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On February 11, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell provided testimony to the House Financial Services Committee during a hearing titled “Monetary Policy and the State of the Economy,” discussing regulatory issues concerning, among other things, proposed rulemaking related to the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) and the transition away from reliance on LIBOR as an interest rate benchmark in financial products. During the hearing, Powell fielded a number of questions concerning the Fed’s plan to update CRA regulations. Reaffirming his support for Fed Governor Lael Brainard’s disapproval of how quickly the FDIC and OCC issued their notice of proposed rulemaking (covered by a Buckley Special Alert), Powell stated that he is “very comfortable with. . .the thinking” Brainard recently outlined in a speech describing alternative approaches to the CRA modernization process (covered by InfoBytes here). Powell emphasized, however, that the ideas in Brainard’s speech do not yet represent a formal framework, stating “[w]e want to be very, very sure. . .that what comes out of this is a proposal. . .from us that will leave all major participants in CRA better off. And so we think it’s important that each metric, each change that we make is grounded in data.”
Powell also discussed the upcoming transition from LIBOR to the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR), stating that federal regulators are working to ensure financial institutions are prepared for LIBOR’s possible cessation. When asked whether Congress should “simply give the Fed the right to prescribe backup rates when the debt instruments do not do so,” or explicitly adopt SOFR, Powell responded that he did not believe a federal law change is necessary at this time. Powell further responded that the Fed will inform Congress if a change in federal law is needed, emphasizing that the Fed’s “process is ongoing” and that it is “committed to having the banks ready by the end of next year to switch. . .away from LIBOR in case [the rate] is no longer published.” Powell noted that while SOFR will be the main substitute for LIBOR, the Fed is “working with regional [banks] and some of the larger banks, too, about the idea of also having a credit sensitive rate.”
On February 5, the FHFA announced updated LIBOR transition plans for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (GSEs) single-family and multi-family mortgage sellers and lenders, providing the next steps in the transition from LIBOR to the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) for adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) instruments. The next steps include (i) a “[n]ew language require[ment] for single-family Uniform…ARM instruments closed on or after June 1, 2020”; (ii) a requirement that “[a]ll LIBOR-based single-family and multifamily ARMs…loan application dates [must be] on or before September 30, 2020 to be eligible for acquisition”; and (iii) that “[a]cquisitions of single-family and multifamily LIBOR ARMs will cease on or before December 31, 2020.” The announcement links to information directly from the two GSEs: Fannie Mae Multifamily Mortgage Business Lender Letter 20-02, and Fannie Mae Single-Family Sellers Lender Letter LL-2020-01; and Freddie Mac Selling Updates Bulletin 2020-1 and Freddie Mac Multifamily Update on LIBOR Transition. The FHFA LIBOR Transition page notes that the GSEs have already stopped buying ARMs based on LIBOR that mature after 2021 in preparation for the termination of the benchmark’s use.
On December 23, 2019, the New York Department of Financial Services issued an “Industry Letter” requesting that each NYDFS-regulated institution submit the institution’s plan for addressing the transition away from Libor-based credit, derivative, and securities exposures. The NYDFS letter has spurred additional focus by financial institutions in the issue, and not only by those regulated by NYDFS. This Client Alert summarizes the current state of play in Libor transition, and outlines some key considerations for developing a Libor transition plan.
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Click here to read the full special alert.
If you have any Libor-related questions please contact a Buckley attorney with whom you have worked in the past.
On December 23, NYDFS issued an Industry Letter (Letter) directing its regulated depository and non-depository institutions, insurers, and pension funds to outline their plans for managing the risks associated with the potential impact of LIBOR’s likely cessation at the end of 2021. NYDFS seeks assurance that regulated institutions’ board of directors and senior management fully understand the associated risks, have developed appropriate plans, and have initiated actions to facilitate transition to an alternative reference rate. The Letter does not mandate use of any particular alternative rate, but notes that “the Alternative Reference Rates Committee . . ., convened by the FRB and the [Federal Reserve Bank of New York (FRBNY)], has chosen [the Secured Overnight Financing Rate published by the FRBNY] as its recommended alternative to U.S. dollar LIBOR.” The Letter requires NYDFS-regulated institutions to describe: (i) programs that will assess financial and non-financial transition risks; (ii) “processes for analyzing and assessing alternative rates, and the potential associated benefits and risks of such rates both for the institution and its customers and counterparties”; (iii) processes to communicate with customers and counterparties; (iv) plans and processes for “operational readiness, including related accounting, tax and reporting aspects of [the] transition” from LIBOR; and (v) their governance framework, including oversight by an institution’s board of directors or its equivalent governing authority. Institutions are required to submit their transition-risk management plans to NYDFS by February 7.
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