It’s not unusual for parties to a contract to want the written agreement to cover a period before it’s actually signed.
In any event, it is an inferior way of dealing with the true legal state of affairs.
In practice the courts are more sympathetic than one might anticipate.
For a shorter piece with a few practical tips see Backdating – it’s illegal isn’t it?
Setting aside such issues, avoiding unwanted side effects of backdating contracts can be tricky, especially when the purported effective date of an agreement is several months before the date it was actually signed, as can be seen in involves the ownership of a promissory note that was made to a bank in connection with a loan.
The facts are a bit complicated, involving circumstances surrounding the failure of a bank and transactions in the bank’s loans preceding the failure as well as transactions of the FDIC as the bank’s receiver.
Here’s a simplified timeline: FH Partners made a demand on the debtor for payment of the loan and eventually sued the debtor and guarantors.
FH Partners was unable to cite to any authority “for the proposition that a retroactive effective date in one contract can be construed to have an automatic retroactive effect on a separate contract,” which would probably have been fatal to its case.
But the language of the FDIC/FH Partners agreements further undermined FH Partners’ arguments because the documents (1) stated that they couldn’t be amended or waived except in a writing signed by the parties, (2) didn’t anticipate that the FDIC could modify what it was conveying to FH Partners after closing, (3) conveyed the FDIC’s interest “as of the Loan Sale Closing Date,” (4) transferred the FDIC’s interest in the loan “as is,” (5) provided that the FDIC would “have no obligation to secure or obtain any missing intervening assignment or any assignment to [the FDIC] that is not contained in the Loan File,” (6) provided a process by which FH Partners could require the FDIC to repurchase a loan if it was determined that the FDIC didn’t own it as of the closing, and (7) transferred the FDIC’s rights “at the time of closing.” The appellate court stated, “We necessarily conclude that the FDIC/FH Loan Sale Documents unambiguously anticipated that the FDIC might very well be conveying to FH Partners less than perfect, and even non-existent, title to Loan A and Loan B.
Even if a transaction is given retroactive effect as between the parties, it’s unlikely that the same will be true when non-parties are involved.