If lenders pursuant to our repurchase transactions default on their obligations to resell the underlying collateral back to us at the end of the transaction term, or if the value of the collateral has declined by the end of the term or if we default on our obligations under the transaction, we will lose money on these transactions.
When we engage in a repurchase transaction, we initially transfer securities or loans to the financial institution under one of our master repurchase agreements in exchange for cash, and our counterparty is obligated to resell such assets to us at the end of the term of the transaction, which is typically from 30 days to one year, but which may have terms from one day to up to five years or more. The cash we receive when we initially sell the collateral is less than the value of that collateral, which is referred to as the "haircut." As a result, we are able to borrow against a smaller portion of the collateral that we initially sell in these transactions. Increased haircuts require us to post additional collateral. The haircut rates under our master repurchase agreements are not set until we engage in a specific repurchase transaction under these agreements. If our counterparty defaults on its obligation to resell collateral to us, we would incur a loss on the transaction equal to the amount of the haircut (assuming there was no change in the value of the securities). Any losses we incur on our repurchase transactions could adversely affect our earnings, and, thus, our cash available for distribution to our stockholders.
If we default on one of our obligations under a repurchase transaction, the counterparty can terminate the transaction and cease entering into any other repurchase transactions with us. In that case, we would likely need to establish a replacement repurchase facility with another financial institution in order to continue to leverage our investment portfolio and carry out our investment strategy. We may not be able to secure a suitable replacement facility on acceptable terms or at all.
Further, financial institutions providing the repurchase agreements may require us to maintain a certain amount of cash uninvested or to set aside non-leveraged assets sufficient to maintain a specified liquidity position which would allow us to satisfy our collateral obligations. As a result, we may not be able to leverage our assets as fully as we would choose, which could reduce our return on equity. If we are unable to meet these collateral obligations, our financial condition could deteriorate rapidly. Additionally, our counterparties can unilaterally choose to cease entering into any further repurchase transactions with us.
Our rights under our repurchase agreements are subject to the effects of the bankruptcy laws in the event of the bankruptcy or insolvency of us or our lenders under the repurchase agreements.
In the event of our insolvency or bankruptcy, certain repurchase agreements may qualify for special treatment under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, the effect of which, among other things, would be to allow the lender under the applicable repurchase agreement to avoid the automatic stay provisions of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code and to foreclose on the collateral agreement without delay. In the event of the insolvency or bankruptcy of a lender during the term of a repurchase agreement, the lender may be permitted, under applicable insolvency laws, to repudiate the contract, and our claim against the lender for damages may be treated simply as an unsecured creditor. In addition, if the lender is a broker or dealer subject to the Securities Investor Protection Act of 1970, or an insured depository institution subject to the Federal Deposit Insurance Act, our ability to exercise our rights to recover our assets under a repurchase agreement or to be compensated for any damages resulting from the lender's insolvency may be further limited by those statutes. These claims would be subject to significant delay and, if and when received, may be substantially less than the damages we actually incur.
Our use of derivative agreements may expose us to counterparty risk.
Hedging instruments often are not traded on regulated exchanges, guaranteed by an exchange or its clearinghouse, or regulated by any U.S. or foreign governmental authorities and involves risks and costs that could result in material losses. Consequently, there may not be requirements with respect to record keeping, financial responsibility or segregation of customer funds and positions. Furthermore, the enforceability of agreements underlying hedging transactions may depend on compliance with applicable statutory and commodity and other regulatory requirements and, depending on the domicile of the counterparty, applicable international requirements. Consequently, if a counterparty fails to perform under a derivative agreement we could incur a significant loss.
For example, if a swap counterparty under an interest rate swap agreement that we enter into as part of our hedging strategy cannot perform under the terms of the interest rate swap agreement, we may not receive payments due under that agreement, and, thus, we may lose any potential benefit associated with the interest rate swap. Additionally, we may also risk the loss of any collateral we have pledged to secure our obligations under these swap agreements if the counterparty becomes insolvent or files for bankruptcy. Similarly, if an interest rate swaption counterparty fails to perform under the terms of the interest rate swaption agreement, in addition to not being able to exercise or otherwise cash settle the agreement, we could also incur a loss for the premium paid for that swaption.