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: The Protocol is Coming! The Supplement is Coming!

As we noted in our prior blog post over the summer, the IBOR Fallbacks Protocol and the IBOR Fallbacks Supplement for interest rate derivatives to be published by the International Swaps and Derivatives Association (ISDA) has been on hold while ISDA waits for a positive business review letter from the US Department of Justice (DOJ). This past Friday, ISDA issued a press release that it received the letter from the DOJ on October 1, 2020.

The DOJ letter does not foreclose the possibility that other regulators in Australia, Canada, the European Union and other jurisdictions may raise their own objections. However, the Board of Directors of ISDA has determined that it will release the Supplement and Protocol on Friday, October 23, 2020, and the Supplement and Protocol will take effect approximately three months later on Monday, January 25, 2021. The draft Supplement and draft Protocol have been posted for review, together with a FAQ,  sample adoption amendments and descriptive outline.

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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.

Will Borrowers Pay for LIBOR Amendments?

In a consensual lending world, a commercial borrower is usually obligated to pay for a lender’s expenses relating to a loan. Depending on the loan agreement, the borrower might agree to pay closing costs, enforcement costs if the loan goes bad, and fees and expenses for amending the loan agreement. Even if a loan agreement is silent, a borrower may find that the lender is unwilling to amend the agreement unless the borrower pays the costs. Regardless of the language or lack thereof, whether a lender can and should impose such costs may be an open question.

If the borrower is asking for an amendment, then it only seems fair that the borrower pay for the lender’s amendment costs if requested. In a committed loan, it is unusual for a lender to ask for an amendment that the borrower doesn’t also want―but if it does, it doesn’t seem fair for the borrower to have to pay the lender’s costs.

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Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Deadlines are Fast Approaching

As two of the largest participants in the lending market, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the “GSEs”) are busy preparing for the transition away from LIBOR.  Both GSEs have established milestones for beginning acquisition and issuance of SOFR-indexed products and ceasing LIBOR-indexed products.  Below are reminders of important deadlines:

Single-Family (“SF”) ARMs and Securities:

August 3, 2020 Fannie Mae began accepting delivery of SOFR-indexed ARMs.
September 30, 2020 LIBOR applications end. All LIBOR loans must have Application Received Date on or before this date.
November 16, 2020 Freddie Mac will begin accepting delivery of SOFR-indexed ARMs.
December 1, 2020 This the last MBS/Guarantor PC issue date for LIBOR-indexed ARM pools.
December 31, 2020 This is the last date for cash/whole loan purchase of LIBOR-indexed ARMs.

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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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Is There Room for AMERIBOR in a SOFR Future?

With the phase out of LIBOR just over a year away and the ARRC having identified the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) as its preferred replacement for US dollar loans, it appears that the market has the guidance it needs to make the transition.

Not so fast, say some Main Street banks.  SOFR may work for much of the loan market and particularly larger banks that can borrow on a secured basis. However, this does not represent the reality for many smaller and regional banks, which often can borrow only on an unsecured basis. Using SOFR can lead to a mismatch between the borrowing risk that such banks take and the interest they can earn on their loans.

What are such banks to do?  Some of them have voiced their support for an alternative LIBOR replacement rate―the American Interbank Offered Rate (AMERIBOR).

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A Hot Issue for a Hot Summer: Time to Understand ISDA IBOR Benchmark Fallbacks

As we patiently wait for the International Swaps and Derivatives Association (ISDA) to publish its long planned IBOR Fallback Protocol and IBOR Fallback Supplement for interest rate derivatives, we thought we would highlight some recent announcements on the topic.

According to ISDA’s letter on July 22, 2020 to the Alternative Reference Rates Committee (ARRC), ISDA planned to finalize the Protocol and the Supplement by the end of July.  On July 29, 2020, ISDA announced that it would publish the Protocol “soon”.  This is hardly the first time that things have been delayed, but it’s important to get it right.  Among other things, it’s possible that ISDA is still waiting for a positive business review letter from the US Department of Justice and similar feedback from competition authorities in other jurisdictions.

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For LIBOR Transition Procrastinators, SOFR Starter Kit to the Rescue!

LIBOR is going away.  It was a distant pronouncement in 2017, and many thought it wouldn’t happen, or would get delayed.  But it’s coming.  Soon.  December 31, 2021 may still seem a long way off, but there’s a lot to do between now and then.  Market participants may be forgiven for concentrating on the global pandemic the last few months, but regulators in many arenas have stepped up their efforts in the past month to get the word out on LIBOR transition and get everyone moving forward on the right track.

Following its Summer Series on LIBOR transition, on August 7, 2020, the Alternative Reference Rates Committee of the New York Fed published the SOFR Starter Kit, a set of factsheets to inform the public about the transition away from USD LIBOR to SOFR. The SOFR Starter Kit is intended to ensure market readiness for the transition and help participants in markets using USD LIBOR to quickly familiarize themselves with the background information of, and main issues related to, the transition. The SOFR Starter Kit has three parts:

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Hardwired for a Smoother LIBOR Transition?

The London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR), which has served as a reference rate for approximately $350 trillion of debt and derivatives, will be phased out after December 31, 2021. In the United States, the Alternative Reference Rates Committee (ARRC), convened by the Federal Reserve Board and the New York Fed, has been tasked with ensuring a successful transition from USD LIBOR to a more robust reference rate. In June 2017, the ARRC identified the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) as its recommended alternative to USD LIBOR. In April 2019, the ARRC first published recommended fallback language for syndicated business loans. At the time, the recommendations provided two approaches: an “amendment approach”―which delays all decisions about the successor rate and adjustment until a future date―and a “hardwired approach”―which hardwires the priority of replacement rates to be selected into the credit agreement upon origination based on what replacement rates are available at the time of replacement and provides for an easier amendment of related terms.

The syndicated lending market has largely adopted the amendment approach so far. In June 2020, however, the ARRC released refreshed recommendations regarding fallback language for U.S. dollar-denominated syndicated business loans that reference LIBOR. Unlike the April 2019 recommendations, the June 2020 recommendations provide only for hardwired fallback provisions. Read on to see how our Alert, published today, can help you discern the differences between the hardwired approach and the amendment approach and determine which works best for you.

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