Subscribe to our InfoBytes Blog weekly newsletter and other publications for news affecting the financial services industry.
On March 23, the Alternative Reference Rates Committee (ARRC) announced that it “will not be in a position to recommend a forward-looking Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) term rate by mid-2021.” Additionally, ARRC noted that it cannot guarantee that it will be able to recommend an administrator to produce a robust forward-looking term rate by the end of 2021, when certain LIBOR U.S. dollar settings cease being published (covered by InfoBytes here). ARRC “encourage[d] market participants to continue to transition from LIBOR using the tools available now,” such as the SOFR averages and index data and ARRC’s A User’s Guide to SOFR, and “not to wait for a forward-looking term rate for new contracts.”
Federal Reserve Board Vice Chair for Supervision Randal K. Quarles also discussed “safety and soundness risks associated with the continued use of USD LIBOR in new transactions after 2021.” Speaking at “The SOFR Symposium: The Final Year” hosted by ARRC, Quarles expressed concerns that use of USD LIBOR has actually increased over the past three years, and emphasized that there should be no “remaining doubts as to exactly when and whether LIBOR will end.” Among other things, Quarles also highlighted a recent Fed supervisory letter (covered by InfoBytes here), which provides supervisory guidance for examiners to consider when assessing an institution’s plan to transition away from LIBOR.
Find continuing InfoBytes coverage on LIBOR here.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
On June 30, the Alternative Reference Rates Committee (ARRC) released updated recommended fallback language for U.S. dollar LIBOR denominated syndicated loans and new variable rate private student loans. ARRC noted that the private student loan language is intended to minimize risk and market disruption in the event of LIBOR’s anticipated cessation at the end of 2021. ARRC also released conventions for how market participants can voluntarily use the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) in new student loan products. With respect to syndicated loans, ARRC noted that the updated fallback language recommends “the use of simple daily SOFR in arrears,” which, among other things, includes “a more permissive early opt-in trigger” to “allow parties involved in the loan to switch over to an alternative rate like SOFR before LIBOR is officially discontinued or determined to be unrepresentative.” Additionally, ARRC announced new details regarding its recommendation of spread adjustments for cash products that reference LIBOR. Market participants may voluntarily use ARRC’s recommended methodology to produce spread adjustments “where a spread-adjusted [SOFR] can be selected as a fallback.”
On June 4, the CFPB released three documents to assist in the LIBOR transition before its anticipated cessation at the end of 2021. Highlights of the documents include:
- Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. The Bureau issued a proposed rule to amend Regulation Z to address the sunset of LIBOR, and to facilitate creditors’ transition away from using LIBOR as an index for variable-rate consumer products. For open-end products, among other things, the proposal would (i) require creditors to include in the change-in-terms notice the replacement index and any adjusted margin; (ii) add a LIBOR-specific provision allowing the LIBOR transition to occur on or after March 15, 2021, as opposed to the current rule’s “no longer available” standard; and (iii) allow creditors to elect a replacement index that is newly established and has no history, or is not newly established and has a history, if certain conditions are met. For closed-end credit, among other things, the proposal provides the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) recommended by the Alternative Reference Rates Committee (ARRC) as a “comparable index” to LIBOR. In conjunction with the proposal, the Bureau released a “Fast Facts” high-level summary and an unofficial redline.
- FAQ Guidance. The Bureau released FAQ guidance to address other LIBOR transition topics and regulatory questions that do not require amendments to Regulation Z. Among other things, the FAQs cover general regulatory implementation considerations and specific requirements related to adjustable rate mortgage and HELOC disclosures.
- CHARM Booklet. The Bureau released revisions to their Consumer Handbook on Adjustable Rate Mortgages (CHARM) booklet, which aims to help consumers better understand adjustable rate mortgage loan products. The revisions provide updates based on consumer testing and remove LIBOR-based rate examples.
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “How the new administration sets the tone for 2021” at the American Conference Institute Legal, Regulatory and Compliance Forum on Fintech & Emerging Payment Systems
- Sherry-Maria Safchuk to discuss UDAAP in consumer finance at an American Bar Association webinar
- Jeffrey P. Naimon to discuss "What to expect: The new administration and regulatory changes" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “The future of fair lending” at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Steven R. vonBerg to discuss "LO comp challenges" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Michelle L. Rogers to discuss "Major litigation" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Michelle L. Rogers to discuss “The False Claims Act today” at the Federal Bar Association Qui Tam Section Roundtable