A businessman making a mountain of coins​

Legal Guide to Managing Exchange Rate Fluctuations

As an executive, understanding the legal implications of exchange rate fluctuations is crucial to making informed decisions and safeguarding your business’s interests.

Whether you’re actively confronting a corporate crisis or aiming to fortify your organization against unforeseen challenges, we’ll share all you need to know in this guide.

We’ll explain why exchange rates fluctuate, how to prevent possible disputes and how to solve exchange rate fluctuation disputes that arise.

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What Are Exchange Rate Fluctuations?

Exchange rate fluctuations are constant changes in the value of one currency relative to another. From geopolitical events to economic indicators, fluctuations can have profound impacts on cross-border transactions and investments.

As an executive, grasping the nuances of these fluctuations is key to foreseeing potential challenges and capitalizing on advantageous opportunities in the global market.

Why Do Exchange Rates Fluctuate?

Navigating the global financial landscape requires an understanding of the factors driving exchange rate movements.

Factors that play a crucial role in exchange rate fluctuations include:

  • Economic indicators and performance: The health of a nation’s economy, as gauged by indicators like GDP growth, unemployment rates, and industrial production, directly impacts its currency’s strength and desirability on the global stage.
  • Interest rates: Central banks set interest rates, which can attract or deter foreign capital. Higher rates can bring in investments, improving the nation’s currency, while lower rates might do the opposite.
  • Inflation: A lower inflation rate in a country, compared to its trading partners, can increase that country’s currency value, while higher inflation can reduce the currency’s value.
  • Current account deficits: Countries running significant deficits may need to borrow capital from foreign sources, potentially leading to depreciation of their currency.
  • Public debt: Nations with high amounts of debt are less likely to attract foreign investment, leading to a drop in currency value, while countries with lower debt levels are more attractive to investors.
  • Recession: When a country is in a recession, interest rates usually fall. This can reduce the attractiveness of assets denominated in that currency, leading to a decrease in its value.
  • Speculation: If traders believe that a currency will strengthen in the future, they will buy more of it. Their actions can cause the currency’s value to go up in the short term.
Exchange rates in various countries​
Countries that are politically stable tend to have stronger currencies because they are considered safer investments.​

Effects of Exchange Rate Fluctuations

Exchange rate changes can affect every part of a business.

As rates oscillate, organizations can face both challenges and opportunities, including:

  • Financial risks: Sudden and unpredictable changes in exchange rates can affect profitability — especially for businesses with significant overseas operations. It can lead to unexpected losses or gains when converting foreign revenues back into the home currency.
  • Competitive challenges: As currencies fluctuate, products and services can become more or less competitive in international markets. For example, a stronger home currency can make exports more expensive for foreign buyers, potentially reducing overseas sales.
  • Supply chain disruptions: For businesses reliant on global supply chains, variations in currency values can cause costs to surge or plummet, potentially leading to procurement challenges or changes in sourcing strategies.
  • Loss of attractiveness for foreign investors: Sharp declines in a country’s currency might deter foreign investors, as their potential return on investment is reduced when converted back to their home currency.

Recognizing these effects and devising strategies to mitigate potential pitfalls or harness advantages is crucial to maintain sustainable international operations.

Disputes Caused by Exchange Rate Fluctuations

Exchange rate fluctuations can also lead to contentious legal battles, due to the unpredictability of currency values. Disputes can include:

1. Breach of Contract Claims

Contracts often stipulate specific prices or payments in a particular currency. Fluctuations can cause parties to claim that they’re incurring unfair costs or not receiving the agreed value, resulting in breach allegations.

Example: A textile manufacturer in Egypt (Company X) has a contract with a US-based retailer (Company Y) to deliver apparel at a fixed rate in USD over a year.

The contract states that any major fluctuations in the exchange rate beyond a specified range would be adjusted in the payment to ensure a fair price. However, due to sudden changes in the currency market, the USD becomes stronger against the Egyptian Pound.

Company Y ignores the clause and pays the initial fixed rate without adjusting for the currency fluctuation. This leads to Company X receiving a significantly lower amount in Egyptian Pounds than anticipated. As a result, Company X files a claim for breach of contract.

2. Calculation of Damages Disputes

When seeking compensation in legal cases, the fluctuating value of currencies can be a bone of contention. Parties might disagree on the amount if conversions are involved.

Example: A tech firm in the UK (Company A) and a software distributor in Japan (Company B) have a partnership where Company B is set to distribute a software solution in Japan, expecting a certain revenue stream in Yen. However, due to a sharp appreciation of the Yen against the Pound Sterling, the realized revenue when converted is less than projected.

When Company A decides to end the partnership due to the loss, they demand damages. The two companies enter into a dispute over the calculation of these damages, with each side presenting its own methodology and figures based on different interpretations of the impact of the exchange rate fluctuation.

3. Investment Treaty Claims

Investors who have made foreign investments under the protection of international treaties might lodge claims if they believe exchange rate movements have undermined the value or security of their investments.

Example: An American energy company (Company C) invests heavily in a developing nation’s renewable energy sector based on certain projected returns. However, after a change in government, there are unexpected policies that cause sharp currency devaluations.

Company C argues that these policies indirectly expropriate their expected profits and file a claim under a bilateral investment treaty between the U.S. and the developing nation, asserting they have not received fair and equitable treatment.

4. Force Majeure and Hardship Claims

Some contracts have clauses that address extraordinary events or changes in circumstances, like drastic currency fluctuations. Parties might invoke these clauses, claiming that fulfilling contractual obligations has become excessively onerous due to currency shifts.

Example: A Brazilian coffee exporter (Company D) enters a deal with a German coffee chain (Company E) at a fixed rate in Euros for regular shipments throughout the year. Unexpected economic events cause the Brazilian Real to experience hyperinflation.

As a result, the agreed-upon Euro payment becomes grossly insufficient for Company D. They halt shipments, claiming that the unforeseen and extreme currency fluctuation is a force majeure event that makes the agreement impossible to fulfill. On the other hand, Company E argues that it’s not a valid force majeure event and claims damages for the interruption of their coffee supply.

A person signing a document​
Additional insights about exchange rate fluctuations not only aid in proactive management but also provide a strategic edge when navigating international business terrains.​

How To Solve Exchange Rate Fluctuation Disputes

Exchange rate fluctuations can cause uncertainty and lead to disputes. However, proactive strategies and management solutions can help you effectively resolve these disagreements while safeguarding your business interests.

The most common methods of solving exchange rate fluctuation disputes are:

1. Contractual Solutions

Taking a preemptive approach, you can incorporate specific clauses into your business contracts that address potential issues arising from currency value shifts. These can include fixed exchange rates, currency adjustment clauses, or agreements to share the risks.

Proactively managing these risks within the contractual framework reduces the chances of unforeseen disputes and offers clearer avenues for resolution if they arise.

2. Negotiation

Direct dialogue can often be the quickest and least costly way to resolve disputes. Both parties, with a clear understanding of their interests and the business implications of the disagreement, can work together to find a mutually agreeable solution.

This method prioritizes preserving business relationships and can lead to innovative solutions tailored to the unique situation.

3. Mediation

Mediation offers a structured yet informal setting where a neutral third party assists disputing parties in reaching a mutually satisfactory resolution.

This is a voluntary and confidential process, allowing parties to maintain control over the outcome, making it a preferred choice for many businesses seeking to preserve their relationships.

4. International Arbitration

For cross-border disputes, international arbitration offers a neutral ground. Specialized arbitrators with expertise in finance and international laws can provide a binding resolution.

This method is particularly valuable when the parties involved come from different legal jurisdictions, as it ensures a balanced approach. This way, parties have the liberty to choose the arbitrators, the legal rules to be applied, the language of the arbitration, and the venue.

5. Litigation in National Courts

As a last resort, you can turn to litigation in national courts. This approach can be time-consuming, expensive, and could yield unpredictable outcomes — especially if one party has a home court advantage.

In their home country, a party might find it logistically easier to gather evidence, produce witnesses, and manage the case without dealing with cross-border challenges.

Nonetheless, in certain scenarios, litigation might be the only recourse to ensure your legal rights are upheld.

CTA: Our team will identify the best resolution method for your dispute. Contact Youssef + Partners

Our team will identify the best resolution method for your dispute.
Contact Youssef + Partners

Exchange Rate Fluctuation Dispute Resolution at Youssef + Partners

Youssef + Partner is a market leader in international arbitration and crisis management and pre-dispute matters, and go-to firm for regional and MENA mediation cases.

We are committed to not only offering sound advice but also proactive strategies that prioritize crisis prevention and management. We understand the importance of preemptive actions and have a proven track record in facilitating dispute avoidance and pre-dispute resolution.

Our services include:

  • Crisis Prevention and Management: Our attorneys work closely with clients to identify potential crises and develop risk management strategies to prevent or minimize the impact of these events. We can assist with regulatory compliance, reputation management and crisis communication.
  • Dispute Avoidance and Pre-Dispute Resolution: We help our clients avoid or manage disputes before or as they arise. We assist with alternative dispute resolution (ADR) processes such as negotiation, mediation, and settlement and dispute resolution
  • Mediation and Arbitration: Our lawyers have extensive experience in mediation and arbitration and help clients navigate these processes to achieve favorable outcomes.

Navigating the complexities of exchange rate disputes can be challenging, but with Youssef + Partners by your side, you can be confident in the protection and growth of your global ventures.

We represent our clients in significant mediation disputes and develop crisis management strategies across major MENA metropoles, including Cairo, Doha, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Ras El Khaimah, and key jurisdictions including Turkey, Lebanon, and Kuwait.

Whether you’re looking to safeguard your business from potential currency-related disputes or need expert mediation services, our team can help. Your global operations deserve the best legal guidance.

Looking for crisis management or mediation services?
Contact Youssef + Partners