Bidder Beware

There has been a lot of discussion about auction guarantees. Some of the criticism is valid, but it is not a new problem. Guarantees may be unfair on buyers but the people who provide them generally understand the risks.

The same is not always true for irrevocable bidders.

The people who end up placing irrevocable bids are typically collectors or new buyers. They are often relatively inexperienced bidders who do not completely understand what they are agreeing to.

A number of people who agreed to irrevocable bids in the last few years are now upset. Some are very angry.

Several bidders have looked at suing auction houses.

Auction houses (which love the cash flow from irrevocable bids) have excellent contracts with well-written terms and conditions. It is hard to prove a case against auction houses. And – to fair – some canny irrevocable bidders like the options it gives them.

But a few unhappy (and well connected) individuals can cause big problems.

Irrevocable bids and guarantees are essentially derivatives (they give you the option or obligation to buy something at a future date). Regulators are keen to control derivatives markets. Things that may seem irrevocable can change.

Image Courtesy of Kennie Louie under creative commons license.

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Alasdair Whyte

Alasdair Whyte

Alasdair is a financial journalist writing about art. He has focused on high value asset finance since 1998. As well as Private Art Investor, he also edits Corporate Jet Investor (despite knowing very little about aircraft) and Helicopter Investor (ditto).