As discussed in Part I of this series, NFT-based lending is pioneering a new avenue of investment and activity on the blockchain that will enable new and innovative use cases. In this Part II, we will discuss the implications for Lenders.
I. Issues for Lenders:
These on-chain loans secured by digital assets present a question for lenders: how do lenders get comfortable extending secured financing to borrowers where the secured asset is digital, like an NFT? In traditional financing, lenders and borrowers negotiate a security agreement, which governs the rights a lender will have in a transaction. Per the Uniform Commercial Code (the “UCC”), which regulates interests in personal property as collateral for debt, a security interest in tangible collateral can be perfected against third parties by possession of the collateral or by filing a financing statement. At the same time, a security interest in many kinds of intangible collateral can be perfected against third parties only by filing a financing statement. Sometimes, best practice calls for possession and filing (when both types of perfection are permitted under the UCC).
Mechanically, when the lender and borrower agree to terms on a peer-to-peer marketplace like Blur (as discussed in Part I of this series), the NFT is placed into a vault – a smart contract with specific storage and security features – with a lien on it; at this point, the principal is transferred to the borrower. As discussed below, the UCC, as currently adopted in most states, does not account for perfection of a security interest in digital assets by any method other than the filing of a financing statement, so a vault & lien combination is insufficient to perfect a security interest in the NFT collateral against third parties; however, the 2022 UCC Amendments provide certain clarity for perfecting a security interest in digital assets against third parties.
In general, the UCC is periodically updated to incorporate emerging technologies and trends. Among other updates, the 2022 UCC Amendments address digital assets and distributed ledger technologies, affording transactors in goods and services updated default rules under the UCC. As such, lenders should be aware of the varying new measures to ensure their loans are adequately secured and perfected against the borrower and any third party, including customers and other creditors of the borrower. Hence, the lender would be first in line to realize on the collateral in a fight with other creditors of the borrower.