Weil, Gotshal & Manges Participates in World’s First Humanitarian Weather Derivative Transaction

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

  • Weil, Gotshal & Manges

Weil, Gotshal & Manges announced earlier this month its participation, as pro bono counsel, in a revolutionary initiative by the United Nations World Food Programme which created the world's first weather derivative transaction for humanitarian emergencies, creating a novel way to transfer humanitarian risk to the financial markets.

As part of its ongoing efforts to find ways to finance natural disaster aid more quickly and efficiently, the United Nations World Food Programme has signed a deal with French insurer AXA Re to create the first weather derivative transaction to specifically cover humanitarian disasters. The contract provides US $7.1 million in contingency funding in the event of extreme drought during Ethiopia's 2006 agricultural season. If triggered, the funds will be used to protect people against the consequences of this natural disaster.

Working closely with executives from the UN's World Food Programme and the World Bank Commodity Risk Management Group, Weil Gotshal's Conrad G. Bahlke, a partner in the firm's Structured Finance and Derivatives practice group, played an integral role in the helping to structure this novel deal.

"This is an incredible application of sophisticated financial and legal concepts, which have the potential to do so much good for so many," said Bahlke. "I am honored to have played a part in the project."

Much as a farmer might use weather derivatives to hedge against a poor harvest caused by a period of unexpected frost, the derivative is based upon a calibrated index of rainfall data gathered from 26 weather stations across Ethiopia. Payment in this experimental pilot project will be triggered if data gathered over a period from March to October 2006 indicates that rainfall has been significantly below historic averages, pointing to the likelihood of widespread crop failure. While the pilot transaction only provides a small amount of contingency funding, the model has been designed on the basis of the potential losses that 17 million poor Ethiopian farmers risk should an extreme drought arise.

"Conrad's work on this revolutionary emergency insurance contract is testament to the scope and commitment of our pro bono efforts," said Steve Reiss, Partner and Head of Weil, Gotshal's Pro Bono Committee. "It is humbling to know that our firm has contributed in some way to preventing such widespread devastation caused by natural disasters."