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On August 12, the CFTC issued a final rule updating its interest rate swap clearing requirement under part 50 of the CFTC’s regulations. Among other things, the final rule eliminates the requirement to clear interest rate swaps referencing LIBOR and other interbank offered rates and replaces them with requirements to clear interest rate swaps referencing overnight, nearly risk-free reference rates. The final rule also “updates the swaps required to be submitted for clearing to a derivatives clearing organization (DCO) or an exempt DCO and the compliance dates for such swaps.” According to CFTC Chairman Rostin Behnam, the final rule “promotes financial stability and mitigates systemic risk,” and “is essential to ensure cross border harmonization in the interest rate swaps market.” The final rule is effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.
On July 20, EU and U.S. participants, including officials from the Treasury Department, Federal Reserve Board, CFTC, FDIC, SEC, and OCC, participated in the U.S. – EU Joint Financial Regulatory Forum to continue their ongoing financial regulatory dialogue. Matters discussed focused on six themes: “(1) market developments and financial stability risks, (2) sustainable finance and climate-related financial risks, (3) regulatory developments in banking and insurance, (4) regulatory and supervisory cooperation in capital markets, (5) operational resilience and digital finance, and (6) anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT).”
The statement acknowledged that the Russia/Ukraine conflict, as well as “inflationary pressures”, exposes “a series of downside risks to financial markets both in the EU and in the U.S.” The statement notes that financial markets have so far proven to be “resilient” and stressed that “[i]nternational cooperation in monitoring and mitigating financial stability risks remains essential in the current global environment in light of the negative impacts on global energy and commodities markets.” During the Forum, participants also discussed recent developments related to digital finance and crypto-assets, including so-called stablecoins, as well as potential central bank digital currencies. Additionally, participants discussed various issues related to third-party providers; climate-related financial risks and challenges, including sustainability reporting standards; the transition away from LIBOR; and progress made in strengthening their respective AML/CFT frameworks.
On July 19, the Federal Reserve Board announced in a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that it is soliciting comments on a proposal that provides default rules for certain contracts that use LIBOR, which would implement the Adjustable Interest Rate (LIBOR) Act. As previously covered by InfoBytes, LIBOR will be discontinued after June 30, 2023. The NPRM would establish benchmark replacements for the one-, three-, six-, and 12-month “tenors” of LIBOR where a given contract does not have terms that provide for the use of any substitute for the specified LIBOR rate. According to the NPRM, “[o]f particular concern are so-called ‘tough legacy contracts,’ which are contracts that reference USD LIBOR and will not mature by June 30, 2023, but which lack adequate fallback provisions providing for a clearly defined or practicable replacement benchmark following the cessation of USD LIBOR.” The proposal identifies separate Fed-selected replacement rates for derivatives transactions, contracts where a government-sponsored enterprise is a party, and all other affected contracts. As required by the law, each proposed replacement rate is based on the Secured Overnight Financing Rate. Comments on the proposal are due 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.
Find continuing InfoBytes coverage on LIBOR here.
On July 11, the Alternative Reference Rates Committee (ARRC) released the LIBOR Legacy Playbook to help support the transition away from legacy LIBOR cash products. ARRC estimated that approximately $74 trillion in legacy USD LIBOR exposures will mature after June 30, 2023, when the remaining USD LIBOR panels will cease. Of this amount, roughly $5 trillion are in cash products, which do not carry the benefit of a protocol process that will allow market participants to adopt a uniform set of robust fallbacks or a simple mechanism to determine which contracts are covered by those fallbacks. Rather, cash products have a range of fallbacks, the ARRC said, explaining that “currently there is no simple way, other than in many cases manual effort, to determine what the fallback for each contract is. Careful work will be needed to communicate the associated rate changes to counterparties to these contracts.”
The Playbook includes a compilation of publications by the ARRC and other available reference material to assist market participants in ensuring that the transition from LIBOR is operationally successful. The Playbook also recommends steps for market participants to take to successfully implement fallbacks for cash products, including: (i) thoroughly assessing the fallbacks that are embedded (either contractually or through legislation) in every USD LIBOR contract; (ii) remediating these contracts where feasible to reference the Secured Overnight Financing Rate prior to June 30, 2023; and (iii) adopting plans to communicate each contract’s fallback with affected parties for remaining LIBOR contracts, and making sure sufficient resources are allocated to ensure that rate changes are successfully implemented. The ARRC stressed that its recommendations are voluntary and that market participants must make independent decisions about how best to transition existing contracts to an alternative rate upon the cessation of USD LIBOR.
Find continuing LIBOR InfoBytes coverage here.
On June 8, the Alternative Reference Rates Committee (ARRC) issued recommendations for contracts linked to U.S. dollar LIBOR Intercontinental Exchange Swap Rates. According to the ARRC, the recommendations recognize that such contracts are not covered by federal LIBOR legislation and that counterparties may have to take proactive steps to address the end of the USD LIBOR ISR. The recommendations include a suggested fallback formula that may be used for USD LIBOR ISR fixings after three-month USD LIBOR has been discontinued or becomes non-representative. The ARRC also noted that if a legacy position cannot be proactively converted or amended, “the ARRC believes that, once three-month USD LIBOR has ceased to be published as a representative rate, the fallback formula suggested would accurately represent the at-the-money rates of standard interest rate swaps which are tied to it and which incorporate the fallback provisions introduced in the ISDA 2020 IBOR Fallbacks Protocol.”
On March 15, President Biden signed H.R. 2471 the “Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2022” (Act) into law. According to House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro’s press release, the Act is an omnibus spending measure that provides $1.5 trillion in discretionary resources across the 12 fiscal year 2022 appropriations bills. Among other things, the Act includes the “Cyber Incident Reporting for Critical Infrastructure Act of 2022,” which establishes requirements for reporting ransomware incidents on critical infrastructure to the DHS Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). Specifically, Division Y Section 2242, establishes that companies must report incidents to CISA 72 hours after the covered entity reasonably believes that a cyber incident has occurred, or within 24 hours if a ransomware payment has occurred. If a company fails to meet the reporting requirements, the Act permits the cyber security director to “obtain information about the cyber incident or ransom payment by engaging the covered entity directly to request information about the cyber incident or ransom payment, and if the Director is unable to obtain information through such engagement, by issuing a subpoena to the covered entity, pursuant to subsection (c), to gather information sufficient to determine whether a covered cyber incident or ransom payment has occurred.” The Act also establishes that if CISA determines that the incident requires regulatory enforcement action or criminal prosecution, such information may be provided to the Attorney General or the appropriate regulator, who may utilize such information for a regulatory enforcement action or criminal prosecution. Within 24 months, CISA is directed to publish a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) in the Federal Register to implement the Act, followed by the issuance of a final rule within 18 months of the NPRM. The final rule will outline the criteria of reporting and provide the effective dates for the reporting requirements. The Act also directs CISA to carry out an outreach and education campaign to inform covered entities about the rule’s requirements. Though the bill establishes that a court shall dismiss a cause of action against a person or entity for submitting a report, the liability protections “shall only apply to or affect litigation that is solely based on the submission of a covered cyber incident report or ransom payment report to the [Sector Risk Management] Agency.”
The Act also includes the “Adjustable Interest Rate (LIBOR) Act,” which establishes “a clear and uniform process, on a nationwide basis, for replacing LIBOR in existing contracts the terms of which do not provide for the use of a clearly defined or practicable replacement benchmark rate, without affecting the ability of parties to use any appropriate benchmark rate in new contracts,” among other things. Additionally, the Act includes rental assistance programs and climate restoration grants, which, according to a statement by HUD Secretary Marcia L. Fudge, “provides funding to improve the energy efficiency of housing and increase resilience to climate impacts.”
On March 1 and 2, EU and U.S. participants, including officials from the Treasury Department, Federal Reserve Board, CFTC, FDIC, SEC, and OCC, participated in the U.S. – EU Joint Financial Regulatory Forum to continue their ongoing financial regulatory dialogue. Matters discussed focused on six themes: “(1) market developments and current assessment of financial stability risks, (2) operational resilience and digital finance, (3) sustainable finance and climate-related financial risks, (4) regulatory and supervisory cooperation in capital markets, (5) multilateral and bilateral engagement in banking and insurance, and (6) anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT).”
While acknowledging that both the U.S. and EU are “experiencing robust economic recoveries,” participants warned that significant uncertainty and risks are created by the current geopolitical situation, as well as challenges stemming from the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, high energy prices, and supply-chain bottlenecks. “[C]ooperative international engagement to mitigate financial stability risks remains essential,” participants stressed. During the meeting, participants also discussed recent developments related to crypto-assets, digital finance, and so-called stablecoins, as well as the potential for a central bank digital currency, and “acknowledged the importance of ongoing international work on digital finance and recognized the benefits of greater international supervisory cooperation with a view to promote responsible innovation globally.”
In addition, participants discussed various topics, including those related to third-party providers; climate-related financial risks and challenges, including sustainability reporting standards; the transition from LIBOR; and progress made in strengthening their respective AML/CFT frameworks.
On January 31, the CFPB released its semiannual regulatory agenda in the Federal Register, as part of the Fall 2021 Unified Agenda of Federal Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions. According to the CFPB, it “reasonably anticipates having the regulatory matters identified below under consideration during the period from November 1, 2021 to October 31, 2022.” The next agenda will be published in Spring 2022, which will update the recently released agenda through Spring 2023. Among other things, the agenda noted that the Bureau made “significant progress” on the implementation of Section 1071 of the Dodd-Frank Act, which covers banks’ collection, reporting, and disclosure of information on credit applications made by women-owned, minority-owned, and small businesses. Other highlights of the agenda include the Bureau’s: (i) continued collaboration with other federal agencies on regulations for automated valuation models under the FIRREA amendments to Dodd-Frank; (ii) expectation to issue a final rule on the transition away from the LIBOR index, which aims to ensure that loans tied to LIBOR are transitioned “in an orderly, transparent, and fair manner”; (iii) assessment of a rule implementing HMDA; (iv) work on regulations for PACE financing and its “continu[ed] engagement with stakeholders and collect information” from a Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, issued in March 2019 (covered by InfoBytes here); and (v) continued monitoring of consumer financial product markets and creation of working groups to focus on specific markets for potential future rulemakings.
On January 7, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control published a new FAQ 956 regarding Belarus, Ukraine-/Russia-related, and Venezuela-related sanctions programs, which prohibit U.S. persons from dealing in certain new debts (such as bonds, loans, drafts, loan guarantees, or letters of credit) of certain identified persons in these countries. The FAQ provides additional guidance on how OFAC views modifications to pre-existing loans, contracts, or other agreements to replace LIBOR as the reference rate. According to the FAQ, “[l]oans, contracts, or other agreements that use LIBOR as a reference rate that are modified to replace such benchmark reference rate will not be treated as new debt for OFAC sanctions purposes, so long as no other material terms of the loan, contract, or agreement are modified.”
On December 22, the CFTC announced that the Division of Clearing and Risk (DCR), Division of Market Oversight (DMO), and Market Participants Division each issued revised no-action letters (see 21-26, 21-27, and 21-28) to swap dealers and other market participants associated with the transition from swaps that reference LIBOR and other interbank rates to swaps that reference alternative benchmarks. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the United Kingdom’s Financial Conduct Authority announced the dates that all LIBOR settings will cease to be provided by any administrator and will no longer be representative. All sterling, euro, Swiss franc and Japanese yen settings, and one-week and two-month U.S. dollar settings ceased immediately after December 31, 2021, while all remaining U.S. dollar settings will cease immediately after June 30, 2023. Therefore, according to the recent CFTC announcement, the DMO and the DCR letters are effective until June 30, 2023 “for swaps otherwise covered by such letters to the extent such swaps reference one of the 2023 USD LIBOR Settings.”