LIBOR Transition: Legacy Loans on the Backburner

Now that the formal end dates for LIBOR have been announced by the FCA, it’s time to consider some of the practical implications  of the announcement. With the original end date scheduled for the end of 2021, many in the market breathed a collective sigh of relief at the possibility of an extension of the deadline. Among all the other complicated tasks to be completed before LIBOR’s demise, getting borrowers, many of which are oblivious to the  coming change, to amend the millions of legacy loans originated before the end of LIBOR was even contemplated is a particularly daunting one.

Although the 1-week and 2-month US dollar LIBOR tenors will still end on December 31, 2021, the 1-month, 3-month and 6-month LIBOR tenors used in the majority of loans will now end on June 30, 2023. By design, this extension has a number of effects. First, it reduces the number of legacy loans that will need to be amended to replace LIBOR, since some of those loans will expire by their terms during the additional time period. Second, it gives a lender more leverage to amend some of its loans. A borrower that wants to extend a loan that is expiring or that wants or needs an amendment or waiver during such time will not be able to just say no to a new interest rate. Third, for all legacy loans, it gives lenders more time to prepare for and explain to their borrowers the coming change.

Delaying the amendment of legacy loans is not entirely advantageous to lenders. Since lenders will not be permitted to originate new LIBOR loans after 2021, extending the wind down of LIBOR lengthens the period of time during which lenders will have to maintain and keep track of LIBOR and the replacement rates. Delaying amendment of legacy loans will also delay adoption of the new rates, which can hinder their success, for example in the development of Term SOFR.

Still, with all the other tasks that remain to be completed, it’s good to be able to put a major part of the work on the back burner to focus on getting replacement rates operational. Legacy loans are not completely out of mind—the LSTA should be coming out soon with sample forms of LIBOR transition amendments and notices for syndicated loans, which can be modified for other loans. Perhaps by the time comes for them to be used, the transition of legacy loans will not be such an insurmountable task.

Duane Morris’ LIBOR Transition Team:  Roger S. Chari, Chair, Joel N. EphrossAmelia (Amy) H. HuskinsPhuong (Michelle) Ngo, and Han Wang.

LIBOR Transition: Is a Universal Descriptive Amendment the Answer to Amending All Those Loan Agreements?

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.

Duane Morris’ LIBOR Transition Team:  Roger S. Chari, Chair, Joel N. EphrossAmelia (Amy) H. HuskinsPhuong (Michelle) Ngo, and Han Wang.

LIBOR Transition: Is It Really Necessary to Review Every Single Loan Agreement?

As lenders start to prepare for the transition from LIBOR, practical concerns as to how to implement the change are coming to the forefront.  Many sources have highlighted the need for lenders to review the loan agreements in their portfolios, but not many have given much insight on the actual scope of review that is needed.

Best practices dictate that every loan agreement should be reviewed to see exactly what LIBOR terms are used, exactly where they are used and exactly what the LIBOR provisions say.  Even if a lender’s loan agreements generally follow a template, there are bound to be a few that vary.  Unless there is already a reliable list of these variances, all the loan agreements (in a perfect world) need to be reviewed to find these few that vary.  In larger, more negotiated loan portfolios, these loans that vary may be more than just a few.

All of this is obviously expensive and time consuming.  Is there a better way?  Our recent Alert explores that question.

Duane Morris’ LIBOR Transition Team:  Roger S. Chari, Chair, Joel N. EphrossAmelia (Amy) H. HuskinsPhuong (Michelle) Ngo, and Han Wang.

LIBOR Transition: Time Marches on for Non-Bank Lenders and Asset Managers

Tick-tock. No, not the controversial social networking platform. That’s the sound of time slipping away on the existence of LIBOR. Regulated bank lenders are at varying stages in their transition to a new interest rate, with some even testing the waters originating new loans bearing interest based on SOFR.  Non-bank lenders and asset managers are no less subject to the phase out of LIBOR, but for many the transition process is not quite so far along.

For those who missed it, our new partner, Anastasia Kaup, wrote an informative Alert outlining some of the developments in LIBOR transition over the summer and some of the developments yet to come.  Since the summer, at least one syndicated loan has reportedly been originated using the ARRC recommended hardwired approach. However, it remains to be seen whether the rest of the market will follow or stick with the amendment approach and simply go straight to SOFR amendments. It’s still a bit early for SOFR amendments, but the LSTA is working on a sample for the syndicated loan market based on a form that Duane Morris developed.  Our Alert highlights some of the LIBOR transition issues for non-bank lenders and asset managers to consider as we march towards the end of the year.

Duane Morris’ LIBOR Transition Team:  Roger S. Chari, Chair, Joel N. EphrossAmelia (Amy) H. HuskinsPhuong (Michelle) Ngo, and Han Wang.

To Hardwire or Not to Hardwire?

The question is not nearly as existential as the question phrased by William Shakespeare, but it is a significant one in the lending world as the transition from LIBOR to SOFR ideally happens by the middle of next year.  The official answer is easy—hardwired LIBOR transition language is recommended by the ARRC for syndicated loans and bilateral loans.  For diligent lenders, adopting hardwired language is part of a proactive approach to addressing the LIBOR transition process.  By setting the broad parameters of the new rate up front now, the ultimate details of implementing the new rate can be simplified with a notice to the borrower rather than negotiating an amendment in the future when time is short. Our prior Alert discusses the hardwired approach in more detail.

Still, for some lenders there are solid reasons to adopt a wait and see approach and possibly skip the hardwired language.  These lenders are no less diligent in their desire to do the right thing, but the developments in the LIBOR/SOFR transition are starting to accelerate, with major details still unsettled at this point.  Determining how the broad market will handle the transition and keeping a lender’s actions in line with the market without getting ahead of the developments may suggest a more cautious approach.

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