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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

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  • Agencies: Cease LIBOR-based contracts as soon as practicable

    Federal Issues

    On November 30, the Federal Reserve Board, 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 statement notes that entering into new contracts that use LIBOR as a reference rate after December 31, 2021, would create safety and soundness risks given the range of consumer protection, litigation, and reputation risks at stake. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the agencies announced that they do not intend to recommend a specific credit-sensitive rate for use in place of LIBOR. Instead, the agencies encourage banks to “either utilize a reference rate other than LIBOR or have robust fallback language that includes a clearly defined alternative reference rate after LIBOR’s discontinuation” for all new contracts prior to December 31, 2021, in order to “facilitate an orderly—and safe and sound—LIBOR transition.” Additionally, the statement recognizes certain instances in which it would be appropriate for banks for enter into LIBOR contracts after December 31, 2021, including novations of LIBOR transactions executed before January 1, 2022.

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  • Agencies issue joint statement on LIBOR transition

    Federal Issues

    On November 6, the OCC, the Federal Reserve Board, and the FDIC issued a statement reiterating that the agencies do not intend to recommend a specific credit-sensitive rate for use in place of LIBOR. The agencies recommend that financial institutions “use any reference rate for its loans that the bank determines to be appropriate for its funding model and customer needs” and emphasize the need for fallback language in lending contracts that provide for the “use of a robust fallback rate if the initial reference rate is discontinued.” The agencies note that examiners will not criticize banks solely regarding their choice of reference rate, including a credit-sensitive rate other than Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) (the rate recommended by the Alternative Reference Rates Committee). Additionally, the agencies encourage financial institutions to reach out to lending customers to ensure they are prepared for the transition and to consider any technical changes to internal systems that might be needed to accommodate a new reference rate.

    As previously covered by InfoBytes, in July, the member agencies of the Federal Financial Institutions Examinations Council (FFIEC) issued a joint statement highlighting several risks that will result from the anticipated cessation of LIBOR at the end of 2021 and discussing the supervisory impacts of the LIBOR transition.

    Federal Issues OCC Federal Reserve FDIC LIBOR SOFR ARRC

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  • Federal agencies will not recommend specific LIBOR replacement rate

    Federal Issues

    On October 21, a group of U.S. financial agencies wrote to the executives of financial institutions that participated in the Credit Sensitivity Group workshops, stating that the agencies do not intend to recommend a specific credit-sensitive rate for use in commercial lending products in place of LIBOR. The letter states that “[t]he transition away from LIBOR is a significant and complex undertaking,” and there are multiple suitable alternative reference rates to replace LIBOR. The letter acknowledges that the use of the Secured Overnight Financial Rate (SOFR), which is recommended by the Alternative Reference Rates Committee is “voluntary.” After participating in the workshops, the agencies concluded that they are “not well positioned to adjudicate the selection of a reference rate between banks and their commercial customers” due to various business needs and terms of commercial loans that are based on the negotiation of banks and borrowing parties. Thus, the letter states, the agencies will continue to convene additional working sessions to highlight innovation in the credit-sensitive rates and explore implementing solutions for commercial loans transitioning away from LIBOR.

    For continuing InfoBytes covering on the LIBOR transition see here.

    Federal Issues LIBOR SOFR ARRC Federal Reserve CFTC OCC FDIC

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  • FSB releases LIBOR transition roadmap

    Federal Issues

    On October 16, the Financial Stability Board released a “Global Transition Roadmap for LIBOR,” which details the steps financial firms and their clients should take “in order to ensure a smooth LIBOR transition” from now through 2021. In addition to identifying actions that should already be complete, the roadmap details the following steps:

    • ISDA Fallbacks Protocol Effective Date. Firms should adhere to the International Swaps and Derivatives Association’s (ISDA) IBOR Fallback Protocol and IBOR Fallback Supplement, which will be launched on October 23 and take effect on January 25, 2021 (covered by InfoBytes here).
    • By the end of 2020. Lenders should be able to offer non-LIBOR products to customers.
    • By mid-2021. Firms should have identified which contracts can be amended and make contact with other parties to prepare for the use of alternative rates. Firms should execute formalized plans to covert legacy LIBOR contracts to alternative rates. 
    • By the end of 2021. All new business should be conducted in, or capable of switching immediately to, alternative rates.

    For continuing InfoBytes coverage on the LIBOR transition see here.

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  • Fed recommends derivatives market follow IBOR Fallback Protocol

    Federal Issues

    On October 9, the Federal Reserve Board issued SR 20-22,which strongly advises supervised institutions to transition away from LIBOR and consider following the International Swaps and Derivatives Association’s (ISDA) IBOR Fallback Protocol and IBOR Fallback Supplement (collectively, “the Protocol”). The Fed warned market participants that because the publication of LIBOR is not guaranteed after 2021, its continued use poses financial stability risks. The Fed recommended that examiners alert supervised firms active in the derivatives market to strongly consider adhering to the Protocol, which will, among other things, “facilitate[] the transition away from LIBOR by providing derivatives market participants with new fallbacks for legacy and new derivative contracts,” and will “allow LIBOR derivatives contracts to continue to perform through the transition.” The ISDA released a statement the same day announcing the Protocol will be launched on October 23 and take effect on January 25, 2021.

    Find continuing InfoBytes coverage on LIBOR here.

    Federal Issues LIBOR IBOR Federal Reserve Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

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  • LIBOR-based loans will not be eligible for Ginnie Mae pooling

    Federal Issues

    On September 21, Ginnie Mae issued All Participant Memorandum 20-12, which states that Ginnie Mae will stop accepting the delivery of single-family forward adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) loans, dated on or after January 1, 2021, with any interest term based on LIBOR, for securitization in any pool. Additionally, any adjustable rate reverse mortgages (HECMs) will be ineligible for securitization into any HMBS pool that relies on LIBOR if not securitized as of January 1, 2021, “without regard to their date of origination or the date in which the corresponding FHA case number was assigned.” Participations associated with HECM loans backing HMBS will continue to be eligible without restriction, so long as the issuance date is on or before December 1.

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  • ARRC updates fallback language for bilateral business loans

    Federal Issues

    On August 27, the Alternative Reference Rates Committee (ARRC) released updated recommended fallback language for market participants to use for new originations of LIBOR-referenced bilateral business loans. The proposed language is intended to align with revisions made to the recommended fallback language for syndicated loans (covered by InfoBytes here). The updated fallback language amends the previously proposed “hardwired” and the “hedged loan” approaches. ARRC emphasizes that “cash markets will benefit by adopting a more consistent, transparent and resilient approach to contractual fallback arrangements for new LIBOR products,” and reminds financial market participants that it does not recommend waiting “until a forward-looking term [Secured Overnight Financing Rate] SOFR exists to begin using SOFR in cash products.”

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  • ARRC releases transition guides for ARMs, private student loans referencing LIBOR

    Federal Issues

    On August 18, the Alternative Reference Rates Committee (ARRC) released reference rate transition guides for adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) and variable rate private student loans that reference LIBOR. Both guides are intended to support the transition from LIBOR to an alternative reference rate, such as the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR), and focus on LIBOR-based contracts that will continue to exist after LIBOR’s anticipated cessation at the end of 2021. The LIBOR ARM Transition Resource Guide and the LIBOR-Based Private Student Loan Transition Resource Guide cover key milestones, suggested readiness timeframes, transition risks, and stakeholder impacts, and include various resource guidance, tools, and templates to assist institutions in “fortify[ing] their products and support[ing] consumers’ transitions to SOFR.”

    Find continuing InfoBytes coverage on LIBOR here.

    Federal Issues ARRC LIBOR SOFR Of Interest to Non-US Persons Adjustable Rate Mortgage Student Lending

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  • ARRC releases “SOFR Starter Kit”

    Federal Issues

    On August 7, the Alternative Reference Rates Committee (ARRC) released the “Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) Starter Kit,” which includes three factsheets that are the result of a series of educational panel discussions held by ARRC in July and August. The various panel discussions were designed to educate on “the history of LIBOR; the development and strengths of SOFR; progress made in the transition away from LIBOR to date; and how to ensure organizations are ready for the end of LIBOR.” Highlights of the three factsheets include (i) background on LIBOR and the selection of SOFR; (ii) key facts on SOFR, including how it works and common misconceptions; and (iii) next steps, including SOFR best practices and recommended fallback language. Additionally, ARRC provided FAQs covering additional background details on the committee and the transition from LIBOR.

    Federal Issues ARRC LIBOR SOFR Of Interest to Non-US Persons

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  • FFIEC addresses LIBOR transition

    Federal Issues

    On July 1, the member agencies of the Federal Financial Institutions Examinations Council (FFIEC) issued a joint statement highlighting several risks that will result from the anticipated cessation of LIBOR at the end of 2021. Institutions with LIBOR exposures should put in place appropriate risk management processes “commensurate with the size and complexity of their exposures” to identify and mitigate financial, legal, operational, and consumer protection risks related to the transition, the FFIEC warned. Among other things, the FFIEC noted that as part of the agencies’ examination activities, “supervisory staff will ask institutions about their planning for the LIBOR transition including the identification of exposures, efforts to include fallback language or use alternative reference rates in new contracts, operational preparedness, and consumer protection considerations.” Additionally, agencies will increase their supervisory focus on evaluating institutions’ preparedness for LIBOR’s discontinuation during 2020 and 2021, “particularly for institutions with significant LIBOR exposure or less-developed transition processes.” Key recommendations include (i) identifying and quantifying LIBOR exposure across all products; (ii) discontinuing the origination or purchase of LIBOR-indexed instruments to limit exposure; (iii) creating transition plans for consumer financial products in order to develop clear, timely consumer disclosures regarding any changes in terms; and (iv) developing strategic transition plans with milestones and key completion dates addressing areas such as third-party risk management.

    The OCC also issued a bulletin expanding on the joint statement and providing guidance for regulated banks.

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