KEEP-WELL AGREEMENTS Definition

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KEEP-WELL AGREEMENTS, also known as comfort letters, are documents from one party written to another party in regards to contingent liability. Comfort letters have been held by courts to be legally enforceable commitments if they meet certain standards criteria of language. Comfort letters meeting these standards are loss contingencies in that they are construed to guarantee a financial commitment and must be reported under Statement of Financial Accounting Standard 5 as a guarantee. Auditors should review the language of all comfort letters and seek to discover contingent liabilities not disclosed in financial statements in situations where comfort letters exist. Sources of information concerning the contingent liabilities of comfort letters include: management and third parties. Auditors should document within the client representations letter management assurances that loss contingencies have been reported.

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SELLING SHORT is selling securities not yet owned by the seller in anticipation of declining market prices. At some point in the future, the seller covers the sale by purchas­ing and delivering the securities.

INVERSE FLOATING RATE is a security that has a fixed maturity with a coupon rate that is reset at a pre-specified amount, minus a given short-term rate or index, such as 18% minus the six-month LIBOR rate, or 30% minus three times the 30-day commercial paper composite rate. These instruments provide a way to hedge against lower short-term rates and/or a steeper yield curoe without extending the maturity. As short­term rates decline, the coupon rate increases.

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