contract law principle of freedom of contract has traditionally enabled the debt instruments to be tailored according to the needs of a particular company. Consequently, there is extensive contractual freedom in creating mezzanine debt instruments in Finland.

Finnish limited liability companies issue mezzanine instruments primarily for the purposes of achieving tax benefits, improving the company´s solvency and credit ratios as well as facilitating the company´s capital funding or decreasing capital expenditure. The mezzanine instruments may, inter alia, contribute to the improvement of risk management for companies and their investors as well as increased profits for the investors. They also provide an alternative financing method for companies, their shareholders and other investors by mitigating their conflicting interests.

The implementation of the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) in Finland has emphasized substance based evaluation in defining the difference between equity and debt in company accounts. Thus, the actual substance and nature of the instrument concerned is important more often than its legal form. However, from the perspectives of the Finnish company, accounting and tax law, the legal character and status of equity and debt instruments may differ or conflict with one another.

The dissertation mainly concentrates on the analysis of various types of mezzanine instruments and the structure of the applicable Finnish legal rules. The central theme of the dissertation is the study of the principal-agent theory combined with the theory of transaction cost economics. The dissertation considers both the protection granted by the FCA as well as the risks involved for the various actors in a company. Therefore, the focus is on the factual nature and content of the financial instruments rather than their pure legal form. The analysis in the dissertation also encompasses the theory of law and economics.

The Finnish legislation, legal literature and case law directly addressing debt-based mezzanine instruments are modest, and the same applies to the other Nordic legal systems. Consequently, the dissertation also contains comparative research on certain legal aspects of EU regulations and Anglo-American rules.

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