Do Covenants of Bonds Outstanding Affect the Choice of Covenants of New Issues? Evidence from the U.S. Corporate Bonds

Yuqian Wang, Che-Wei Chiu, Mark Wrolstad


This paper investigates the relation between debt covenants of a firm’s bonds outstanding and covenants of its newly issued bonds. On the one hand, since covenants are priced and costly, newly issued bonds may not include covenants that have been used in bonds outstanding, suggesting a negative relation between covenants of bonds outstanding and those of new issues. On the other hand, since firms tend to use boilerplate language in debt indentures, similar covenants of bonds outstanding are likely to be used repeatedly in the contracts of new issues, indicating a positive relation. Based on the U.S. public corporate bonds data from 1990 to 2014, this paper provides empirical evidence that covenants of a firm’s new issues are positively related to covenants of its bonds outstanding, suggesting boilerplate language is widely used in corporate bond contracts. Results also show that use of boilerplate language is significantly related to issuers’ financial condition and economic cycle. Issuers with stable financial condition, as measured by commercial paper ratings, tend to use boilerplate language more frequently. And during the Dot-Com bubble period, boilerplate language is used more prevalently than during the financial crisis period.

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