Define: Without Recourse

Without Recourse
Without Recourse
Quick Summary of Without Recourse

A qualified endorsement on such a negotiable instrument, by which the endorser protects himself or herself from liability to subsequent holders.

What is the dictionary definition of Without Recourse?
Dictionary Definition of Without Recourse

Latin: sans recours

This appears on a bill of exchange to indicate that the holder has no recourse to the person from whom it was acquired if it is not paid. This term may be written on the face of the bill of exchange or as an endorsement.

If “Without Recourse/Sans Recours” does not appear on a bill of exchange, then the holder does have recourse to the drawer (or endorser) if the bill is dishonoured upon maturity.

Full Definition Of Without Recourse

Without recourse is a phrase that has several meanings.

When it comes to sales, “with recourse” is a legal term that means with subsequent liability, and “without recourse” means without subsequent liability. The sales agreement signed by the buyer and seller determines whether a sale is a recourse sale or a non-recourse sale and thereby determines the respective rights and responsibilities of both parties.

Giving the lender no right to seek payment or seize assets in the event of non-payment from anyone other than the party specified in the debt contract (such as a special-purpose entity).

The phrase “without recourse” is a legal term commonly encountered in the context of financial instruments, particularly within the realms of banking, negotiable instruments, and commercial transactions. Its significance lies in its capacity to limit the liability of the endorser or transferor. This overview delves into the various dimensions of “without recourse,” exploring its implications, applications, and legal consequences within the British legal framework.

Definition and Basic Concept

“Without recourse” is a term used in the endorsement of negotiable instruments, such as bills of exchange, promissory notes, and checks. When a financial instrument is endorsed “without recourse,” the endorser essentially disclaims any future liability should the instrument be dishonoured. This means that the endorser is not liable to the holder or any subsequent party for payment if the instrument is not honoured upon presentation.

Legal Framework and Sources

The legal basis for “without recourse” endorsements is primarily found within the Bills of Exchange Act 1882. This Act provides the statutory framework for the operation and interpretation of negotiable instruments in the United Kingdom. Specifically, Section 16(2) of the Act states:

“A qualified endorsement makes the endorser a mere assignor of the title to the bill. The endorser may, by express words in the endorsement, exclude his own liability or make such liability conditional.”

This provision allows endorsers to limit or exclude their liability by including the phrase “without recourse” in their endorsement.

Practical Applications

Banking and Negotiable Instruments

In the banking sector, “without recourse” endorsements are frequently utilised when banks deal with negotiable instruments. For instance, when a bank purchases a bill of exchange or a promissory note from a customer, it may endorse the instrument “without recourse” to protect itself from liability if the instrument is subsequently dishonoured.

Factoring and Invoice Discounting

In commercial finance, particularly in factoring and invoice discounting arrangements, “without recourse” provisions play a crucial role. Factoring involves the sale of accounts receivable to a third party (the factor) at a discount. When the factor purchases these receivables “without recourse,” they assume the credit risk associated with the receivables, meaning the seller is not liable if the debtor fails to pay.

Trade and International Transactions

“Without recourse” is also pertinent in international trade. Exporters, when selling goods on credit, may negotiate with financial institutions to receive payment for their receivables “without recourse.” This arrangement ensures that the exporter is not liable if the foreign buyer defaults, thereby transferring the risk to the financial institution.

Legal Implications and Consequences

Limitation of Liability

The primary implication of a “without recourse” endorsement is the limitation of liability for the endorser. By endorsing a financial instrument “without recourse,” the endorser effectively transfers the instrument without assuming the risk of non-payment. This protection is particularly valuable in high-risk transactions or when dealing with parties of uncertain creditworthiness.

Risk Transfer

The use of “without recourse” clauses facilitates the transfer of risk from the endorser to the endorsee or holder of the instrument. In factoring agreements, for example, the factor assumes the risk of non-payment from the debtor. This risk transfer mechanism is essential in commercial finance as it provides liquidity to businesses while managing credit risk.

Legal Enforceability

For a “without recourse” endorsement to be legally enforceable, it must be explicitly stated on the instrument. The endorsement must clearly indicate the intention of the endorser to disclaim liability. Courts generally uphold such endorsements, provided they are unambiguous and conform to the requirements of the Bills of Exchange Act 1882.

Potential for Disputes

Despite its clarity, “without recourse” endorsements can still lead to disputes, particularly if the language used is ambiguous or if there are allegations of misrepresentation or fraud. In such cases, courts will scrutinise the circumstances surrounding the endorsement to ascertain the true intent of the parties involved.

Case Law and Judicial Interpretation

Case Study: Baxendale v Bennett (1878)

In Baxendale v Bennett, the court addressed the issue of an endorser’s liability on a promissory note endorsed “without recourse.” The court held that the endorsement effectively discharged the endorser from liability, affirming the principle that “without recourse” clauses are valid and enforceable. This case is frequently cited to illustrate the legal effectiveness of such endorsements.

Case Study: Clough v London and North Western Railway Co (1871)

The case of Clough v London and North Western Railway Co involved a dispute over a bill of exchange endorsed “without recourse.” The court emphasised the importance of clear and unambiguous language in endorsements. It ruled that the endorser was not liable due to the explicit “without recourse” clause, reinforcing the necessity for precise wording to limit liability.

Comparative Analysis: UK and US Perspectives

While the concept of “without recourse” is universally recognised, there are notable differences in its application and interpretation between the UK and the US. In the US, the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) governs negotiable instruments. Under the UCC, similar principles apply, allowing endorsers to limit their liability through “without recourse” endorsements.

However, the legal terminologies and statutory frameworks differ. For example, the UCC explicitly states that an endorsement indicating “without recourse” disclaims the endorser’s liability. Despite these differences, the fundamental principle of limiting liability remains consistent across both jurisdictions.

Advantages and Disadvantages


  • Risk Mitigation: Endorsers can transfer the risk of non-payment to the holder, protecting themselves from financial loss.
  • Facilitation of Trade: By using “without recourse” endorsements, businesses can engage in transactions without bearing the full credit risk.
  • Enhanced Liquidity: Companies can obtain immediate cash flow by selling receivables “without recourse,” improving their financial position.


  • Risk for Endorsees: The endorsee assumes the risk of non-payment, which can be significant if the debtor defaults.
  • Potential for Misuse: There is a possibility of disputes arising from ambiguous or improperly executed endorsements.
  • Creditworthiness Concerns: Endorsers using “without recourse” endorsements may face scrutiny regarding their creditworthiness or reliability.

Best Practices and Recommendations

To minimise disputes and ensure the enforceability of “without recourse” endorsements, parties should adhere to the following best practices:

  • Clear Language: Ensure that the endorsement explicitly states “without recourse” and is unambiguous.
  • Documentation: Maintain thorough documentation of the transaction, including any agreements or contracts that reference the “without recourse” clause.
  • Legal Advice: Seek legal advice to understand the implications of “without recourse” endorsements and ensure compliance with relevant laws.
  • Due Diligence: Conduct due diligence on the parties involved to assess their creditworthiness and the potential risks of non-payment.


The term “without recourse” serves as a powerful tool for limiting liability and transferring risk in financial transactions. Its legal foundation in the Bills of Exchange Act 1882 provides a robust framework for its application in the UK. While offering significant advantages in terms of risk mitigation and liquidity enhancement, it also poses challenges and the potential for disputes. By adhering to best practices and ensuring clarity in endorsements, parties can effectively leverage “without recourse” provisions to facilitate smooth and secure financial transactions.


  • Bills of Exchange Act 1882.
  • Baxendale v. Bennett [1878] 3 QBD 525.
  • Clough v. London and North Western Railway Co. [1871] LR 7 Exch 26.
  • Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), United States.
Without Recourse FAQ'S

If the loans are sold without recourse, then the bank has no further potential liability with the loans sold. If the loans go bad, the buyer cannot ask the bank to make up the difference.

Without the lender having any right to seek payment or seize assets in the event of nonpayment from anyone other than the party (such as a special-purpose entity) specified in the debt contract.

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This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 9th June 2024.

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