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On October 20, the CFPB, Federal Reserve Board, FDIC, NCUA, and OCC, in conjunction with the state bank and state credit union regulators, (collectively, “agencies”) released a joint statement regarding the transition away from LIBOR. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the Fed, FDIC, and OCC issued a joint statement encouraging banks to cease entering into new contracts that use LIBOR as a reference rate as soon as practicable, but by December 31, 2021 at the latest. The agencies' October 20 joint statement provides supervisory considerations for institutions when choosing an alternative reference rate, such as, among other things: (i) the meaning of new LIBOR contracts; (ii) understanding how the chosen reference rate is constructed and the fragilities associated with it; and (iii) expectations for fallback language. In addition, the agencies noted that supervised institutions should “develop and implement a transition plan for communicating with consumers, clients, and counterparties; and ensure systems and operational capabilities will be ready for transition to a replacement reference rate after LIBOR’s discontinuation.”
On October 18, the OCC released an updated self-assessment tool for banks to evaluate their preparedness for the LIBOR cessation at the end of the year. The updated guidance reminds banks that they should cease entering into new contracts using LIBOR as a reference rate as soon as practicable but no later than December 31, 2021. The self-assessment tool may be used by banks to identify and mitigate a bank’s LIBOR transition risks, and management should use the tool to evaluate whether preparations for the transition are sufficient. The OCC notes that “LIBOR exposure and risk assessments and cessation preparedness plans should be complete or near completion with appropriate management oversight and reporting in place,” and “most banks should be working toward resolving replacement rate issues while communicating with affected customers and third parties, as applicable.” The OCC also reminds banks to tailor risk management processes to the size and complexity of a bank’s LIBOR exposures and “consider all applicable risks (e.g., operational, compliance, strategic, and reputation) when scoping and completing LIBOR cessation preparedness assessments.”
Bulletin 2021-46 rescinds Bulletin 2021-7 published in February (covered by InfoBytes here).
On October 14, the Alternative Reference Rates Committee (ARRC) recommended that all market participants take proactive action now to reduce their use of U.S. dollar LIBOR to promote a smooth end to new LIBOR contracts by year end. ARRC referred to a joint statement issued last November by the Federal Reserve Board, FDIC, and OCC encouraging banks to cease entering into new contracts that use LIBOR as a reference rate as soon as practicable, but by December 31, 2021 at the latest. (Covered by InfoBytes here.) According to the agencies, entering into contracts after this date will create safety and soundness risks given consumer protection, litigation, and reputation risks at stake. ARRC recommended that firms adopt its selected alternative, the Secured Overnight Financing Rate, which is consistent with steps that several firms have already taken to ensure they are in the position to meet the supervisory guidance. This includes “setting targets for reductions in new LIBOR activity, limiting the range of LIBOR offerings, and implementing internal escalation exceptions processes around new LIBOR contracts for narrow cases in line with supervisory guidance.”
On October 8, the CFPB issued its semi-annual report to Congress covering the Bureau’s work from October 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021. The report, which is required by Dodd-Frank, addresses, among other things, the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on consumer credit, significant rules and orders adopted by the Bureau, consumer complaints, and various supervisory and enforcement actions taken by the Bureau. In his opening letter, Director Dave Uejio discusses the Bureau’s efforts to increase racial equity in the marketplace and to mitigate the financial effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on consumers, including measures such as reinstituted regular public reporting, developing Prioritized Assessments to protect consumers from elevated risks of harm related to the pandemic, and numerous enforcement actions with claims or findings of various violations. Uejio also notes that communities of color, particularly Black and Hispanic communities, have disproportionately experienced the health and economic effects of the pandemic, and states that the Bureau is utilizing “all [of its] tools to ensure that all communities, of all races and economic backgrounds, can participate in and benefit from the nation’s economic recovery.”
Among other topics, the report highlights two publications by the Bureau: one focusing on the TRID Integrated Disclosure Rule (covered by InfoBytes here), and another focusing on credit record trends for young enlisted servicemembers during the first year after separation (covered by InfoBytes here). The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on consumer credit are also discussed, as are the results from the Bureau’s Making Ends Meet Survey. In addition to these areas of focus, the report notes the issuance of several significant notices of proposed rulemaking related to remittance transfers, debt collection practices, the transition from LIBOR, and qualified mortgage definitions under TILA. Multiple final rules were also issued concerning Truth in Lending Act (Regulation Z); remittance transfers; and payday, vehicle, title, and certain high-cost installment loans. Several other rules and initiatives undertaken during the reporting period are also highlighted.
On October 5, HUD issued an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) seeking comments regarding the transition from the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) to alternate indices on adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs). According to the ANPRM, most ARMs insured by FHA are based on LIBOR, which is likely to become uncertain after December 31 and to no longer be published after June 30, 2023. Due to the uncertainty, HUD has begun to transition away from LIBOR and has approved the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) index in some circumstances. In recognizing that there may be certain difficulties for mortgagees transitioning to a new index, HUD “is considering a rule that would address a Secretary-approved replacement index for existing loans and provide for a transition date consistent with the cessation of the LIBOR index.” Furthermore, HUD “is also considering replacing the LIBOR index with the SOFR interest rate index, with a compatible spread adjustment to minimize the impact of the replacement index for legacy ARMs.” Comments on the ANPRM are due by December 6.
The same day, Federal Reserve Vice Chair for Supervision Randal K. Quarles spoke at the Structured Finance Association Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, reminding participants that they should cease utilizing LIBOR by the end of the year, “no matter how unhappy they may be with their options to replace it,” and further warned that the Fed will supervise firms accordingly. Quarles emphasized that, “[g]iven the availability of SOFR, including term SOFR, there will be no reason for a bank to use [LIBOR] after 2021 while trying to find a rate it likes better.”
On September 20, SEC Chair Gary Gensler issued remarks before the Alternative Reference Rates Committee (ARRC) regarding the transition from the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) to a “preferable” Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR). Gensler expressed his concerns for the Bloomberg Short-Term Bank Yield Index (BSBY), citing that BSBY's flaws are similar to those of LIBOR, including that “[b]oth benchmarks are based upon unsecured, term, bank-to-bank lending.” He also pointed out that the BSBY term is “underpinned primarily by trades of commercial paper and certificates of deposit issued by 34 banks,” and “the median trading volume behind three-month BSBY is less than $10 billion per day.” In expressing his support for SOFR, Gensler stated that SOFR is based on an approximate trillion-dollar market.
On September 15, Michael Held, General Counsel and Executive Vice President of the Legal Group at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, issued remarks at the ISDA Benchmark Strategies Forum regarding issues relating to the transition from U.S. LIBOR to other rates. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the Alternative Reference Rates Committee announced its recommendation of CME Group’s forward-looking Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) term rates, following the completion of key changes in trading conventions on July 26 under the SOFR First initiative. Held noted that the U.S. Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve, among others, warned of the “considerable operational, technological, accounting, tax, and legal challenges” that may impact the LIBOR transition speed and that slow progress is also a concern for the derivates market. The second transition issue Held noted is the importance of comparing rates, stating that “alternative rates should be appropriate for the bank’s funding model and customer needs.” Lastly, Held discussed that fallbacks are essential for all alternative options, and it is important for firms that are using credit-sensitive rates to have a complete understanding of their chosen rates.
On August 23, the U.S. Treasury Department, Federal Reserve Board, SEC, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and CFTC released a letter responding to nonfinancial corporate stakeholders’ concerns as they prepare to transition from LIBOR to another reference rate. The agencies acknowledged that LIBOR’s cessation “presents considerable operational, technological, accounting, tax, and legal challenges for Main Street companies,” and recognized that “a smooth transition will be best supported if financial institutions offer alternatives to USD LIBOR that meet borrower needs and if this is done in a timely fashion.” The agencies further acknowledged challenges some stakeholders have faced when obtaining loan agreements based on the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR)—“even after they indicated that loan agreements based on SOFR would be their preferred choice”—and expressed concerns that nonfinancial corporations are not being offered such alternatives despite the short period of time before LIBOR’s cessation. Stressing the importance of using “reference rates built on deep, liquid markets that are not susceptible to manipulation” while also reiterating that “the official sector is not positioned to adjudicate the selection of reference rates between banks and their commercial customers,” the agencies stressed that “borrower preferences and needs clearly have a significant role to play in the selection of such rates.”
Find continuing InfoBytes coverage on LIBOR here.
On July 29, the Alternative Reference Rates Committee (ARRC) announced its recommendation of CME Group’s forward-looking Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) term rates, following the completion of key changes in trading conventions on July 26 under the SOFR First initiative. As previously covered by InfoBytes, ARRC announced in March that it “will not be in a position to recommend a forward-looking [SOFR term rate] by mid-2021.” However, the success of the SOFR First convention change, “along with the continued growth in SOFR cash and derivatives markets, has allowed the ARRC to recommend SOFR Term Rates, consistent with the principles and indicators it established to do so.” Federal Reserve Board Vice Chair for Supervision Randal K. Quarles noted that “[a]ll firms should be moving quickly to meet our supervisory guidance advising them to end new use of LIBOR this year.”
In addition to the announcement, ARRC released a factsheet outlining past milestones, SOFR’s strengths, and anticipated milestones. ARRC noted that SOFR is “the best replacement” for USD LIBOR because it is (i) deep enough to “not dry up in times of market stress”; (ii) resilient against market evolution; and (iii) entirely transaction-based, and therefore cannot be easily manipulated.
On July 29, the FDIC, Federal Reserve Board, and OCC (see FDIC FIL-54-2021, Fed SR 21-12, and OCC Bulletin 2021-32) provided answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the impact on regulatory capital instruments under 12 CFR 324 when transitioning from LIBOR to another reference rate. Among other things, the agencies clarified that “such a transition would not change the capital treatment of the instrument, provided the alternative rate is economically equivalent with the LIBOR-based rate.” Specifically, the FAQs clarify that the agencies do “not consider the replacement or amendment of a capital instrument that solely replaces a reference rate linked to LIBOR with another reference rate or rate structure to constitute an issuance of a new capital instrument for purposes of the capital rule.” Additionally, such a replacement or amendment would not create an incentive to redeem, provided “there are no substantial differences from the original instrument from an economic perspective.” Supervised financial institutions should conduct an appropriate analysis demonstrating that the replacement or amended instrument is not substantially different from the original instrument from an economic perspective and may be asked to provide the analysis to the agencies. “Considerations for determining that a replacement or amended capital instrument is not substantially different from the original instrument from an economic perspective could include, but are not limited to, whether the replacement or amended instrument has amended terms beyond those relevant to implementing the new reference rate or rate structure,” the FAQs state.
Find continuing InfoBytes coverage on LIBOR here.
- Daniel R. Alonso to discuss anti-money-laundering at FELABAN Spanish-language webinar “Perspective for banks: LAFT, FINCEN, OFAC, Cryptocurrency”
- Daniel R. Alonso to discuss "What’s new in BSA/AML compliance?" at the Institute of International Bankers Regulatory Compliance Seminar
- Marshall T. Bell and John R. Coleman to speak at 2021 AFSA Annual Meeting
- Jon David D. Langlois to discuss "Regulatory update: What you need to know under the new boss; It won’t be the same as the old boss" at the IMN Residential Mortgage Service Rights Forum (East)
- Benjamin B. Klubes to discuss “Creating a Fantastic Workplace Culture”
- John R. Coleman and Amanda R. Lawrence to discuss “Consumer financial services government enforcement actions – The CFPB and beyond” at the Government Investigations & Civil Litigation Institute Annual Meeting
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Consumer financial services" at the Practising Law Institute Banking Law Institute
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “Regulators always ring twice: Responding to a government request” at ALM Legalweek