Regulators and many private sector participants have been working hard to stem the tide of new Libor contracts that don’t have rigorous “fallback” language; i.e., language that would allow for a smoother transition from Libor to SOFR. The Alternative Reference Rates Committee (ARRC), a group of private-market participants convened by the Federal Reserve Board and the New York Fed to help ensure a successful transition from USD Libor to SOFR, has been at work since 2014 to try to ensure the move away from Libor is as seamless as possible. On May 31, 2019, the ARRC published its recommended fallback language for securitizations.
The industry is also focused on Libor-based loans and bonds currently outstanding: $3.4 trillion of business loans, $1.8 trillion of floating-rate notes and bonds, another $1.8 trillion of securitizations, and $1.3 trillion of consumer loans held by about four million individual retail consumers, including around $1.2 trillion of residential mortgage loans.
The Structured Finance Association is helping to lead the effort on developing new fallback language and untangling the legacy contract knot. The Association is engaged via our Libor Task Force and as a member of the ARRC. The Association also co-chairs the ARRC’s Securitization Working Group, which has published important policy guidance on this issue: please see the ARRC’s Securitization Consultation and Webinar.
To avert the coming Libor disaster, the finance industry needs to do several things:
- Include robust fallback language in all new Libor transactions, specifying what rate to use when Libor goes away. Otherwise, the number of financial contracts with weak or no Libor replacement language will keep growing.
- Amend legacy business loan contracts to specify a replacement rate. This can be done if the two sides simply agree how things should move forward.
- Make it possible for bondholders to communicate with each other so they, too, can collectively amend their contracts. Because of the way market infrastructure is set up now, it is impossible for investors holding the same security to communicate with one another, or communicate with the company who issued the securities, but technology could be used to change that.
Other larger-scale solutions must be weighed, and quickly. ARRC has considered approaching the New York State legislature to ask that it create a safe harbor interest rate for Libor-based contracts. And some key industry participants, including a significant and growing number of cash investors, are advocating for the continued production of Libor, or at least the creation of a synthetic Libor with SOFR as the key underlying component, to be used in legacy deals until they mature.
At the end of 2021, estimates put legacy Libor securities at approximately $2.4 trillion and business and consumer loans at roughly $1 trillion.
Did you know that the Federal Reserve has been publishing overnight SOFR since April 2, 2018?
In order to help explain how market participants can use SOFR in cash products, the ARRC released A User’s Guide to SOFR. This paper addresses a range of topics, including differences between using simple or compound averages of SOFR and differences between calculating payments using in arrears or in advance conventions.