Until now, LIBOR replacement amendments have mostly consisted of placeholder language that describes the process and principles that the parties will follow to transition to a new rate while the market works out the details of how the new rate will work. The variations have included a consensual amendment approach, a hardwired approach of mutually agreed preferred alternative rates with the lender to determine the details, and a lender discretion approach where the borrower has little if any say in what the replacement will look like.
Now that the phase out of LIBOR is on the horizon and the replacement details are starting to come together, it’s time to focus on what the actual amendments to delete LIBOR and insert a new rate into the countless LIBOR loan agreements should look like. A traditional amendment approach would use surgical precision to delete every LIBOR definition and go section by section, and perhaps even sentence by sentence or line by line, to delete the use and effect of LIBOR throughout the agreement, then do the same thing to add in the provisions for the new rate. This approach depends on detailed due diligence of the underlying loan agreements. Absolute precision is required to do it right- if the wrong term is used because a template definition was changed in a particular loan agreement, or the wrong section is referred to because a template provision was moved in a particular loan agreement, the amendment will also be wrong and won’t work. Precision takes time and money, and it’s not clear that borrowers will want to honor their obligations to pay for expensive loan amendments that they never wanted in the first place.
Since no one is perfect, should we just tolerate sloppy drafting when it happens, or is there a better way? As complicated as it can be to amend countless loan agreements, the concept is simple—after a specified date, all LIBOR terms and provisions will be deleted and replaced with new SOFR (or Ameribor or some other rate) provisions. Why can’t the amendment just say that? The drafting required isn’t literally that simple, but this type of universal descriptive amendment should be able to amend almost any loan agreement without knowing exactly what LIBOR terms are used, exactly where they are used or exactly what the LIBOR provisions say.
Our recent Alert discusses how a universal descriptive amendment might work and the potential advantages it may have to successfully achieve LIBOR transition.