Obligation

What it is:

An obligation is a legal requirement to fulfill a responsibility. In the finance world, this often involves making specific payments by specific dates and/or ensuring that a company meets certain performance requirements.

How it works/Example:

A borrower, for example, has an obligation to make payments of an agreed-upon size on an agreed-upon date. A company may have an obligation to provide certain disclosure to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). A board may have an obligation to pay an executive a certain amount of money if certain events occur, and a lender may have an obligation to charge a certain amount of loan interest for a fixed period of time, even if it can get a higher interest rate later on other loans.

Why it Matters:

In the finance world, obligations are everywhere, and the fulfillment or lack of fulfillment (or even speculation about the lack of fulfillment) of those obligations has a significant impact on the value of the entities that must meet or depend on the obligations. When a party does not fulfill an obligation, the other party to the contract generally has the right to seek recourse in court.

Best execution refers to the imperative that a broker, market maker, or other agent acting on behalf of an investor is obligated to execute the investor's order in a way that is most advantageous to the investor rather than the agent.