In United States business law, a special purpose vehicle (SPV), also known as a bankruptcy-remote entity or a special purpose entity (SPE), is a subsidiary created by a parent company to isolate financial risk. Although it is founded by a parent organization, it has its own assets, liabilities, and legal status. Since it is considered a separate entity from the parent company, it maintains its security even if the parent company goes bankrupt. Most special purpose vehicles take the form of partnerships, limited liability partnerships, or joint ventures.
Ironically, the best way to understand SPVs is by examining a situation where they were used incorrectly. A common example is the financial crash of Enron Corp, a Houston based energy company, in 2001. While the misuse of SPVs isn’t the only reason Enron fell, it served as a major contributor to its downfall.
As Enron’s stock rose, the company established hundreds of SPVs and transferred the profits to the companies in exchange for cash. Over time, Enron abused SPVs by using them as a dumping site for troubled assets and in order to hide debt for failed projects. Since the problematic assets were not featured on Enron’s balance sheet, its debts seemed much smaller than they were in reality. Once Enron’s practices came to light, its share prices tumbled and the company eventually filed for bankruptcy.
When special purpose vehicles are used correctly, they can act as an incredible tool for a number of businesses. Some of its main advantages include:
It should be noted that SPVs come with several potential downsides, such as:
Special purpose vehicles (SPVs) can provide a range of benefits to a company, but it's essential to consider that they may not be a suitable fit for every financial plan. Find out if you should create an SPV by reaching out to one of our reputable business attorneys today.